The Lion and The Jewel main character Sidi sitting in the middle of the picture wearing a striped dress with the outlines of two male faces on other side of her

The Lion and the Jewel

by Wole Soyinka

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The Lion and the Jewel Summary

The Lion and the Jewel is a play by Wole Soyinka that dramatizes the courtship of a beautiful woman named Sidi by two very different suitors. 

  • Sidi has two suitors: Lakunle, a hapless schoolteacher who professes to want a modern marriage, and Baroka, the elderly, polygamist village leader.
  • Sidi, emboldened by the fact that her photos were recently in a magazine, rejects both men.
  • Upon learning that Baroka is impotent, Sidi plots to humiliate him. However, her plan backfires, as Baroka lied about his impotence to lure Sidi to him.
  • Baroka sexually assaults Sidi, and she becomes his newest wife.


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Last Updated on May 21, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1257

Wole Soyinka’s play The Lion and the Jewel is set in Ilujinle, a Yoruba village in Nigeria. It dramatizes two very different mens’ efforts to woo Sidi, a beautiful young woman. One of the suitors is Lakunle, a young, idealistic schoolteacher who refuses to pay Sidi’s bride price because he believes it is an old-fashioned and demeaning tradition. The other suitor is Baroka, the elderly leader of Ilujinle, who wants to make Sidi a part of his harem. However, Sidi rejects both men: Lakunle for refusing to pay her bride price, and Baroka due to his advanced age.

The play takes place over the course of a single day and is divided into three scenes: Morning, Noon, and Night. On Sunday morning, Sidi walks past Lakunle’s schoolhouse with a pail of water balanced on her head, and he interrupts his lesson to talk to her. Lakunle admonishes her for her traditional behavior and dress while also asserting his belief that men are superior to women in matters of intelligence. They argue until Lakunle begins to plead with Sidi to marry him. Sidi reminds him that she will marry him as long as he follows tradition and pays her bride price. Lakunle protests, speaking of his desire to enjoy a modern marriage with Sidi, and he kisses her to prove his point. Sidi is repulsed by his kiss, and she accuses him of trying to avoid paying her bride price.

A group of village children interrupt Sidi and Lakunle to tell them that the stranger from Lagos who took Sidi’s photographs prior to the start of the play has returned to the village. The stranger has brought his collection of photographs with him, and the cover of the magazine he works for features a beautiful photograph of Sidi. Many photographs of Sidi appear in the book, while only one photograph of Baroka, the leader of the village, is present. Sidi is exhilarated by her appearance in the book, claiming she is too good to marry the village schoolteacher; Lakunle laments the change in his status in Sidi’s eyes. Sidi leads the village children in a dance that reenacts the arrival of the photographer, recruiting Lakunle to play the photographer in their play. When Baroka interrupts their play, Lakunle suggests Baroka should not be wasting time on children’s games, but Baroka insists that the play continue, mocking Lakunle in his role and admiring Sidi and her beauty. As the scene ends, Baroka holds the magazine in his hands and admires the pictures of Sidi. He reflects on the fact that he has not taken a new wife in five months.

The next scene takes place in the middle of the day. Sidi walks, still fixated on her photographs in the magazine, as Lakunle carries her firewood. Sadiku, Baroka’s first wife and personal matchmaker, approaches Sidi with news: Baroka would like to marry her. Sidi responds to Sadiku by asserting her newfound power as the jewel of Ilujinle and rejecting Baroka’s offer of marriage. According to Sidi, Baroka is too old; worse, he is interested in Sidi only because she will make him famous. Sidi’s boldness shocks Sadiku. When Sadiku asks Sidi to consider joining Baroka at his home for a feast in her honor, Sidi also refuses, claiming that she knows Baroka’s tricks; Sidi suspects that Baroka will take advantage of her sexually if she accepts his invitation. Lakunle echoes Sidi’s suspicions and tells the two women a story about Baroka’s successful attempt to bribe a surveyor into halting the construction of a railway through Ilujinle.

Later, in Baroka’s bedroom, his current...

(This entire section contains 1257 words.)

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favorite wife, Ailatu, plucks hairs out of his armpit. She pulls too hard and injures him after he tells her he is hoping to marry again. Sadiku enters Baroka’s bedroom after he dismisses Ailatu in anger, and Sadiku tells Baroka that Sidi has turned down his offer of marriage because of his age. Baroka talks about himself as a man of youthful vigor and asks Sadiku to soothe him while he glances through the magazine at Sidi’s photographs. Baroka flings the magazine away and tells Sadiku that Sidi’s decision is for the best, because he is impotent. After Baroka confides his shame to Sadiku, he makes her promise not to tell anyone, then falls asleep.

