Very few people on this materialistic earth (especially where heightened glory is given to science and technology research, and of course internet too) are respected for arts and literature, and Wole Soyinka and Christropher Fry belong to the undisputed clan of most recent and the sprightliest of all the twentieth century verse dramatists. Wole Soyinka is a Nobel laureate (who won Nobel prize in 1986) of Nigerian Origin, who has to the credit three titles – Playwright | Poet | Novelist.
Wole Soyinka is “writer of genius,” and this title was endowed on him by “The Irish Times.” English literary works like “The Lion and Jewel” showed growth and development of English Drama on Nigerian soil.
There are two volumes of his plays, with each volume comprising 10 plays each. He also has to his credit 2 novels and two separate volumes of poetry. “The Man Died” is Soyinka’s voluminous collection of his experiences of the prison life.
Almost every play written by Soyinka comprises a vivid description of modern day’s woes and corruption. He is also known to beautifully interplay power of superstitious belief system. All of it is commonly observed in commonwealth countries, and even in those, which have passed out from the imperial lifestyle.
The belief system propagated by rituals, alongside the dominance of gods and goddesses on human life also form a kind of subtle melodrama in Soyinka’s verse based dramas. Besides, the sensitive fabric, which connects social, moral and spiritual facets of human life are represented quite elaborately in Wole’s literary works, and universal appeal takes the vanguard.
In the world we are today, socio-political, socio-economic anarchy has always stood atop alongside other critical issues, mostly related to spirituality and superstitious beliefs. Maybe, talking straightaway about them would irate and demean many associated individuals, but the manner and form employed by Nobel Laureate is worth 100 times praising.
The last play written by Soyinka is titled – “Madmen and Specialists,” and you would come across societal pessimism all over. There is clear depiction of moral, physical and mental torture, and this somehow relates to modern Civil War.
Dr. Baro – a character in the drama, who is professional physician, and moreover a specialist in a cloak. There is a wonderful statement, which the character utters to the priest:
“I give you the personal word of a scientist; Human flesh is as delicious of course, not all parts of the body. I prefer the balls myself.
And then there is a witty retort coming from the priest:
We have got to legalize cannibalism
Dr Baro quickly replies:
Legalize cannibalism? It’s damnable and heathenish idea…”
The old man, who is Dr Baro’s father feels disgusted at this point, when he finds his son’s viewpoint of legalizing cannibalism as utterly damnable.
Soyinka’s dramatic and poetic creations cannot fade with age. There will always be universality and freshness and both of these will interplay. His dramatic leitmotifs are close observation of the today and yesterday, and more importantly, these leitmotifs will remain true in the times to come.