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Symbolism Of Butterflies: Death And The Kings Horseman

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At the theater department's performance of Wole Soyinka's "Death and the Kings Horseman", the cast performed with great agility, and paying attention to detail and a full embodiment of the symbolism and metaphoric depth of the text. When asked about the meaning of the play, the author stated "The Colonial Factor is an incident, a catalytic incident merely. The confrontation in the play is largely metaphysical, contained in the human vehicle which is Elesin and the universe of the Yoruba mind - the world of the living, the dead, and the unborn." The definition of metaphysical according to, is having to do with metaphysics, with further research metaphysics is the philosophical study of being and knowing. Metaphysics refers to the branch of philosophy that attempts to understand the fundamental of nature and of all reality, whether visible or invisible, the science of the principles and causes of all things existing; the philosophy of mind as distinguished from that of matter. In the production at UNCG, the performance and directorial choices were very conducive of the metaphysical exploration. Through the cultural symbolism of butterflies and the production's use of drumming and music, the design of the sets, and the dress and positioning of the village women, the play's purpose and point was beautifully conveyed. (The Butterfly Effect)

It has only been recently that science has acknowledged a difference between the species of butterflies and moths. In the small West Virginia town of Point Pleasant, the locals have a legend that seems to strike a chord of similarity with this production of Soyinka's play. The natives have the legend of a giant Ð''moth-man', a moth like creature, which shows up to forewarn the town members of impending dangers not yet a factor. ( The real story of the Moth-man Prophecies) Butterflies and moths are attracted to the light of a fire or the heat of a flame. This creature takes the form of giant moth that is attracted to the heat of the danger. In ancient Mexico, because of the bright colors on the butterfly's wings and their attraction to eating the crops, butterflies

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were considered to be a sign of fire, and destruction. In the legend of Ð''the moth-man' the moth was attracted to this destruction and burning. Like the drumming in the production, it coincides with the building of tension and disaster of the play. In the fourth act of the play the British character Jane Pilkings has the line "The drums. Can you hear the change?". In the Yoruban civilization the drums were used as a method of communication, and to have the drumming there on stage, and to demonstrate the subtle changes in the beating, helped to foreshadow that there would be a struggle to communicate between Elesin and the culture. We are sub-concisely trained to listen with more then our ears. We are trained to hear with our ear but listen with our bodies. We are taught to watch for signs and omens. Elesin was unable to will himself to death at the appropriate time, and therefor the culture must suffer the impending disaster, of inhalation. It seems as if Elesin himself could be a parable to the Ð''moth-man', his lack of will, and the stopping of the drums, were the omen that caused destruction for his culture. (BioBugs)

In a discussion held in class one day Ross DeGraw commented on the beginning set piece. He said that the ragged and uneven display of the free flowing colored fabric made him feel the connection to chaos. There is a scientific theory called the chaos theory, or more commonly known as the Ð''Butterfly Effect'. The idea is that small variations in the initial conditions of any given circumstance can produce large variations in the long-term behavior of the system. Basically the theory goes that the flapping butterfly's wings in Africa can eventually result in a North American Hurricane.(the Butterfly Effect) Or the denial of one man to follow the rules given to him can result in world ruin. The first fly on stage was used to set up the idea that something would be getting out of control. It was loose, and bright. In the latter scenes, taking place within the British walls, the starkness of the set pieces were used to create the essence of neatness and control. The lines were cut sharp and straight. No room for chaos. In South America, the graceful movements of the butterfly are associated with the wisdom and pride of the culture. Both cultures, the Yoruba, and the British, are proud and see them selves as the wiser ones. (BioBugs)

In many cultures the woman is considered the head of the domestic life. In the Yoruban society the women were also in control of the marketplace. They are responsible for the care and keeping of others and order. Because of the beautiful and colorful marking on a butterfly,



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