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Wole Soyinka (13.July.1934)

Nigerian Writer

Notable especially as a playwright and poet

Awarded the 1986 Nobel Prize in Literature The first African in Africa to be so honored


After becoming chief of the Cathedral of Drama at the University of Ibadan, Soyinka became more politically active. Following the military coup of January 1966, he secretly and unofficially met with the military governor in the Southeastern town of Enugu (August 1967), to try to avert civil war. As a result, he had to go into hiding. He was imprisoned for 22 months as civil war ensued between the federal government and the Biafrans. Though refused materials such as books, pens, and paper, he still wrote a significant body of poems and notes criticizing the Nigerian government. During his imprisonment, he composed The Strong Breed, it were produced in the Greenwich Mews Theatre in New York.

The Strong Breed is one of the best known tragedy plays by Wole Soyinka. Although it is only a short play among Wole Soyinkas plays, it makes audience contemplate and enjoy every minute from the beginning to the end. I think the plot of The Strong Breed is kind of step-by-step play. We couldnt think directly of any possibilities that what would happen next in the play, so youll need to keep reading and find out what is going on, but while reading, it would make me keep thinking back a lot. So it isnt just like the kind of comedy play that serves as a recreation to kill time, its a tragedy that ends with an individual sacrifice for the sake of the communal benefit, with a hint of Obatalan resolution in the lingering sense of balanced alternatives, but I have read most of the other plays in Collected Plays 1 do not end in either of these ways.

Story Abstract

I think the two characters that impressed me the most in this play were Eman and Sunma. The behavioral patterns of these two characters are extremely different. Sunma, who is deeply in love with Eman, was very possessive about her love. The hero in this play is Eman, he is a stranger who has come to this particular village to act as a teacher and share his education, because Eman flees from the village elders as he is going to be sacrificed and has to be chased around the village for most part of the night.

Story Abstract

He noticed that his father was a "carrier and that he has fled the family tradition of symbolic sacrifice, he accepts his past and discovers, I am very much my father's son, one of the strong breed who must take these responsibilities upon themselves, this is my favorite line. The most tension part is during the night of the purification ceremony, the sacrifice has to be carried out before midnight for it to effectively cleanse the villagers before the New Year begins. Finally, the elders decide to set a trap for Eman. They know that he is thirsty and will head for the river, so they dig a hole and cover it with twigs. Sure enough, Eman goes to the river and falls into the trap and get caught at the sacred trees and killed, ultimately fulfilling his destiny as a carrier even though he is in a strange land.


The Strong Breed doesnt have complicated relationships in the play, thus it will make audiences to think of the plot or storyline more. Although some critics point out that, on Wole Soyinkas stage traditional ritual practices may be positive or negative, beneficial or exploitative, repressive or subversive in the uses to which they lend themselves and the interpretations put upon them, and they are defined by these extraneous elements. They may sanctify evasion, brutality, or corrupt inertia, everywhere on the Soyinkan stage, but most intensely in the esoteric plays, that hallmark of the ritual process, the sense of suspension of ordinary reality and of a deferment of or removal from the normal time order.


However I think the meaningful elements such as family relationship, self identity, and death issue are enough for a short play, and not to mention that this tragedy play is to make people depressed or sorrowed. Sometimes it dont need meaning, reason, to explain a thing, the play is exist to make people whoever sees it and feel the fact that how people in the story survive in that kind of cultural environment, and I think thats is enough. As long the story is realistic and amusing to me, not artificial and mechanical. We can see his genius in how he complicated the simple story and made it more interesting and engrossing that it is still very popular and highly symbolic in present day.

Personal Opinion

A good plot should not involve too many exaggeration or coincidences. It seems like Wole Soyinka was reluctant to unravel the mystery, he keep puts off the final moment. Audiences might not know anything until the very end of the story, and it will not bring surprise to the audiences. While reading through the script for the first time, I have to be honest, almost half of the play is sometimes hard to understand, but maybe there are audiences especially love those parts. From this tragedy play I could experience a totally different theatre African Theatre. Unlike theatres that Ive studied before so far, in fact, Soyinka makes significant departures from Western tragic models.

Comparison with the Worlds Greatest Tragedies

As we knew from the text books Chapter 3 The Play Script that the tragedy is a form associated especially with ancient Greece and Elizabethan England. Two of the worlds greatest tragedies, Sophocles Oedipus the King and Shakespeares Hamlet. Few plays during the past century have been called tragedies, perhaps because, as some critics have argued, we no longer consider human beings capable of the kind of heroic action associated with the great tragic heros.

Comparison with the Worlds Greatest Tragedies

The play seems to suggest that death is a crucial marker in the struggle between individual will and community wholeness. The crisis brings back memories. While checking the pedigree of Emans family, we can identify that his father was also a carrier and sacrificed his life. So Eman has fled the family tradition of symbolic sacrifice. Thus, in my personal opinion, I think that Eman of The Strong Breed is like Oedipus, struggling against an inescapable personal destiny but forced back into its fulfillment by a perverse twist of events and by deep compelling needs within his own character. Furthermore, as in Western tragedy, the play shifts from the social and political theater of action to the growth of the individual consciousness into self-knowledge.


The Strong Breed develops a number of themes common in Wole Soyinkas plays, the conflict between the traditional and the modern. The ongoing need to save society from its tendency to follow custom and mistaken beliefs unquestioningly, the special individual, who through dedication and vision awakens the people and leads them toward better ways, even though he may become a victim of the society he seeks to benefit.

Wole Soyinka may also be suggesting that one cannot escape tradition and therefore must come to grip with it.


In a nut shell, I personal think that what Wole Soyinkas plays, form a bridge between traditional and contemporary performance. Just like the themes of the play are very much linked to the Yoruba culture. In this play, Wole Soyinka presents a ritual based on Yoruba festival on the NewYear where the villagers sacrifice a carrier. Eman represents the whole victims of the evil ritual of sacrificing carrier.

This type of ritual and customs can see in different communities of the world, mostly among the tribal communities.