A CRITICAL ANALYSIS OF PRETEXT, TEXT AND CONTEXT IN THE STAGE PRODUCTION OF DEATH AND THE KING’S HORSEMAN

Abstract

Wole Soyinka has come to symbolise authority in Africa and world drama. His treatises and proclamations have attained such iconic reverence that his drama is often understood “only” by the wholesome acceptance of his “esteemed” authorial voice. Death and the King’s Horseman has been considered a masterpiece; Soyinka‟s iconic play, and studies of the text have also revealed such heavy dependence on the author’s perceptive intentions of his own work in the search for meaning. Seen largely from the author’s perspective, the play is largely interpreted as Soyinka‟s mythopoeic dramatization of African drama. Hence, there exists a lack of sustained reading of the text outside its threnodic essence. This study adopts a new historicist approach to reading the text by exploring the indeterminacy of meaning, the textualisation of history and myth in interpreting pretext, text and context while seeking meaning differently from the author‟s intention. It also deploys the receptionist paradigm, also known as reader response theory, in the search of meaning by drawing the audience into the process of interpretation and production of meaning. This is made possible by producing the play-text on stage in order to showcase the leit motif of clash of cultures as the major causative of conflict in the play while providing room for other meanings to display themselves, and for the audience to view. By also triangulating both qualitative and quantitative methods of research in the process of interpretation, a combination which proves highly rewarding and essential in theatre studies, the study made very insightful discoveries. One of the findings of this research is that drama, like other genres of literature, is a super-text; a pantheon of varied meanings. It also found that the mere reading of a play text limits its own true potentials and relying on the author’s intention doubly chokes the already constraining form of the dramatic text in dispensing meaning. Play production is a viable means and process of interpretation and meaning making in theatre because it brings about the physicalisation of characters, dialogue, music and other elements of semiotic appeal. As part of its findings, the study also discovers that interpretation is more enriching when it is a collective activity in reception than in conception. The study, however, debunks the allusion that Death and the King’s Horseman is not about the clash of cultures, because the “silences” in the text emphasise cultural assertions and differences as a major theme in the dramatic text and in its stage production. It is thus expected that interpretations of texts should not serve as foreclosures of meaning but as emergent voices and opinions subject to contexts of reading and meaning making which are contingent and arbitrary in themselves.

CONTENTS

Cover Page – – – – – – – – – i
Title Page – – – – – – – – – ii
Declaration – – – – – – – – – iii
Certification – – – – – – – – – iv
Dedication – – – – – – – – – v
Acknowledgements – – – – – – – – vi
Contents – – – – – – – – – ix
Abstract – – – – – – – – – xiii

CHAPTER ONE: GENERAL INTRODUCTION

1.0 Introduction – – – – – – – – 1
1.1 Pretext and Context in Drama – – – – – 3
1.2 Playwright and Subtext – – – – – – 5
1.3 Text in Performance: The Director and His Art – – – 8
1.4 Background to the Study – – – – – – 13
1.5 Statement of the Research Problem – – – – – 18
1.6 Aim and Objectives of the Study – – – – – 20
1.7 Research Questions – – – – – – – 20
1.8 Justification for the Study – – – – – – 20
1.9 The Scope of the Study – – – – – – 22

CHAPTER TWO: LITERATURE REVIEW

2.0 Introduction – – – – – – – – 24
2.1 Towards an African Dramaturgy: the Soyinka Archetype – – 25
2.2 Praxis and Interpretation on Death and the King’s Horseman – 38
2.3 Historicity, Creativity and the Cultural leit motif – – – 43
2.4 Yoruba Tragedy; the Metaphor of Will and Desire – – – 49
2.5 Culture and Women in Death and the King’s Horseman – – 53
2.5.1 Iyaloja – – – – – – – – – 56
2.5.2 Jane Pilkings – – – – – – – – 61
2.5.3 The Girls and the Bride – – – – – – 62
2.6 Performance Text Reviews of Death and the King’s Horseman – 65
2.7 Conclusion – – – – – – – – 72

CHAPTER THREE: THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK

3.0 Introduction – – – – – – – – 74
3.1 New Historicism – – – – – – – – 77
3.2 Reader-Response Theory – – – – – – – 84
3.3 Conclusion – – – – – – – – 86

CHAPTER FOUR: METHODOLOGY

4.0 Introduction – – – – – – – – 87
4.1 Research Design – – – – – – 87
4.2 Study Population – – – – – – – 92
4.3 Sampling Technique and Sample Size – – – – 94
4.4 Research Instruments – – – – – – – 96
4.4.1 Documentary Observation Method – – – – – 96
4.4.2 Stage Production Process Instrumentation – – – – 96
4.4.3 Post Production Enquiry Method – – – – – 98
4.5 Sources of Data – – – – – – – 101
4.6 Method of Analysis – – – – – – – 102
4.7 Conclusion – – – – – – – – 109

CHAPTER FIVE: PLAY AND PRODUCTION ANALYSIS

5.0 Introduction – – – – – – – – 110
5.1 Dramatic Text Analysis – – – – – – 112
5.2 Rite of Passage: From Page to Stage – – – – – 123
5.3 Performance, Semiotics and Meaning – – – – 129
5.4 Viewer-Response Analysis, Discussion and Implications of Findings- 135
5.5 Conclusion – – – – – – – – 152

CHAPTER SIX: SUMMARY AND CONCLUSION

6.0 Summary – – – – – – – – 154
6.1 Key Findings – – – – – – – – 156
6.2 Contributions to Knowledge – – – – – – 157
6.3 Conclusion – – – – – – – – 158

REFERENCES – – – – – – – 160

Appendix A – – – – – – – – – 170
Appendix B – – – – – – – – 175
Appendix C – – – – – – – – – 176
Appendix D – – – – – – – – – 192
Appendix E – – – – – – – – – 214
Appendix F – – – – – – – – – 215
Appendix G – – – – – – – – – 216
Appendix H – – – – – – – – – 217
Appendix I – – – – – – – – – 221
Appendix J – – – – – – – – – 224
Appendix K – – – – – – – – – 231

CHAPTER ONE

GENERAL INTRODUCTION

1.0 Introduction

Nevertheless it is still true that the vast majority of play productions begin with the text. It is also true that after the performance is over, all that is left is the text (Leach 2008:18).

This study examines the interrelationship between pretext, text and context in the generation of meaning in drama, both in its literariness and in its stage production. This is of particular importance because dramatic writing and staging is largely an interplay of pretexts, texts and contexts. Pretexts and texts usually serve as sources for the drama while contexts implicate processes of interpretation.This intricate relationship points to the fact that drama draws from texts, is a text on its own and leads to a proliferation of other texts. Studying the dynamics of this interplay showcases how meaning is conceived, articulated and perceived in the ever shifting frames of reference abundant in the appreciation of a work of drama.

Whatever presents itself to be read assumes the status of a text. A text is anything that invites itself to be read. This could be a painting, a book, a song or even music. This view certainly tampers with the conventional notion of text as being characteristically written (Schechner 1973), especially in words. A text is not restricted to a written material, it refers to whatever human endeavor that is subject to interpretation, to a reading. Barker (2000:11) notes:

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