The explosion of interest in international responses to Shakespeare has not, so far, led to much commentary on one of the most intriguing and distinguished of these responses, Wole Soyinka's essay, "Shakespeare and the Living Dramatist." This is regrettable, since beneath several layers of irony, Soyinka presents a deeply serious reading of Antony and Cleopatra that challenges critical orthodoxies and, when understood in relation to Soyinka's other works, offers an alternative to the perspective of much postcolonial criticism. When Soyinka wrote his essay and for some two decades after, this criticism was dominated by a political turn that saw postcolonial cultural influence in terms of the stark alternatives of oppression and resistance and that focused on critical, even hostile, responses to issues of race and colonialism in plays like Othello and The Tempest; but in the last decade or so it has developed a more nuanced view of Shakespeare's relationship to global and local cultures. Soyinka's essay anticipates this development, poking fun at some kinds of appropriation while slyly practicing others. His goal is neither to bury Shakespeare nor simply to praise him, but to locate him in a continuing conversation—a location that is neither wholly local and particular nor entirely global and universal. In this way "Shakespeare and the Living Dramatist" complicates simple choices between resistance and subservience and between global and local perspectives and illustrates drama's contribution to the challenging and rich hybridity of contemporary cultural identities.
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The Lion and the Jewel by Wole Soyinka Essay
Wole Soyinka's plays, novels, poetry, and critical essays only peripherally prepare the reader for his autobiography. Rich description, elaborate scenes, and fascinating characters are interwoven in a narrative style laced with side-splitting humor and luxurious poignancy to a degree that is unmatched in his other works. In short, Soyinka's account of the first eleven years of his life is delightful. Soyinka excels at the difficult task of credibly capturing the child's point of view...The book ends rather abruptly at the height of the women's Union March, Soyinka's pending departure for Government College and the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. One can only hope that Soyinka will continue in this autobiographical vein to detail more of his life.