The Gods are not to blame


About the author, Ola Rotimi, Femi Onofisan commends:

He has no equal on the Nigerian stage when it comes to the control of physical space or the manipulation of audience response… Rotimi is the lord of the arena stage, and his link with the audience is immediate, tactile and sensual…euphonious songs and heart-rending dirges…the dazzle of the war spectacle, the rupture of ritual…Rotimi’s productions offer everything with voluptuous abandon (qtd in Dunton 11)

About the play’s title, E.J. Asgill notes that “Rotimi’s title, The Gods Are Not To Blame implies a compelling dissociation from Sophocles’ thesis in Oedipus Rex, which by implication (according to Rotimi) is that the gods are to blame” (179).

Even though the title suggests that Odewale’s (the chief character of the play) tragedy is self-imposed therefore from the outset the need to struggle becomes recurrent thematic refrain (182). Asgill also agrees that Rotimi’s treatment of the play is his attempt to Africanize Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex and it should be seen as such rather than an imitation from classic play (184).

Asgill further asserts that:

It would seem that Rotimi saw instinctively the stage potentials of rendering Oedipus Rex in an African context amplifying and intensifying the action through a myriad of forms other than verbal and introducing such innovations as would improve its dramatic impact…Rotimi rendition of Oedipus Rex is basically a tremedeous exploitatation of the vigour of traditional African dramatic elemnts (185).

For the play’s language, Rotimi has described the play as an experiment, an attempt to modify the English, as Enekwe has said, so “as to appropriate the impact which our traditional language has on people” (qtd. In Dunton 14).

According to Chris Dunton, there is an important difference between Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex and Ola Rotimi’s The God Are Not To Blame. In the former Oedipus is morally clean but in the latter, Odewale is, if not immoral, certainly unfit to rule (16).

However, critics have pointed out the lapses in the play. According to Asgill, Rotimi ought to have aimed at proverbs, for Odewale particicularly, which endorse actions and efforts. Though he tries doing so but unfortunately the pattern is not sustained (183).

Also, according from Zulu Sofola, “Rotimi Flounders on significant details for example, that it is unthinkable that the people of Kutuje would make a total stranger their king (qtd. In Dunton 15). She also argues that the Greek concept of immutable destiny is in compatible with the Yoruba conceptualization of the relationship between god and human kind, which is dar more centrally concerned with individual responsibility (qtd. In Dunton 15)

In the performance of this play, Dunton has agreed that:

The Gods can be a gripping experience on stage. Part of its success lies in the structuring of its second half, as Odewale falls deeper and deeper towards the truth, although with painfully exposed temporary moments of hubris (17).

Asgill agrees to this, stating that:

The Gods Are Not To Blame, on stage, can be a very powerful performance indeed. In the localization of his play, the very choice of names which is very tonal reflects a costume props and stage movement can have tremendous symbolic effects underscoring as a kind of replay and heightening of the dramatic action (182).

In all, The Gods Are Not To Blame and Song of a Goat are the playwrights’ attempt to explore the African traditional experiences. But since no critical work has been done on the dominant concept of the plays, that is man in relation to the supernatural world and the possible manifestation of this relationship, this research work is devoted to explore this concept in the way it can.

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