A Pragmatic Analysis of Crisis-Motivated Proverbs in Soyinka’s Death and the King’s Horseman

Omotosho Moses MELEFA, Thomas Michael Emeka CHUKWUMEZIE


Studies on Soyinka’s Death and the King’s Horseman, which have largely been literary, reveal that the play is deeply steeped in oral tradition and the culture of the Yoruba race. Of course, this is in line with the authorial note that the play is based on events which took place in Oyo Empire in 1946. The events, as dramatized in the play, resulted in a crisis situation between the people’s culture and the Western perception of it. The intervention of the District Officer to save Elesin’s life became an unwanted interruption of the cosmic order of Yoruba cosmology, which inevitably plunged the people into crisis. The deployment of proverbs to perform pragmatic acts within crisis situations in the play has largely remained unexplored. Therefore, this study examines pragmatic acts of proverbs within the contexts of crisis in the play. Data for the study are samples of proverbs that are used within crisis situations in the play, that is, those deployed in situations where there were confrontations and disagreement between the traditional order and the new western order in the play. These were sampled purposively, that is, selectively based on the judgment of the researcher and analysed drawing insights from Mey’s (2001) theory of pragmatic acts. Drawing insights from contextual resources such as shared situational knowledge, shared cultural knowledge, inference, etc. pragmatic acts of counselling, cautioning, challenging, accusing, unveiling, etc. were performed with crisis-motivated proverbs in the play by characters to strengthen the force of dramatic action.

Keywords: Pragmatic acts, crisis-motivated proverbs, challenging, cautioning, accusing

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ISSN (Paper)2224-5766 ISSN (Online)2225-0484

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