The setting of The Lion and the Jewel is a Yoruba village called Ilujinle, in the Ibadan region of southwest Nigeria in the late 1950s. The Yoruba are one of the major ethnic groups in Nigeria. Most of the play takes place in the center of the village. The center of the village includes the school where Lakunle teaches, the village market, the Odam tree, and Baroka's bedroom. The play is set in one day, moving from morning to noon to night.
The village is isolated so that it has maintained traditional ways, but it is not that far from the city of Lagos. The traditional African village culture is meant to be a positive contrast to the sophistication and Westernization of the city. For example, the school teacher Lakunle looks ridiculous to the villagers in his baggy city pants and white shoes.
This setting shows modern and traditional cultures colliding. Lakunle represents the urge to modernize, such as by wanting to carry Sidi's water pail for her while she is perfectly content to carry it on her head.
In the town square, young women do a traditional dance, but it features a scene of driving a motor vehicle, obviously a modern insertion into an older tradition. The village setting is thus a backdrop where old and new collide and negotiate their relationship.