This is a good full summary and analysis of Wole Soyinka’s The Lion and the Jewel.
About the Playwright (Wole Soyinka). Who is Wole Soyinka?
Wole Soyinka is an Egba (Yoruba sub-cultural group) who are situated in the present day Ogun State. His full name is Akínwándé Olúwolé Babátúndé Sóyíinká; and he was born on 13 July 1934. He was born and bred in Abeokuta, and his family is a politically, religiously and culturally conscious one. He attended primary and secondary schools in Abeokuta before he proceeded to the University College, Ibadan. Later, he travelled out of the country to study in the UK, University of Leeds. As a college/university student in Nigeria, he was an activist and this activism was with him even after graduation.
He began writing plays and poems few years before Nigeria’s independence in 1960. His works became popular in the 1950s due to their good structure and how they were attached to social reality. He began to win some awards. His works are also equally noted for their focus on culture, tradition and culture-conflict. His activism led him to openly call for dialogue between the Biafran and Nigerian people and this led to his imprisonment.
Furthermore, repeatedly, Wole Soyinka has been in the way of danger because of his continuous criticism of Nigerian government. He was sentenced to death in absentia in the 1990s. In 1986, Wole Soyinka became the first African to win the Nobel Prize in Literature. Presently, he lives in Abeokuta and continues to write. He has also thought in a wide range of universities across the world from Obafemi Awolowo University to Harvard University.
Background of The Lion and the Jewel
At the time the play was written and acted, Nigeria was at its early stage of independence or about to gain independence. There was issue and argument of which culture was superior and what culture was to embraced; should it be traditional or western culture? There were Africans and Nigerians who embraced western culture while there were others who stayed with traditional. However, this didn’t stop the pace of development that was going on at that time. You must get to understand this background before you understand this full summary and analysis of Wole Soyinka’s The Lion and the Jewel.
The Plot of the Play
Lakunle is a school teacher in Ilujinle. As a school teacher, he consider himself modernised and practises more of western culture. He speaks, dresses and acts like the British people who colonized Nigeria. He is a good teacher who knows what he is doing, and he is in love with a village belle (beautiful girl) called Sidi.
Lakunle really loves Sidi and intends marrying her and makes his intentions known to Sidi. Sidi does not want to marry him because he is against some of the customs of the land like paying bride price and Sidi believes he is too westernised. So, no matter the attempt he makes, Sidi doesn’t get to like him.
A foreign photographer visits Ilujinle, their village and town, and snaps Sidi. Sometime later, Sidi’s photograph appears in an international magazine. This event makes Sidi popular in her village. Sidi, Lakunle and some girl dramatizes the entrance and coming of the foreign photographer to their village.
The village chief, Baroke, gets hold of the magazine and admires Sidi’s photograph. He is an advanced man, in his mid-life, and he has many wives. On seeing Sidi’s picture, he decides to take Sidi as a wife to join his list of wives. He tells one of his wives, Sadiku, to go and tell Sidi that he wants to marry her.
Sadiku goes to Sidi and tells her. Sidi rejects the proposal. Baroka is old and not refined enough to marry her. Besides, Baroka already has many wives. Sadiku lets Baroka know of this and Baroka hatches an evil plan.
Baroka informs Sadiku that his manhood can no longer stand and perform like it used to, and she should keep it a secret and not tell anyone. Sadiku who has been emotionally hurt by Baroka’s desire to get another wife runs off to tell Sidi in order to put Baroka to shame. Sidi and Sadiku laugh and joke about it. Sidi decides she would go to Baroka to confirm it and make jest of him.
Sidi visits Baroka. Baroka presents himself as a young capable man who can still handle a woman. Then he sweet-talks and seduces Sidi. He promises to make Sidi more popular and do a lot of things for her. Next, Sidi falls for the seduction and sweet-talk and she allows Baroka lay her.
It is after the act that Sidi realizes herself and gets to know that Baroka doesn’t truly love her. She cries. She goes to Lakunle and says Baroka took advantage of her. Lakunle tells her not to worry that he can still marry her. Sidi says no, insisting that it’s already late. Next thing, drummers and emissaries of Baroka have come to take Sidi to her new husband.
Themes in Wole Soyinka’s The Lion and the Jewel
These themes are very important if you really intend to appreciate this full summary and analysis of Wole Soyinka’s The Lion and the Jewel.
- Prominence and Supremacy of Tradition: There is evidence of supremacy of tradition over westernisation/western ideals in the text. Baroka is a character symbol representing tradition and he defeats Lakunle in the battle to marry Sidi through cunning and perceived African wisdom. In all, even Sidi representing the African people chooses Baroka’s ways over Lankunle’s ways.
- Colonialism and its Effects: The effects of colonialism can be felt throughout the play. The photographer and the magazine are effects of colonialism. The issue of westernisation and education is one of the effects of colonialism. Colonialism in itself brought culture-conflict and had to battle it out with traditionalism. The introduction of modern institutions and equipments is because of colonialism.
- Falsehood: This is represented in Baroka’s action. Baroka gets to marry Sidi through falsehood. He hatches an evil plan; deceives Sidi and lays her. Being laid, Sidi has no other option than accept to be married.
- Marriage: Some scholars believe that good comedies end in marriage and this play is comedy. Throughout the play, the matter of marriage is always brought up. First Lakunle intends to marry Sidi but he is rejected. Next, Baroka intends to marry Sidi but he is rejected, too. It is only when Baroka hatches an evil plan that Sidi falls for it and the play ends in marriage.
- Quest for Development: Lakunle showcases the character who is hungry for development. On trying to woo Sidi, he promises her what he would do to develop Ilujinle. He is a modern man and insists he would do a lot to see that Ilujinle is developed with the right modern amenities.
Characters/Characterization in the Play
You would need to understand the roles of these characters very well to fully grasp the full summary and analysis of Wole Soyinka’s The Lion and the Jewel
- Sidi: She is the village belle (beauty) in the play. She represents Africans. She is gullible and has high self-esteem. She has high taste for men and is easily attracted to fame. Rejecting the two men who want to marry her, she falls cheaply to falsehood and thus gets married in a humiliating way.
- Lakunle: He is one of the teachers in the village school. He is educated, refined and has western ideals. He wants to marry Sidfi but insists he must do so without bride price. He is a hardworking gentleman an d loves with his whole heart. In the play, he represents westernisation and western ideals.
- Baroka: He is the village chief of Ilujinle. He is a polygamous man. On sighting Sidi in the magazines, he intends to marry her as one of his wives. He is a bad schemer and planner, and he is very crafty. Realizing Sidi is proud and young, so wouldn’t agree to marry him, he hatches an evil plan, seduces Sidi and lays with her.
- Sadiku: She is one of the wives of Baroka. She is a gossip monger. When she is told to not tell anyone of Baroka’s false impotence, she goes to announce it to Sidi in order to deride Baroka for choosing to marry another wife.
- The Photographer: He is a foreign photographer whose action is not seen on stage; however, his deeds make Baroka come to know Sidi. Baroka knowing Sidi contributed to his evil schemes and the eventual fall of Sidi to him.
The Setting of the Play
The setting is also important in this full summary and analysis of Wole Soyinka’s The Lion and the Jewel. The setting is a rural town/village of Ilujinle in South West, Nigeria, during or immediately after colonialism. So the possible time of the setting is between the 50s and early 60s.
The Language/Diction and Style of Wole Soyinka’s The Lion and the Jewel: The language and diction of the play is simple, straight-forward and easy to understand.
The Lion in the play is Baroka. The Jewel is Sidi.