Good Women In Death And The King’s Horseman, Mud And M. Butterfly Essay Example

Type of paper: Essay

Topic: Women, Song, Death And The King's Horseman, Death, Family, Literature, Market, Men

Pages: 4

Words: 1100

Published: 2021/02/03


How are women represented and portrayed in theatrical plays? In most plays (and in films), men and women are frequently assigned stereotyped roles that make women assume passive and meek roles. Every so often, men are given the privileged to take on the role of a strong and powerful character, whilst the women took submissive roles typical of the weaker sex concept. In this essay, the role of women in the play Death and the Kings Horseman and M. Butterfly will be discussed, taking into consideration how the playwright depicted the epitome of power and strength among the women characters.

Death and the Kings Horseman

Soyinka’s playwright Death and the Kings Horseman represented women in their typical roles. However, the playwright was not amiss in portraying how women in their traditional character have so much influence to the society. Initially, in the play, the epitome of woman strength was depicted by Iyaloja, the leader of the women in the village, the mother of the market with with her words interpreted and admired for their wisdom. When her supposed future daughter in-law was requested by Elisin to be his wife, Iyaloja gave in to his request for the girl and a bed of honour to lie upon, as she replied: “Now we must prepare your bridal chamber. Then these hands will lay your shrouds” (14). Being a woman of wisdom, she also cautioned Elesin that should he wish to travel with ease into the afterlife, she warned, “() be sure the seed you leave in it attracts no curse” (14).
Another woman, the young attractive girl who fascinated Elesin’s attention in the market, caused the delay of Elesin’s death and his reluctance to let go of his earthly cravings. It is an irony, that despite being a silent character in the play, she was able to change the fate of the man and their culture. The way women were treated in the part of the play when Elesin went to the market marked how they are often depicted as the representation of earthly things. This was depicted in Elesin’s reply to the praise singers, effecting how he adored the scent of the women’s flesh and that he wished that their smell is the last air he breaths before he dies (4). When he went to the market, he knew he will be accommodated by the people. And so he took comfort in knowing that the women will arrange for his majestic departure into afterlife; though the praise singer warned him, “the hands of women weaken the unwary” (10).
The traditional role of women in the Death and the Kings Horseman was depicted in the beginning till the end of the story. Though there is the portrayal of the bride as a source of earthly cravings, other women in the story such as Iyaloja performed motherly roles. When Elesin went to the market, he referred to the women as his mothers. It was also with Elesin that the strength of Iyaloja’s motherhood duty to the community prevails over that of her duty to her son when she allowed Elesin to marry her future daughter in-law. In response to the other women’s disapproval, she retorted that her son’s wish is also hers, and that the loss can be resolved (21). Apparently, she has chosen to allow Elesin to marry her future daughter in-law in the fear that her son might suffer the consequences if she did not, and she said, “Tell him you say! You wish that I burden him with knowledge that will sour his wish and lay regrets on the last moments of his minds” (21)

Women Portrayal in M .Butterfly

This play by David Henry Hwang was centred on the story of a French diplomat name Rene Gallimard and his relationship with a Chinese opera singer who revealed him-self to be a man after their twenty year relationship. This play was an account on the unpleasant aspects of sexual and racial labelling. Ironically in the play, the inaccurate view of the male protagonists on women of the orient distorted his judgment resulting to him being fooled by the opera singer on his true sexual identity. The sexist perception of Gallimard towards Asian women made him fall in love with a man whom she thought of as a woman. The playwright has reasonably thought of portraying the stereotype used on Asian woman by using a man in place of the woman. It has at least added humour and revenge on the part of the women to see a stereotyping and insensitive man suffer the consequences of his insensitivity.
According to how Gallimard talk about women and how he related to Song Liling, women in this play are portrayed as inferior to men as implied by Gallimard talking about wanting to take her in his arms, to protect her and take her home (Act I, scene 6). Further in the scene though, Galliamrd revealed the imbalance of power in the scene after Song’s performance of the death act of Madame Butterfly, and the former commented on the death being a pure sacrifice, nevertheless he thought, or so he say, that the play was beautiful (Act I, scene 6). Song retorted that the man may not thought of it as beautiful had it happened to a woman of his race. After the short conversation, Song invited Gallimard to see the Peking opera and “to expand his mind”. As the story progresses, Galliamard was further portrayed as one who thinks of the west as superior in every aspect and of his thought of Asian woman as admirers of the Western man to a fault.
In the play, Asian women are stereotyped as different from the Caucasian woman. Accordingly, they are thought to be submissive, shy and modest and are expected to surrender to the masculinity of the man. This stereotype bolsters the image of the Caucasian man who wanted to be depicted as masculine and powerful. Gallimard experimented on Song by not showing up on her shows and not calling her. Conceitedly, he thought that torturing her this way makes him feel the rush of power for the first time- “the absolute power of man” (Act I scene 11). Gallimard had believed the myth that women from the Orient were shy and conservative when it comes to their sexuality, and despite the unattractiveness of the Caucasian man, the Orient women admire them considerably. As described by Song in the court room: “You expect oriental countries to submit to your guns, and you expect Oriental women to submit to your men. That’s why you say they make the best wives” (Act 3, scene 2).
Song Liling, whom is a man, knows the mentality of men like Gallimard and acted in a way that he expected an Oriental woman to be. While the Frenchman thought he had the woman under his control, the woman surrendering to his Western masculinity. By acting like a demure woman, Song had Gallimard into believing that he has finally found the woman he has dreamed of. The irony is that Song, being a spy, benefitted from the stereotyped attached to women of his race and by the end of the story, the masculine man submitted to the power of the woman whom he thinks to be submissive and modest.


Hwang, David H. M. Butterfly. New York, N.Y: New American Library, 1989. Print
Soyinka, Wole.Death and the King’s Horseman.New York, NY:W.W. Norton and Company, 2003.

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WePapers. (2021, February, 03) Good Women In Death And The King’s Horseman, Mud And M. Butterfly Essay Example. Retrieved July 14, 2024, from
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Good Women In Death And The King’s Horseman, Mud And M. Butterfly Essay Example. Free Essay Examples - Published Feb 03, 2021. Accessed July 14, 2024.

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