That evening, Sidi observes Sadiku behaving oddly in the center of the village. Sadiku has a carved figurine of Baroka in her hands, and as Sadiku prepares to perform a ritual with the statue, Sidi interrupts her. Sadiku tells Sidi about Baroka’s impotence; according to Sadiku, this means that women have won a victory over men, so they must celebrate with a ritual dance. Lakunle witnesses their celebration, and the women deride him. In order to humiliate Baroka, Sidi would like to go to his house and play a trick on him; she tells Sadiku that she will go to his feast and mock his impotence to his face while taking care not to reveal Sadiku’s complicity. Both Sadiku and Lakunle try to discourage Sidi, but Sidi cannot be convinced. As Sidi runs away to Baroka’s house, Sadiku and Lakunle argue about tradition and progress.

When Sidi arrives at Baroka's house, no one greets her, and she finds her own way to Baroka’s bedroom. In the bedroom, Baroka is wrestling with a man he has hired. As the two men wrestle, Sidi banters with Baroka boldly, forgetting to show him respect until she remembers that she is there to play a trick on him. Baroka does not appear to be as grateful to see Sidi as she expects, and his mood seems to change unexpectedly during her visit. When Sidi annoys him with her suggestive comments about his virility, Baroka suddenly finds the strength to throw the man he is wrestling. As the men begin to arm-wrestle, Baroka and Sidi continue to talk. At one point, Sidi accidentally reveals that she has spoken with Sadiku about Baroka’s weakened state. Baroka shows Sidi a stamp machine in his bedroom and flatters Sidi with promises that he will put her image on a stamp. After Baroka sends the wrestler out of the bedroom, he sits next to Sidi on his bed. A group of dancers appear onstage accompanied by the sound of drumming; they dance across the stage, exit, and then dance across the stage again.

Meanwhile, Lakunle and Sadiku wait for Sidi in the village center as the evening market sets up for business. Lakunle worries for Sidi’s physical safety as mummers approach, and Sadiku steals money from Lakunle to pay the performers. The performance tells the story of the downfall of a male leader at the hands of a group of women. Sidi suddenly appears, sobbing. She tells Sadiku and Lakunle that Baroka had lied about his impotence, having known that Sadiku could not keep the secret. When Baroka and Sidi were alone, he raped her as punishment for her disrespectful conduct. Lakunle is horrified, but Sadiku dismisses Sidi’s experience. Lakunle promises to marry Sidi anyway but emphasizes that she is no longer in a position to demand a bride price. However, Sidi runs away to pack her belongings, leaving Lakunle confused. When Sidi returns, she is dressed for her wedding to Baroka, whose youthful vigor she exalts, and she dances and sings in the marketplace as Sadiku makes a plea to the fertility gods on Sidi’s behalf.


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Last Updated on September 6, 2023, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 374

The Lion and the Jewel opens with Lakunle trying to take a bucket of water from Sidi, who has drawn it from the well. It spills and he gets wet but he still believes that Sidi is the one who should learn the lesson from the incident. She mocks him and asks if the lesson is over so that she can have her bucket back. Lakunle is the village school teacher and he wants to marry Sidi, the village beauty. However, he won't perform the old custom of paying the bride price. He sees himself as more modern. This makes him less attractive to Sidi.

Some village girls run over to tell Sidi that an outsider who visited the village and photographed her has returned. He published her photographs in a magazine. When she discovers that her photo is throughout the magazine and Bale Baroka, the village leader, is barely in it, she feels pride and believes that she is better than he is. Baroka enters, mocks Lakunle, and thinks to himself that it's been five months since he took a wife.

Sidi speaks to Sadiku, one of Baroka's wives. She tries to convince Sidi to be Baroka's last wife and promises that she'll be honored for it. She refuses and says that she's famous now. Lakunle is shocked and tells Sadiku to stop. When Sadiku tells Baroka that Sidi won't come to dinner, he's sad. He says that life has been difficult because of his impotence.

The next day, Sidi finds out from Sadiku that Baroka is impotent even though she'd sworn not to tell. Sidi feels emboldened and decides to go to the dinner to make fun of him. Baroka shows her a stamp machine that he's acquired for the village. He tells her that she's so beautiful that she will be on their stamps and represent their village. Sidi ends up sleeping with him.

When Lakunle finds out, he's actually happy after some angry reflection. He believes that now he'll be able to marry Sidi without the traditional bride price. However, she opts to marry Baroka. She tells Lakunle that Baroka has given her strength. She marries the man while Lakunle sees another young woman and goes to dance with her.


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