THE LION AND THE JEWEL
PLAY WRIGHT: WOLE SOYINKA
SETTING: AFRICAN VILLAGE OF ILUJINLE
YEAR OF PUBLICATION: 1963
PUBLISHER: OXFORD UNIVERSITY
Generally the play talks about the clashes happen
between the modernists and traditionalists. Lakunle who is the school teacher presents the class of modernists who want to bring changes adopted from western culture while the villagers such as Sidi and the chief himself stand for the class of traditionalists who preserve their own culture.
THE SYNOPSIS OF THE PLAY
The title of the play is fundamentally symbolic whereby the lion stands for men and the jewel stands for women. From the play, chief Baroka is labeled as the Lion whereas Sidi is labeled as the Jewel. Chief Baroka is labeled as the lion because he uses women for enjoyment, he decides to marry any girl or women he wants inspite of having several wives. From the play, Chief Baroka tries to deceive Sidi who is to be married to the primary school teacher Lakunle.
He finally succeeds to marry her. This is because he deceives her that he is sexually impotent. When Sidi goes to Baroka’s house, Baroka takes her into his room and the wrestling match between Sidi and Baroka takes place.
Baroka achieves to make love with Sidi and he automatically marries her because he has become the first man to make love with her (Sidi). In succinct explanation, the play is about a so very naturally beautiful girl called Sidi.
Sidi is so cute to the extent that she is called the jewel of the Ilujinle society. A jewel is a person or thing that is very important or valuable. In the play, Baroka who is labeled the Lion is a womanizer, oppressive and deceitful.
For instance he sends his head wife (Sadiku) to Sidi. He furthermore, deceives his wives that he is sexually impotent so that Sadiku can go to Sidi to reveal this secret which is not true. His wives and Sidi believe that Chief Baroka is impotent, but later on, they find themselves to have been deceived because Chief Baroka succeeds to bed with Sidi and ultimately Sidi praises Baroka a lot that he is very powerful sexually despite his age.
At first Sidi was not interested to marry Baroka because Lakunle had started educating her about modernity. Wole Soyinka tells us that Sidi is willing to marry Lakunle but she insists that her bride-price should be paid first something that Lakunle was not willing to do so. In the end of the story, Lakunle feels, alienated (isolated) and of course totally betrayed by Sidi.
Chief Baroka seems to be stronger than Lakunle that’s why the chief (Lion) achieves to marry Sidi. Therefore, the story is all about the conflict between traditionalism against modernity whereby in the particular society, traditionalism seem to be stronger than modernity.
SUMMARY ACCORDING TO SECTIONS.
The play is divided into three sections, Morning, Noon and Evening as explained here below;
MORNING This section of play is set at the edge of the market, situated at the village centre. We see Sidi (a beautiful and virgin girl) with a pail on her head. We also see Lakunle, a teacher at the bush school.
Lakunle attempts to convince sidi so that she may agree with what he says. Lakunle talks to Sidi something which he learns in town which is strange to her. As a response Sidi says that she will marry Lakunle if her bride price is paid in advance. Unfortunately, Lakunle does not believe in paying bride price.
He looks at it as an act of buying women. So Lakunle is not ready to pay bride price instead he wants to preach change so that people can stop paying pride price.
Moreover in this section, we are told about the stranger who has come with a map to Ilunjinle village and girl dancing style. When asked by girls Lakunle rejects claiming that dancing is for idiots (fools). This shows that there is a conflict between traditionalism and modernity.
Furthermore, Baroka in this section is introduced. Baroka wants to seize Lakunle because he wants to steal the village virgin girl (Sidi). As a contradiction the chief says that the wise people like Lakunle must be there so that they criticize when things go astray for that reason, Baroka is ready to be criticized. Therefore, as a summary this first section has clearly shown the conflicts between modernity and traditionalism.
The section is set at a road by the market. Here we see Lakunle carrying a bundle of fire wood which Sidi wanted
to collect. So, Lakunle helps Sidi to carry the firewood.
