Refracted from the Canon: The Transmuted Form of Europe’s Ambassador to Africa

Activity: Participating in or organising an eventPublic lecture/debate/seminar


I explore the idea of tragedy from the perspective of Yoruba culture. I shall frame this exploration from the refracted premise of classical European canon and how the meaning of tragedy has been altered to become part of the arsenal of anticolonial agency as deployed to the consecrated ritual space of the Yoruba people of West Africa.

More specifically, I examine the transmutation of the tragic form in Nigerian playwright Femi Osofisan’s Wèsóo, Hamlet! Or The Resurrection of Hamlet (Re-reading of Shakespeare’s Hamlet) (2012) and in Wole Soyinka’s The Bacchae of Euripides (1969).

My focus is on how these playwrights’ re-reading – or re-interpretation – of Shakespeare’s The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark and Euripides’ Bacchae serve as a refraction of the tragic form from the canon to a different understanding, in a different cultural setting, with diverse conventions; and where the understanding of tragedy is somewhat more communal, abstract, and more intercultural, and where the recognition accorded that form of drama is elevated.

In my presentation, I show that the process of re-interpreting the essence of the canonical god in the new space of Yoruba culture, or of translating the attributes with a new understanding and awareness, is more dialectical and more interwoven than the historical or anthropological process of re-working canonical texts by African writers.
Period26 May 2022
Event typePublic lecture/seminar/debate
LocationLondon, United Kingdom
Degree of RecognitionInternational


  • African Literature
  • African Theatre
  • Femi Osofisan
  • Wole Soyinka
  • Hamlet
  • Bacchae
  • Euripides
  • Shakespeare
  • Yoruba