Wole Soyinka The Lion And The Jewel Essay

SuperSummary, a modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, offers high-quality study guides for challenging works of literature. This 28-page guide for “The Lion and the Jewel” by Wole Soyinka includes detailed chapter summaries and analysis, as well as several more in-depth sections of expert-written literary analysis. Featured content includes commentary on major characters, 25 important quotes, essay topics, and key themes like Tradition vs. Modernization and The Role of Women in Society.

Plot Summary

“The Lion and the Jewel” is a powerful play by award-winning Nigerian poet and playwright Wole Soyinka. The play was written in London, and was first performed in 1959 at the Ibadan Arts Theatre. Well received, Soyinka’s groundbreaking play was the first of its kind to use traditional Yoruba poetry, music and dance in play form to express its uniquely Nigerian narrative in English. With its creation and subsequent success, the play allowed Nigerian drama to take its well-earned place in world theater.

The comedy’s location is set in the remote village of Ilujinle, with three main characters providing most of the narrative’s character and plot development. The first character is Lakunle, an easygoing schoolteacher thought of as naïve because he readily accepts Western ideas without actually understanding them. The second character is Baroka, who is the village chief. Unlike Lakunle, Baroka views modern, Western ideas as a real threat to his power. The third main character is Sidi, a gorgeous woman who must choose one of the two male characters for a husband.

Though the characters are considered exaggerated, perhaps intentionally by the playwright, the play itself is unusual for Soyinka in that there is no definitive bad guy or evil plaguing the play. The characters are comical and light, though not without their flaws. For instance, Lakunle is “stuck up” and tends to talk too much, while Baroka, as village chief, is a cunning adversary. In the end, however, Soyinka’s play points to the fact that these two men must work together, that the old and the new must, as in the real world, find a way of working together to bring about change.

Indeed, Soyinka’s play presents these opposing views quite clearly in the guise of Baroka and Lakunle. As such, the two men represent what Soyinka’s writing embodied, exposing the two sides of major social and political issues that Africa was dealing at the end of the twentieth century. In this way, the “old versus new” is symbolic of tradition versus modernity. The need for the two men to work together highlights the need for communication on a universal scale, regardless of age, likes or dislikes.

The men are not the only ones, however, who bring universal and symbolic themes to the fore in Soyinka’s play. In the end, Sidi chooses the older Baroka over Lakunle. Her reasoning is that Baroka is a more experienced lover. Moreover, he shares her views on marriage (Lakunle actually refuses to pay the traditional bride price because he views the practice outdated and demeaning). Sidi, however, views this “demeaning” practice differently. She believes the price will ensure her rights in the marriage. While all of this political/social engineering is taking place, Baroka’s other wife—his senior wife, Sadiku—is angered at the entire prospect of another wife. Sidi and Sadiku both show that, though the women in the play do not have as much freedom or choice as the men, they are more than capable of questioning this lack of choice, and more than capable of expressing their views on societal matters, especially those close to their heart.

As critique, the play expresses its views through the combination of Western and Yoruban elements, adding an additionally poignant layer of meaning to the concept of “traditional” working together with modern, Western ideals. Dance and mime are often used during flashback episodes, underscoring past and present. The scenery also plays homage to the Yoruban elements, with masked figures and dancers around the stage. “The Lion and the Jewel” also ends with a marriage dance where the gods of fertility are invoked. In this way, Soyinka’s play effectively uses Western tropes, staging and plot development while incorporating traditional art and culture, creating a dazzling experience of action, comedy, education, and effective communication.

The Lion And The Jewel By Wole Soyinka

The Lion and the Jewel by Wole Soyinka

The three main characters in ‘The Lion and the Jewel’ are called Sidi,
Lakunle and Baroka the Bale. Each character has different thoughts
about one another and each views the society in a different way. This
essay introduces and describes each character and analyses their role
in the play.


Sidi is the first character that the audience meets. She is a very
attractive woman, known as the village ‘belle’. Her attractiveness
influences her personality, by making her quite vain. An example of
her vanity is when she receives photos through of her that featured in
a global magazine, taken by a western man. The photographs, also
affect Sidi’s perception of Baroka, by making her believe that she is
a better person, judging by the picture size difference in the

Sidi is heavily influenced by tradition, which is outlined more than
once throughout the play. The opening scene shows how Lakunle offers
to carry Sidi’s load. Sidi refuses, because it is traditionally the
woman that carries the load and if other people saw, then Sidi is
afraid that people may start to shun or mock her. The relationship
between Lakunle and Sidi is clarified when Sidi asks for a Bride
Price. Lakunle is reluctant to give her money and insists that she
take his token of love and loyalty instead. Due to Sidi’s heavy belief
in tradition, she has to decline his offer and demand the bride money.
If she accepts his offer, then her value and status in the village can
potentially be diminished.

Sidi tries to be quite intelligent by making remarks that counter act
another persons. However, Baroka and Sadiku trick Sidi into marrying
Baroka and becoming his youngest wife. Even Sidi’s crafty tongue and
language usage is no match of intelligence that Baroka possesses.
Baroka uses Sidi’s vanity to manipulate her into thinking that she can
have her head on the village’s stamp, so that she would be the
figurehead. Naturally Sidi is entranced by this thought and complies
with him. Baroka knows that Sidi likes to be told how beautiful she
is, and if he could harness this desire, then seducing her would
become much easier. After he manages to seduce her, Sidi feels tricked
and disgusted and does not want anything to do with the Bale either.
She does however know that because she has slept with the Bale, she is
no longer a virgin and therefore stays with Baroka as his latest
addition to his wives. Sidi also decides to stay with the Bale, due to
tradition, which she strongly believes in i.e. the Bale has the
‘Belle’ or in this case the ‘Lion’ has the ‘Jewel’.


Lakunle is classified as a ‘stranger’ to the village because of his
western ideas. This is also reflected in the dance that occurs just
before ‘noon’. Lakunle is a schoolteacher in the village, which is
already a sign that his western ideas are slowly trying to creep them
into the village, by educating his students...

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