The two meet old women with a shawl on her head. She
is Sadiku the chief’s wife who tells Sidi that she has been
sent by the lion meaning Baroka the chief. By saying
that she will be the elder wife of the next chief. Sidi takes
this idea as bad because she thinks Baroka will simply
use her as instrument of enjoyment. She openly declares
that she has learnt a lot from Lakunle so she is now
gender conscious. Sidi’s negation surprises Sadiku
because it is un common for any girl to reject the chief’s
proposal. Sidi gives the reason for her refusal that they
have different ages. Also Sadiku asks her to sup with
Bale (Chief) Sidi rejects again and says that she cannot
eat supper with married men. In addition to that Sidi
argues that all girls who sup with chief become his wives
or concubines. She concludes that Baroka is a
In the same section we see Baroka uses women as
instrument of enjoyment as we can see his favorite wife
cuts his armpit’s hair. He says that he enjoys being cut
by a woman. When he is given the report of Sidi’s refusal,
Baroka gets angry hence he traps Sidi by telling his wife
that he is no longer sexually powerful he is IMPORTENT.
This takes place at the village centre. This time we see
Sidi at school room window, looking at her pictures.
Then we see Sadiku coming with a carved figure of
Baroka. The figure is naked. This amuses and amazes
Sidi understand what Sadiku means when she tells her
about Baroka’s impotence. So, Sadiku views Sidi as a
winner as she refused to marry Baroka. The two women
congratulate each other that now have a say in the sight
of men. So feminism is at work. Sadiku advises Sidi to
go and eat the supper at Baroka’s place because they
believe that he will do nothing since he is impotent.
Hearing that, Lankule advices Sidi to do not go to the
place but Sidi reject Lakunle’s advice. She goes to the
palace to see Baroka in order to mock him as she
believes that Baroka is impotent as she has been told.
Later we see Sadiku advising Lakunle to engage himself
in farming so that he may get the bride price for
marrying Sidi. Lakunle, further, says that no man will be
marrying more than one wife.
Then we see Sidi at palace trying to see if it is true that
Baroka is impotent. It is then discovered that Baroka is
not impotent as he previously claimed to be. This is
evidenced by him sleeping with Sidi. So it is discovered
that Baroka was tricky by telling his wife that he is
impotent. Un expectedly, Sidi is prepared to marry
Baroka the chief. She praises Baroka a lot as she says
he is very powerful sexually despite being aged sixty.
Hence, Sidi says goodbye to Lakunle who has been
persistently asking her a hand for marriage.
A theme is the central idea within any text (short story,
play, poem, and novel, for example). This idea repeats
itself throughout a work, drawing the attention of the
reader to its importance. In some cases, a theme is used
to illustrate the importance behind a moral, lesson, or
Sidi is shown to protest against the new ideas
brought by Lakunle who considers bride price as an
out-dated custom. (Pg 7), Sidi says that she is ready
to be married any day but her bride price must first
be paid. Lakunle protests against bad African
traditions and customs. For example he is against
bride-price and forced marriages.
The term betrayal is defined as the act of not being
faithful to something or someone. In other words, it
refers to an act which indicates a lack of loyalty to
somebody or something. In the play it is shown that
after getting western education Lakunle betrays his
traditional e.g. paying bride price. He appears stranger in
his own country. For example, he refuses to pay bride
price claiming that it is primitive custom. He also talks
about having a collage to teach people how to dance,
wearing high heeled shoes and other things which are
not of any benefit to the society. According to Baroka the
society is better to live without any new thing. (Pg 9)
Lakunle disappears and leaves his class when Sidi
passes with her pail. This shows how irresponsible
Lakunle is. Lakunle is busy with Sidi arguing about their
personal love instead of teaching; this disqualifies him
to be a good teacher. He makes up his mind to go back
while it is too late.
Lakunle is shown to bring new changes adopted from
western culture which interfere with traditional ways of
living. Modern ways of living imposed by Lakunle are
shown to get strongly opposed by the traditionalists like
Sidi. Example he wants the villagers to forget about the
bride price, kissing and dancing in western ways.
