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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Last Updated September 6, 2023.

SIDI: Now there you go again.
One little thing
And you must chirrup like a cockatoo.
You talk and talk and deafen me
With words which always sound the same
And make no meaning.
I've told you, and I say it again
I shall marry you today, next week
Or any day you name.
But my bride-price must first be paid.
Aha, now you turn away.
But I tell you, Lakunle, I must have
The full bride-price. Will you make me
A laughing-stock? Well, do as you please.
But Sidi will not make herself
A cheap bowl for the village spit.

Sidi makes it clear that the traditions of the village are important to her. She's trying to explain to Lakunle why she needs him to pay the bride price not only because it's tradition but because if he doesn't, she'll be seen as dishonored. Despite his claims of love for her, Lakunle refuses to pay the price. She even says that they can get married if he'll give in, but he continues to refuse. Sidi knows that even if other parts of the world are more modern, the village where she lives isn't. They have certain expectations of her and she isn't willing to go against the traditions and live with scorn just to uphold Lakunle's more modern ideals.

BAROKA: A figurehead, my child, a lifeless work
Of craft, with holes for eyes, and coldness
For the warmth of life and love
In youthful cheeks like yours,
My daughter . . .
[Pauses to watch the effect on Sidi.]
. . . Can you see it, Sidi?
Tens of thousands of these dainty prints
And each one with this legend of Sidi.
[Flourishes the magazine, open in the middle.]
The village goddess, reaching out
Towards the sun, her lover.
Can you see it, my daughter!
[ Sidi drowns herself totally in the contemplation, takes the magazine but does not even look at it. Sits on the bed.]


BAROKA: [very gently.]
I hope you will not think it too great
A burden, to carry the country's mail
All on your comeliness.

Baroka has shown Sidi the stamp machine that he will make work. It's a sign that he's working toward modernizing the village without throwing away all of their traditions. In addition, he compliments her by explaining that her face should be on their new stamps. She is impressed and excited at the idea; Sidi has always valued her loveliness and appreciates that Baroka does too. His compliments and wily nature in getting her alone lead to the two of them sleeping together. He shows her that he is a better option for her in their society and has more respect for her than Lakunle, who earlier in the play insisted that women have smaller brains and are less intelligent than women.

Dear Sidi, we shall forget the past.
This great misfortune touches not
The treasury of my love.
But you will agree, it is only fair
That we forget the bride-price totally
Since you no longer can be called a maid.
Here is my hand; if on these terms,
You'll be my cherished wife.
We'll take an oath, between us three
That this shall stay
A secret to our dying days

Lakunle is upset that Sidi had sex with Baroka but decides he still wants to marry her. However, he once again shows that he doesn't value her by bringing up the bride price. He doesn't realize that she is going to marry Baroka even when it's clear and the preparations are happening all around him. He also continues to try to slow things down and insists that he can't be a single man one day and a married man the next. He shows that he's still somewhat a man of tradition by lamenting her lack of virginity but says he's still going to marry her. He's shocked and sad when she ends up marrying Baroka instead, but he is already checking out another young woman at the wedding.

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