Introduction to The Lion and the Jewel

The Lion and the Jewel is a play by Nigerian writer Wole Soyinka. It was first performed in 1959 and was later published in transcript format by the Oxford University Press in 1962. As one of Soyinka’s early plays, The Lion and the Jewel helped launch his illustrious career, and it attracted significant international attention after its London premiere. Critics lauded Soyinka’s compelling portrayal of traditional Yoruba culture, his elegant prose, and his seamless blend of comedy and sociocultural criticism. 

Soyinka is a Nigerian writer, and many of his works center the experiences and conflicts faced by both larger African countries and smaller village communities. Ilujinle, the village in The Lion and the Jewel, is a microcosm of cultural change in Africa as a whole: traditional ways of life, as represented by Baroka, must contend with the forces of modernization, as represented by Lakunle. Soyinka portrays Lakunle as a blustering man who values the aesthetics and ideas behind modernity but has little understanding of the practicalities of life in Ilujinle. He is dismissive of traditional culture and wants Sidi to behave like a modern woman, even though doing so would inconvenience her. By contrast, crafty Baroka uses underhanded methods to preserve the way of life in the village, and he—along with the traditions he represents—proves triumphant when Sidi agrees to marry him.

A Brief Biography of Wole Soyinka

Wole Soyinka (born 1934) is a Nigerian author who has written a great deal about the African experience. Throughout his long and productive career, Soyinka’s politics have placed him in danger repeatedly. His upbringing reflected both African and Western influences, and the conflict and interaction between these two forces would occupy much of his writing, particularly in the plays Death and the King's Horseman and The Lion and the Jewel. Through drama, poetry, essays, and autobiographical writing, Soyinka has documented not only the struggles of his homeland of Nigeria but of Africa as a whole. His works earned him the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1986, and he used the occasion to highlight the plight of fellow activist Nelson Mandela. Soyinka’s life has been so full of intrigue and accomplishment that he has published several memoirs in which the hardships of the African continent overlap with Soyinka’s own personal evolution.

Frequently Asked Questions about The Lion and the Jewel

The Lion and the Jewel

In Wole Soyinka’s The Lion and the Jewel, Baroka is called the lion because he is a very strong man. Baroka is the old, wise chief of the village of Ilujinle. Even though he is sixty-two years old,...

Latest answer posted January 21, 2021, 10:59 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Lion and the Jewel

The Lion and the Jewel is a play with only a few main characters. That's not necessarily a rare thing. What is much more unique and rare about those main characters is that none of those characters...

Latest answer posted January 22, 2021, 1:43 pm (UTC)

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The Lion and the Jewel

This is somewhat of a tough question to answer, because there not merely one single reason why Sidi does not choose to marry Lakunle. Her reasons for not marrying him also probably change over the...

Latest answer posted January 22, 2021, 2:02 pm (UTC)

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The Lion and the Jewel

The title of the play The Lion and the Jewel refers to the characters of Baroka and Sidi. Like the king of the jungle, Baroka is a strong, wise, and cunning leader of the village. Although he is...

Latest answer posted January 22, 2021, 4:06 pm (UTC)

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The Lion and the Jewel

In The Lion and the Jewel, Sadiku, Baroka’s senior wife, is nearly seventy years old. Recall how Lakunle berates Sadiku for helping her husband get young women like Sidi to marry him: For though...

Latest answer posted January 22, 2021, 4:39 pm (UTC)

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The Lion and the Jewel

Lakunle is an interesting character in The Lion and the Jewel for several reasons, particularly because of his modern way of thinking. He stands out because he is unlike most people in the village...

Latest answer posted January 22, 2021, 5:02 pm (UTC)

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The Lion and the Jewel

The category of "comedy" is a wide one, encompassing such literary works as Dante's Divine Comedy, which is not remotely funny. It has often been used to refer to any work of literature with a...

Latest answer posted January 22, 2021, 5:42 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Lion and the Jewel

The love triangle that involves a young girl, a young man, and a wealthy, powerful, older man is one of the staples of comedy. The older man is tricked or thwarted so that the young couple can...

Latest answer posted January 22, 2021, 7:12 pm (UTC)

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The Lion and the Jewel

Sidi is a great character to talk about and discuss with classes because it seems perfectly acceptable to talk poorly about her. Sidi is the play's protagonist, but that doesn't automatically make...

Latest answer posted January 23, 2021, 12:22 am (UTC)

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The Lion and the Jewel

The titular "jewel" in Wole Soyinka's 1959 drama The Lion and the Jewel is a young and beautiful woman named Sidi. The village of Ilujinle considers her to be as pretty and as magnificent as a...

Latest answer posted January 20, 2021, 1:38 pm (UTC)

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The Lion and the Jewel

Through his play The Lion and the Jewel, Wole Soyinka shows his mastery of modern European dramatic form along with his knowledge and appreciation of Nigerian oral literature and performance. The...

Latest answer posted January 20, 2021, 10:04 pm (UTC)

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The Lion and the Jewel

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....

Latest answer posted January 21, 2021, 1:13 pm (UTC)

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The Lion and the Jewel

At first, the young Sidi has no interest in the sixty-two-year-old Baroka, despite his high status in the village. She is somewhat attracted to Western culture, in the form of the young,...

Latest answer posted January 21, 2021, 1:40 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Lion and the Jewel

The Lion and the Jewel is an interesting play for a variety of reasons. One of those reasons is how well a play written in 1959 explores media images and their influences on a person's own ego....

Latest answer posted January 21, 2021, 1:43 pm (UTC)

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The Lion and the Jewel

Sidi could quite easily be considered the play's protagonist. What's interesting about calling her that is the fact that Sidi does not seem like a standard protagonist. More often than not, the...

Latest answer posted January 21, 2021, 2:33 pm (UTC)

2 educator answers

The Lion and the Jewel

The main conflict in Wole Soyinka’s play The Lion and the Jewel is the competition between Baroka and Lakunle, suitors who are both after Sidi’s hand in marriage. Sidi is a beautiful young woman...

Latest answer posted January 21, 2021, 3:32 pm (UTC)

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The Lion and the Jewel

Lakunle arrives in the village straight from the big, modern city of Lagos to become the village schoolteacher. He is a great believer in progress and Western ways. He thinks of himself as superior...

Latest answer posted January 21, 2021, 2:46 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Lion and the Jewel

Sidi marries the sixty-two-year-old Baroka in part because he represents and upholds the village traditions she has been taught to cherish. But that is not all that sways her. He is able to woo her...

Latest answer posted January 21, 2021, 3:05 pm (UTC)

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The Lion and the Jewel

The bride price, the dowry that has to be paid to marry Sidi, functions in The Lion and the Jewel as a symbol of the traditional Yoruba customs and values. The young Lakunle wants to marry Sidi,...

Latest answer posted January 21, 2021, 3:53 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Lion and the Jewel

In Wole Soyinka’s play The Lion and the Jewel, the character of Sadiku is a well-to-do, high status senior woman in the village. Sadiku understands that her current and future status are connected...

Latest answer posted January 20, 2021, 6:30 pm (UTC)

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Summary