MISUSE OF POWER/POOR LEADERSHIP
The playwright labeled chief Baroka (the Bale of Ilujinle)
as a leader who is irresponsible; as he is always busy for
women not for the development of his people, he is also
labeled as a womanizer. He uses his position and riches
to oppress and discriminate women something of which
is not good at all. Furthermore, Wole Soyinka labels
Baroka as a leader who is not educated. For example
when he meets Lakunle, he is heard saying “Akowe.
Teacher wa Misita Lakunle” he further says “Guru Morin
guru moring”. Something which reveals that he cannot
even master his language. Also Baroka uses his title to
drive the village on his own ways. Example, he
commands Sadiku to go and collect a number of brides
for him. Also in (Page 17) he uses his power to
embarrass Lakunle by seizing him, and commands his
attendants to serve him a slap. This shows there is the
power that operates to the people who are less powered.
This is revealed when Sadiku visits Sidi; Sadiku says “ I
bring a message from my Lord, Baroka wants you for a
wife” Sadiku says “My Lord says that if you would not be
his wife, would you at least come to supper at his houses
to night There is a small feast in your honor …..” Sidi
replies by saying “Ho ho! Do you think that I was born
yesterday? The tales of Baroka’s little suppers, I know all;
tell your lord that Sidi does not sup with married men.”
This shows that Sidi is aware of Baroka’s behaviour.
Is the custom of having many wives at the same time.
For example, in the play, the playwright reveals to us that
Baroka is portrayed as a man who struggles to have
many wives as he can. He has his elder wife called
Sadiku, his favorite called Ailatu and yet he struggles to
have Sidi. This shows that there is a polygamous life
within the village of Ilujinle.
This is an act of making people believe something which
is not true. Chief Baroka is deceitful. This is because he
deceives his head wife (Sadiku) that he is no man
(sexually powerless) something which is not true. The
aim of deceiving his wife is to make this secret known to
Sidi so much that Sidi may not afraid of him. Sadiku tells
the secret to Sidi. As the result, when Sidi pays a visit to
Baroka’s palace, Baroka succeeds to make love with Sidi.
In (Pg 29).
Both, Sidi and Sadiku are shown to be ignorant ones. In
(Pg 37), Lakunle tells Sadiku that her mind is simple. He
says that Sadiku is at the age of seventy but she does
not not how to read, write and think. Also in (Pg 53) Sidi
complains about the sayings given by Baroka. She says
that the sayings are bored at her eyes and head. She
likes someone to state something clearly without any
POSITION OF A WOMAN IN A SOCIETY.
Women are labeled as weaker sex and have smaller
brains than men. For example Lakunle says “The
scientists have proved it, it is in my books. Women
have a smaller brain than men. That’s why they are
called the weaker sex”. This is humiliation to women
and is against the principle of fairness and justice i.e.
Women are considered to be commodities. Sidi
refuses to get married to Lakunle without bride-price.
Through bride price women are sold like
commodities or properties in the market stalls. For
example chief Baroka has many wives simply
because he is rich.
Women are described as beings that can easily be
tricked. They fall for the simplest tricks and lies. The
playwright shows this through Sidi who is tricked by
chief Baroka (the Lion) into sleeping with him, the
same trick that works with Sadiku (the Bale’s head
wife) who is tricked by the chief. For example Baroka
says “The time has come when I can fool myself no
more. I am no man, Sadiku. My manhood ended near
a week ago.” “I wanted Sidi because I still hoped- A
foolish thought I know, but still – I hoped that with a
virgin young and hot within, my failing strength would
rise and save my pride.” which was totally a lie.
Women are portrayed as illiterates, ignorant and
exploited as of their lack of even the most basic
education. A girl like Sidi is used by the playwright to
represent women of Africa who are illiterate and
They are portrayed as the main upholders of
traditions. This is shown through Sidi who refuses to
marry Lakunle unless he pays the bride-price to Sidi;
marriage is all about a man being able to fulfill the
important customs such as paying the bride-price
without which marriage and love have no meaning.
