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

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


This article explores the re-working of tragedy from a specific European performative space to the performance space of the Yorùbá people of West Africa in Femi Òsófisán’s Wèsóo, Hamlet! Or The Resurrection of Hamlet (Re-reading of Shakespeare’s Hamlet). My focus is on how the re-reading – or re-interpretation – of the tragic context of Hamlet serves as a refraction of the tragic form from the European understanding of tragedy to Yorùbá cultural setting in Africa, a culture with diverse conventions. Among the Yorùbá people, the understanding of tragedy is more communal, and more interwoven with the people’s life, and the recognition accorded that form of drama is elevated to a communion rite. The communality of tragedy among the Yorùbá, as I explain below, is different from the definition or understanding of tragedy in the European context. Tragedy, in the Elizabethan context that produced Hamlet, typically describes the development of a conflict between a protagonist and a superior force or circumstances beyond the control of the protagonist, leading to a disastrous conclusion for the protagonist. I am going to use this understanding of tragedy and contrast it with the understanding of tragedy in Yorùbá performance culture to explore the re-working of Shakespeare’s play by Òsófisán into Wèsóo, Hamlet! In the process, this article shall remark upon how the tragic form becomes transmuted within the Yorùbá performance culture.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAfrican Shakespeares
Subtitle of host publicationSubversions, Negotiations and Appropriations
EditorsPepetual Mforbe Chiangong, Ifeoluwa Aboluwade, Serena Talento
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2024

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