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Analysis of the Play: 'Three Suitors, One Husband'

'Three Suitors: One Husband' is a comedic play centring on Juliette, a young educated girl who finds herself at odds with her parents, paternal grandparents and elderly men. Indignant at her father for wanting to marry her off to a civil servant she knows nothing about, and that she wasn't involved in deciding who would be her long-term partner, Juliette states that she won't get married either to the first suitor, Ndi, or his father's and elderly council's preferred suitor, Mbia. Her protest and refusal to be subjected to this aspect of Bulu tradition fell on deaf ears. Not only does her father threaten to beat her, but also tells her with an authoritative voice that that is what has been decided so she's to abide by it.

As a result, she devises a plan of stealing the total amount of her bride price paid by the two suitors. The first suitor had paid one thousand francs, and the second paid double the amount of the first one. From the double amount paid by the civil servant, his father wanted to refund the one-thousand paid by Ndi, and remain with the rest. She hatches that idea which she shares with Oko, her fiancé, and Kouma, her cousin. Oko is reluctant to accept Juliette's plan but she alleviates his worry by telling him that his father won't have lost the money for he'll get it back when he, OKo, uses it to pay for her brideprice.

When Ndi is told by Atangana and his elderly men that they've found a better suitor for Juliette, the young farmer asks to be refunded the money. Atangana heads to his house to get his money. In utter astonishment, he doesn't see his briefcase which contained the money. Together with his elderly men, they plan on what to tell Ndi. Ndi is told to pay another one thousand francs to finalize the marriage. Sensing Atangana doesn't have the money, probably having been stolen, he tells them that if they won't refund his money, he'll report them to a local police station.

Fearful of what Ndi's utterance might lead to, they tell Mbia, who hasn't yet left the village, that if he'll add another one-thousand franc, he can have Juliette at that moment. Mbia asks them why he should add another amount to the one he'd already given. Is it they want to use his money to help another young man to wed Juliette? Doubting the truthfulness of the men, he threatens with sending ten police commissioners the next day to arrest them if they won't refund his money.

Mbarga, the headman of the village tells his fellow men they should ask for a local witchdoctor who will help them in knowing who stole the money. The witchdoctor appears to be nothing than a trickster. Realising his tricks had become obvious to the villagers, he runs for his life, with some of the villagers chasing after him.

The following day in the morning, Atangana and his fellow men discuss how they can get the money back. Mbarga says that the only way they can refund the stolen money is to find a wealthy man in the city who is willing to marry Juliette. Juliette enters into a compromise with her father that the first person who pays three-thousand francs, and nothing additional is asked of him, she'll readily accept to be his wife.

In the afternoon, a trader from another area arrives in Atangana's village to sell his merchandise. Atangana tells him that he can have his daughter if he wants. The trader is taken aback by Atangana's statement. He asks for the price. He tells Atangana he can't pay more than two-thousands, and that he'd part with that amount because of Juliette's social status - she's educated.

Since the trader didn't reach the amount Juliette had agreed with her father, Juliette breathes a sigh of relief. Later, Kouma is seen with Oko, and behind them is a band of musicians. Kouma introduces the young man to Atangana's father and other elders. He offers 'sweet-nothings' praises of the young man, and the realisation the young man would pay the expected money makes him an ideal candidate for Juliette.

The play ends with the villagers and Atangana singing and dancing in celebration of Juliette being married.

File:South Africa traditional wedding

File:South Africa traditional wedding

Structure of the Play

The play is divided into five acts. The unfolding events occur within two days beginning in the afternoon and ending on the next day in the evening.

Act One

Outside his main house, in Mvoutessi village, Atangana is making a basket while throwing impatient glances at a large alarm clock set before him. Abessolo, his father, is sculpting an ebony figurine while his brother, Ondua, and his son, Oyono, are playing a local game, song. Matalina, his niece, is cracking peanuts and will soon be joined by his mother, Bella.

Atangana laments his wife, Makrita, has overstayed on the farm. It's late in the afternoon, and she hasn't arrived. She's expected to be back at home before midday to prepare food for the men. Ondua, with a gesture of discouragement, uses an exemplary event to emphasize to his brother that women always want to prove they can have their way. He tells him that the previous night, he asked his wife who distils the illegal brew, Arki, to give him some. In response, she just gave him only one bottle instead of several of them.

Abessolo asks him why he is angry when he had warned both of them to discipline their wives when they err including his daughter, Matalina.

The conversation drifts to Ndi, a young farmer. He had paid the agreed brideprice of one-thousand francs to have Atangana's daughter, Juliette, as his wife. Atangana tells them that the young farmer will arrive in the afternoon.

He discloses there's another suitor, a civil servant from Sangmélina who will also visit them the same afternoon.

Ondua asserts that it'll present Atangana a favourable chance to get a gun permit which is reinforced by Abessolo who asks him not to let the opportunity slide by.

Atangana wonders loudly whether the civil servant will pay more than 100,000 francs to repay Ndi and be left with some of his own. Bella and Matalina reassure him that the civil servant will meet the stated brideprice.

Juliette arrives home from school, situated in Didamba, in the afternoon. After greeting her people, she's informed of two men who seek to marry her. She is enraged they didn't bother to consult her on who she should get married to. Despite her protest, she's told she'll get married to the second suitor who is expected anytime soon.

Act Two

Mbia, the civil servant, is seen sitting in a big armchair in the middle of the stage. He looks and behaves like an important person. Introducing himself, he asserts that he's an important person, having worked in the government for 25 years, and that the Secretary of State knows him personally.

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Abessolo refuses him to marry Juliette as they're related after he details his genealogy per the old man's request.

Mbia, agitated, demands his beer. Abessolo tells the villagers to return the beers. Instead, the villagers scramble to load themselves with enough beers.

Mbarga, the headman of the village, rebukes Abessolo for treating such as an 'important' man with disrespect. Mbia, who has come with his senior servant, Engulu, orders him to bring Mbarga some beers, and, ultimately, a case of wine, when Mbia mentions the 'likelihood' of the civil servant being elected from one government position to another - Mayor, Deputy, Secretary of State...

Before he leaves to attend a cocktail party at the Secretary of State's private residence in the evening, he is given a list of things he needs to bring with him before the marriage is finalized.