They are alienated (discriminated) from making
important decisions which affect their lives in
particular. For example in the play, we see and hear
chief Baroka decides to marry another wife.
Women are portrayed as conservative (rigid) not
accepting changes. For example Sidi does not
accept any change whether good or bad. For
example she insists on the question of bride-price.
Women are portrayed as respectful; for example Sidi
maintains her virginity till marriage.
Women are hard-workers. For example Sidi is busy
fetching’ water and firewood. She carries big bundles
of firewood and big pots (pails) of water on her head
to the extent that Lakunle stops her. For example
Lakunle says “No I have told you not to carry loads on
your head” based on the argument that the loads will
shorten her neck very soon.
Women are portrayed as people who are obedient
and not jealousy. For example Sadiku obeys her
husband as she does whatever she is instructed.
Furthermore, Sadiku is sent to seduce Sidi to marry
Women are portrayed as people who are sexually
forced to marry people whom they don’t really love
by any means. For example Baroka tells Sidi that
“The truth of this, old wine thrives best within a new
bottle” and after losing her virginity to Baroka, Sidi is
heard praising him (chief) and she argues “Do you
see what strength he has given me? That was not bad.
For a man of sixty…… It was the secret of God’s own
Both Ailatu and Sidi are taken to be the instruments
of pleasure. They both occupy the honor of being the
latest choice. If one becomes the latest choice of
Chief Baroka, her major task is to pull or pluck the
armpit hair. For this reason a worman is portrayed to
be the instrument since Baroka says that he feels
very sweet when his latest choice does so. (Pg 27)
A woman is portrayed as an inferior person who is
there to fulfill the order given by a man, example
Sadiku who is commanded by Lakunle.
The term conflict simply refers to the collision of
interests or ideas between two or more opposing groups
or sides. In this play, the writer shows various types of
conflicts as follows;
Sidi is in conflict with Lakunle because of the bride
price. Lakunle wants the village to get rid of the bride
price while Sidi doesn’t. She afraids that the villagers
would think that she is not virgin if she is married off
without the bride price. (In Pg 7)
Lakunle is shown to have conflicts with Sadiku, this
is because of Sidi. Lakunle wants to marry Sidi while
Sadiku persuades Sidi to marry Baroka.
Lakunle is in conflict with Baroka because of Sidi.
Both of them find themselves to have an interest in
her. In (Pg 58), Lakunle says he is ready to kill Baroka
though he is the village chief. He does not afraid the
prison, he wants to teach Baroka.
Village girls with Lakunle. This is when Lakunle insult
their native culture and promote western culture.
They finally decide to sing a song for him. (In Pg 14)
Refers to as money and/or property that in some
societies, a wife must pay to her husband when they get
married as thanks giving. OR money and/ or property,
that in some societies, a husband must pay to his wife’s
family when they get married. In the play, Sidi (the jewel)
refuses to marry Lakunle simply because Lakunle does
not want to pay the bride-price (dowry).
Lakunle alienates himself from society. He feels, that
whatever is done by the society is primitive and it is he
who knows what the society should do. The society also
Wole Soyinka has madethe use of indirect or
symbolic title. One could think of a lion as an animal
and Jewel as the precious stone. The two terms
have been used symbolically to present the powerful
person called Baroka and the beautiful girl called
The play is set in Yoruba village of Illujinle. It is
therefore the real setting; this is because the places
mentioned do exist.
The play is arranged chronologically. The events
have been arranged from morning when Lakunle is
shown in his school and abandons the students,
noon when Sadiku meets Sidi and Lakunle to give
the message of the lion and night when Sidi gets
trapped with Baroka.
