Wole Soyinka was born on 13 July, 1934 at Abeokuta. He was educated in the University College of Ibadan. In 1954, he moved to England where he studied English literature in the University of Leeds, receiving a B.A in 1959. During his stay, he studied the works of Eugene O’Neill and wrote two plays, THE SWAMP DWELLERS and THE LION AND THE JEWEL, which were both staged in London. He was also a dramaturgist in the Royal Court Theater in London, 1958-1959.
He was awarded a Rockefeller bursary in 1960 and he returned to Nigeria to study African literature. In the same 1960, he founded the theater group “The 1960 Mask” and in 1964 he founded “The Orisun Theater Group” in which he produced his own plays. His first important play, A DANCE IN THE FOREST (1963) was to celebrate Nigeria’s independence.
He taught drama and literature in universities in Ibadan, Lagos and Ife where since 1975, he has been a professor of comparative literature. He has also periodically been visiting professor at the universities of Yale, Sheffield and Cambridge.
Soyinka used both western techniques and African forms of expressions in his works.
He was first imprisoned for illegal broadcast criticizing fraud of results of the elections in western Nigeria. After S.L Akintola was elected premier of the Western Region, Soyinka, armed with a gun, had entered the broadcasting studios in Ibadan, and played his own tape instead of Akintola’s victory speech. He was again jailed during the civil war (1967-1969) for conspiring to aid Biafra’s independence movement. He was imprisoned for 22 months until 1969, most of it in solitary confinement. Several American and British writers like Lillian Hellmann and Robert Lowell, protested to the Nigerian government and he was released.
While in prison, Soyinka’s poem ‘Live Burial’ which had been sent to an English critic from prison appeared in The New Statesmen on the 23rd of May, 1969. “Sixteen paces/ By twenty-three. They.