JANE Honestly, Simon, I’d trust Olunde. I don’t think he’ll deceive you about their intentions.
PILKINGS He’d better not. Alright then, let them in Bob. Warn them to control themselves...
AIDE-DE-CAMP Very good, sir.
PILKINGS [to Iyaloja] I hope you understand that if anything goes wrong it will be on your head. My men have orders to shoot at the first sign of trouble.
From Soyinka, Wole. Death and the King’s Horseman: A Norton Critical Edition. Ed.: Gikandi, Simon. W.W. Norton & Company: New York, 2003.
This dialogue in the play focuses on the man Simon Pilkings, a British district officer in colonial Africa, who attempts to prevent the occurrence of a violent Yoruban ritual. On the surface, it could be argued that Pilkings has a right to stop the tradition, as he aims to prevent the ritual suicide of the Yoruban king’s horseman. In this specific piece of dialogue, we see Pilkings giving his soldiers “orders to shoot at the first sign of trouble.” From a post-colonial perspective on this part of the play, his aggressive plan to halt the suicide ritual brings about the ever-present concept of imperial power. This disparity in beliefs of the British officer and his soldiers, and the Yoruban natives, illuminates the imbalance of power that exists between the two groups. Iyaloja, considered the leader of the local market, asks Simon “To prevent one death you will actually make other deaths?” Set in his stubborn British beliefs, Pilkings shows us his insensitivity to the tradition of the Yoruban people through his willingness to resort to violence through the power of his soldiers and weaponry. In a post-colonial analysis of this excerpt in Death and the King’s Horseman, the behavior of Pilkings in response to the traditions and rituals of the African people emphasizes the control the British forces maintain over the local African population. In stating “warn them to control themselves…” it can be realized that he will use whatever force is necessary to prevent the sacred ritual from taking place. His need to maintain control over the Yorubans shows us his ignorance of their culture and their valued traditions.