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Photo from Ato Quayson's book Tragedy and Postcolonial Literature

"Once I began to adapt it, I realized how underneath all that stuff about the gods and the threats and the Cyclops, this man is simply trying to get home to Ithaca and is terrified of never getting there. It's something we all have -- the terror of never getting home."

- Quote from The Washington Post


Derek Walcott, the Caribbean’s first Nobel Prize winner, came from a mixed-race family on both his father and his mother’s side. He won many prestigious awards, including the MacArthur Foundation “Genius” Award, during his 60-year career writing plays, poetry, and essays. And in 1992 it was announced he had won the Nobel Prize for literature. He had been chosen for his “poetic oeuvre (legacy) of great luminosity, sustained by historical vision” and his “multi-cultural commitment.” Upon winning, he said his work, “Had already been written in the mouths of the Caribbean tribe. And I felt that I had been chosen, somehow, to give it voice. So, the utterance was inevitable.... I was writing it for the island people from whom I come. In a sense, I saw it as a long thank-you note.” 


The Caribbean has been influenced by its many different islands and their respective micro-cultures. The identity of each island is unique and was shaped by a degree of different influences such as European Colonists, African Heritage, or Native Indian tribes.

To know the Caribbean, it is important to understand the different periods of migration to the islands, first from the colonization of the islands, to the various European influences such as the Spanish, French, and English, as well as the Black Diaspora.

The official language of each Caribbean Island is that of the colonial power that ruled the island first or longest (England, Spain, France, or the Netherlands).

Many Caribbean islands are made up of several different cultures, each with its own language. Language determines how an individual perceives the world, and this has resulted in a distinct blend of perspectives in the Caribbean.

Clips from The Southbank Show


African Diaspora: a dispersion of a people, language, or culture that was formerly concentrated in one place, to scatter, to displace, to live in separated communities.

Clips from The Southbank Show

CHECKPOINT: Listen to Walcott's explanation about the penalty of colonization on culture and language. 

Ex: Shakespeare's Oak Tree versus The Breadfruit Plant in the Caribbean.


Can you think of 3 examples of language that has been influenced by colonization today? 

“The sea speaks the same language around the world's shores.”

 - Derek Walcott: The Odyssey: A Stage Version

"This is the same story," he says. "This is 'The Odyssey.'

Clips from The Southbank Show

CHECKPOINT: According to Walcott, what is the strength of the Caribbean?  Do you agree? What are the parallels between Odysseus's journey and the citizens of the Caribbean?

CHECKPOINT: Because Walcott comes from a different culture, he looks at American History differently. How are his perceptions different than yours? What are your thoughts about that? 

Walcott shares thoughts about where identity comes from? Do you agree?

At the very end of this clip Walcott expresses his goal as a writer. What is it? 

FUN QUIZ: Which Caribbean Artists Do You Know?

Colonization: the action or process of settling among and establishing control over the indigenous people of an area.

Scroll through Jacob's costume designs by scene, to get an idea of the show's timeline


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