The Lion and the Jewel Night
by Wole Soyinka

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Night

The moon is not yet full as Sidi stands near the schoolhouse, still admiring her photographs in the magazine. Sadiku appears with a carved statue of Baroka. Sadiku does not realize Sidi is watching her, and she delivers a speech addressed to Baroka, mocking his impotence and celebrating the power of women over men. Sadiku places the naked figurine of Baroka in front of a tree in the village center and dances around the tree, chanting, “Take warning, my masters / We’ll scotch you in the end.” Sidi interrupts her, and Sadiku tells her that she, and all women, have won a battle; when Sidi becomes confused, Sadiku makes her promise to keep a secret and whispers Baroka’s secret in her ear. After learning of Baroka’s impotence, Sidi joins Sadiku in celebrating their victory over Baroka.

Lakunle appears and observes the women dancing under the moon. When he comments on their activity, the women stop their ritual dancing, and Sadiku threatens Lakunle, revealing that Baroka “is no longer a man” and that no men are permitted to watch their ceremony. Sidi interrupts Sadiku, telling her that she has an idea: she will go to Baroka’s feast and request a month’s time to make up her mind regarding his marriage proposal. During this visit to the Bale’s home, Sidi will “mock the devil.” Sadiku worries that Baroka will discover that she has betrayed his secret shame, but Sidi persuades her to agree. Sadiku advises Sidi to feign humility in order to “torment him until he weeps for shame.” Lakunle warns Sidi against testing Baroka, telling her that Baroka will beat her when he discovers the truth, but Sidi refuses to listen and runs away from him.

Lakunle scolds Sadiku for telling Sidi the Bale’s secret, and they argue. Sadiku mocks Lakunle for his attachment to Sidi, deriding his affection and scorning his refusal to pay the bride price. Lakunle delivers a speech predicting all the ways in which Ilunjile will modernize and terrifying Sadiku with his images of progress and “tea, with milk and sugar.” He threatens Sadiku as she flees the stage by suggesting that she will become one of his students and learn to read, write, and think for herself.

The scene shifts to Baroka’s house, where, in his bedroom, he spars with a wrestler he has hired to maintain his physical fitness. Sidi greets them, but no one answers her, and Baroka carries on wrestling. Sidi enters Baroka’s bedroom, surprised to see the two men engaged in a wrestling match. Baroka reveals that his servants are off for the day, in accordance with progressive union regulations, and Sidi asks if his wives are also off for the day. Baroka, still wrestling, asks if Ailatu has left her shawl on the stool outside his door; Sidi confirms that she has, and Baroka laments that she will likely “be back tonight.” Baroka and Sidi discuss Ailatu’s behavior, and Baroka asserts to Sidi that he has dominion over his wives, which reminds Sidi to kneel before him and feign repentance for refusing his invitation to dinner. Baroka teases Sidi, suggesting that she is unwelcome, and when Baroka reveals that he does not mean his words, “the mischief returns to her face.”

As the two men continue to wrestle, Sidi speaks mockingly to Baroka, and Baroka tells her that he hires a new wrestler whenever he beats one at the game; similarly, he takes a new wife once he tires of his existing ones. Sidi tells Baroka that she has received a message from a woman which suggests that a man is ready to pay her bride price; she goes on to describe the man in terms that offend Baroka while also suggesting that Baroka’s concern for Sidi is primarily paternal in nature. In a fit of anger, Baroka throws his sparring partner and wins the wrestling match, only to begin arm-wrestling and defending his own manliness as Sidi pays less and less attention to him. Sidi resumes her banter with Baroka and accidentally reveals her knowledge of Baroka’s impotence; Baroka claims that Sidi’s...

(The entire section is 1,114 words.)