Death and the King's Horseman is based on real events that took place in Oyo, the ancient Yoruba city of Nigeria, in 1946. It tells how Simon Pilkings, a well-meaning District Officer, intervenes to prevent the ritual suicide of the Yoruba chief.
Elesin - a sacrificial suicide demanded by the death of the king. There follow drastic repercussions in both indigenous and colonial communities... But in this confrontation of African characters wild European, of black with white, Soyinka is concerned with more than just a 'clash of cultures' however devastating. His triumph in this play is in evoking the mystery and ritual of Yoruba life, a world of the living, the dead and the unborn, and in giving it palpable and breath-taking theatrical form, in sinking contrast to the desiccated life-style of the colonials.