DICTION (LANGUAGE USE)
Simple language has been used to make the play
Conversational language in dialogue between
Uses of oral literary devices (sayings) Example in (Pg
54), Baroka says “Old wine thrives best within a new
bottle” In (Pg 5), Lakunle says “Charity begins at
The language is also rich in figures of speech
example; – Simile in (Pg 2) “As stubborn as an
Personification in (Pg 6), Lakunle says “My love will
open your mind” In (Pg 53), Sidi says “Your words fly on
a different path”
Metaphor in (Pg 58) Lakunle says Baroka is a creature of
The use of symbolism: The title is symbolic whereby the
Lion stands for men; chief Baroka in particular while the
Jewel symbolizes girls (beautiful girl like Sidi). The Lion;
Baroka is the chief of the village and despite his age, he
is still sexually active and still considered manly. Baraka
is searching for a new wife and wins over Sidi with his
manly ways. Baroka is compared to an African symbol
for strength, the lion which could be comparable to our
Lakunle: Lakunle represents the influence of western
society in the village. Lakunle was taught in a
western style manner and tries to promote those
ideas in the minds and hearts of his villagers.
Stamps: The stamps in which Baroka tempts Sidi to
put her face on represent the falsehood.
Photographer/magazine: The magazine symbolizes
the reoccurring theme of technology and western
culture dominating other cultures
The Bride-price: represents the village’s customs
which Lakunle feels are barbaric.
Sadiku: Baroka’s deceitful plan to win over Sidi.
Sadiku also symbolizes the gossipy woman who
cannot hold her tongue.
Hyperbolic language, example in (Pg 3), Sidi says “when
the whole world Knows of the madman of Ilujinle who
calls himself a teacher” This gives an example of the
The use of vernacular language example the word
“Sango” and “ogun” which mean God They are not
English words. The playwright has mixed the language
with vernacular words.
FIGURES OF SPEECH
Satire; refers to as the act of mocking people in order to
show how foolish or incompetent they are. For example
when the girls call Lakunle for a dance, Lakunle says
“The dances are for fools” and when Sadiku is sent to
Sidi by Baroka, Sidi, rejects by saying “I can’t sup with
Metaphors; This is the comparison of two different
things without using conjunctions: for example, in page
47 Baroka says “Sadiku my faithful lizard”. Here Sadiku
is compared to a lizard. in (Pg 58) Lakunle says Baroka
is a creature of the wilds.
Proverbs; It is a well known phrase or sentence that
gives advice/lessons etcetera. For example Prof.
Soyinka uses “Old wine thrives within a new bottle”
Personification in (Pg 6), Lakunle says “My love will
open your mind” In (Pg 53), Sidi says “Your words fly on
a different path”
-He is the lion hinted on the cover page
-The chief of Ilujinle village.
-The womanizer who struggles to collect the brides of
the Ilujinle village.
-The husband of Sadiku, Ailatu and Sidi.
– The elder wife of Chief Baroka
-The bride collector of Chief Baroka.
-She is an ignorant person since she is at the age of
seventy but does not know how read and write.
-She is the jewel mentioned on the title
-She becomes very arrogant when her image appears on
the village magazine.
-She is a traditionalist who insists on the payment of
-She is finally trapped by the trick of Baroka and
becomes his wife.
He is the village teacher
He is shown to fall in love with the village Belle (Sidi)
He is a modern man who prefers western culture to
THE FAVORITE (AILATU)
-The latest choice of Baroka before he falls in love with
-She is taken to be the only wife whose task is to pluck
the armpit hair of Baroka.
-She becomes hungry when she hears the coming of
-A wrestler, surveyor, mummers, dancers, school boys and
THE MESSAGE OF THE PLAY: Changes are necessary
for development but in order to make changes, the
society concerned should weigh the advantages over
disadvantages of those changes.
Example; African culture against western culture i.e.
polygamist and monogamist, pride price, European
THE RELEVANCE OF THE PLAY
The play relates to our contemporary society. For
instance the issues of misuse of power, ignorance,
bride-price, deceit, women oppression and
discrimination, polygamy, the influence of western
education and culture etc take place in our societies.
Therefore, one may proudly conclude that Professor
Wole Soyinka has successfully made his readers
aware of what is really happening in their respective