The Lion and the Jewel – Wole Soyinka Chapter Summary & Analysis for 2024-2025 JAMB

The Lion and the Jewel - Wole Soyinka Chapter Summary

The Lion and the Jewel by Wole Soyinka Comprehensive and Chapter by Chapter Background, Plot, Major Events, Settings, Theme, Major Characters Summary and Analysis for JAMB UTME, NECO and WAEC Literature Students.


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Akinwande Oluwole Babatunde Soyinka (born 13 July 1934), knownlas Wole Soyinka. He is a Nigerian playwright, poet, and essayist in the English language. He was awarded the 1986 Nobel Prize in Literature, be the first sub-Saharan African to be honored in that category. Soyinka was born into a Yoruba family in Abeokuta, Ogun state.

In 1954, he attended Government College in lbadan, and subsequently University College lbadan and the University of Leeds in England. After studying in Nigeria and the UK, he worked with the Royal Court Theatre in London. He went on to write plays that were produced in both countries, in theatres, and on the radio. He took an active role in Nigeria’s political history and its struggle for independence from Great Britain. In 1965, he seized the Western Nigeria Broadcasting Service studio and broadcast a demand for the cancellation of the Western Nigeria Regional Elections. In 1967, during the Nigerian
Civil War, he was arrested by the federal government of General Yakubu Gowon and put in solitary confinement for two years.

Soyinka has been a strong critic of successive Nigerian (and African at large) governments, especially the country’s many military dictators, as well as other political tyrannies, including the Mugabe regime in Zimbabwe. Much of his writing has been concerned with “the oppressive boot and the irrelevance of the color of the foot that wears it”. During the regime of General Sani Abacha (1993-98), Soyinka escaped from Nigeria on a motorcycle via the “NADECO Route.” Abacha later proclaimed a death
sentence on him “in absentia.” With civilian rule restored to Nigeria in 1999, Soyinka returned to his nation.

The Lion and the Jewel by Wole Soyinka Background, Plot, Major Events, Settings, Theme, Major Characters Summary & Analysis


Soyinka‘s The Lion and the Jewel is one of his most famous works as a prolific playwright. Although Soyinka wrote the play while living in London but it was first performed in Africa at the lbadan Arts Theatre in 1959 and garnered positive reviews.

Soyinka’s ‘The lion and the Jewel, is renowned for its complex themes and allegorical structure. It is also notable for its insights into the Yoruba culture and tradition.

“The Lion and the Jewel” was published in 1963 and It is still performed relatively often in both Africa and the West.


Wole Soyinka’s “The Lion and the Jewel” tells the story of a young lady, Sidi, who is the village belle of illujile and her decision on whom to marry. Her choices are Lakunle, a schoolteacher, and Baroka, the Bale of the village. The first scene tagged “Morning,” takes place outside of the schoolhouse that projected into the market located at the centre of ilujinle village. Sidi comes up on stage, carrying a pail of water on her head as she walks by, Lakunle, the village school teacher, rushes outside to criticize her for carrying it on her head, claiming that it will damage her neck and it doesn’t befit her as a
woman who is supposed to be modern. He also criticizes Sidi for dressing immodestly. Lakunle mentions his desire to marry Sidi and Sidi tells him that she will marry him whenever he likes, as long as he pays her “bride-price” first. Lakunle claims that the custom of paying for a wife is offensive and refuses to do it.

Some of the villagers enter the stage and inform Sidi that a man known as The Stranger has returned to the village. When the Stranger last visited the village, he took photographs of Sidi and he has now returned with a copy of the magazine in which Sidi’s pictures have been printed on. The villagers inform Sidi that she looks very beautiful in the magazine. The villagers join together to do mimed/dance performance telling the story of The Stranger’s previous visit to the village. The performance is
temporarily interrupted by Baroka who then joins in with the performance himself and humiliated Lakunle, probably to downplay his importance in the presence of the villagers. After the performance, Sidi drags Lakunle away in order to look for The Stranger so that she can see herself in the magazine.

Alone on the stage, Baroka muses out loud while he admires sidi from a copy of magazine he brought out from his Agbada and he muted to himself that it been five full months since he last took a wife.

The second scene, “Noon,” takes place on a road in llujinle. Sidi is seen consumed by the admiration of her images in the magazine and Lakunle appeared behind her with a bundle of firewood that belong to Sidi. They both meet Sadiku, the eldest of Baraka’s many wives. She approaches Sidi and tells her that Baroka wishes to marry her, much to Lakunle’s dismay. Sidi who had become fully aware of her beauty seeing her photographs in the magazine announces that she is now too good to marry Lakunle and too good to marry Baroka as well.

Sadiku promises Sidi a life of bliss in Baroka’s household he has sworn never to take another wife after sidi. But sidi turns down the proposal. Then she delivered the last message from the Baale requesting sidi to at least come for supper at his house tonight to honor her. Sidi mocks Baroka’s “little supper” and tells Sadiku to tell him she does not sup with married men. Lakunle then intervenes as he tells the story of how Baroka sabotaged an attempt to build a railway line near Ilujinle, which is performed in a mimed dance as Lakunle tells the story.

The scene continues in Baroka’s palace, he is seen lying in bed and kneeling beside him is his latest wife known as Favorite. Baroka announces his intention to pick another wife.

Her reaction makes Baroka accused her as a “vengeful creature”. Then Sadiku returns to tell Baroka that Sidi has rejected his proposal. Baroka saddened by Sidi’s response but he expected it and devices other means by confessing to Sadiku that he has become impotent and had hoped that marrying a young woman would cure him. Baroka makes Sadiku promise not to tell anyone about his impotence.

In the final scene, “Night”, the setting is the village center. Sidi is seen standing by the schoolroom window, still admiring her photograph. Sadiku returns to the streets of the village where she gleefully celebrates the news of Baroka’s impotence and tells Sidi about it after an intensive persuasion from her. Sidi decides to visit Baroka so that she can inwardly mock him. Lakunle opposes this idea because he fears that Baroka may become violent towards Sidi if he realizes that she is mocking him.

At Baroka’s palace, Sidi arrives and Baroka feigns no knowledge of Sadiku proposing to Sidi on his behalf. Baroka reveals to Sidi that he has plans for the village to print its own stamps and promises Sidi that he will print her picture on the stamps, meaning that her face will become famous throughout the country.

Back in the village, Sadiku and Lakunle watch a mimed dance performance spreading the news of Baroka’s impotence. Sidi returns to them in floods of tears. Lakunle fears that she has been raped and Sidi confirms to Sadiku that she is no longer a virgin.

Lakunle announces that he will marry Sidi despite this and Sidi runs away. Sadiku follows Sidi and then returns to Lakunle. Sadiku tells Lakunle that Sidi is preparing herself for a wedding. This news shocks Lakunle who feels that things are moving too fast. Sidi returns and laughs at Lakunle for believing that she would marry him. Sidi announces her intention to marry Baroka, who had faked his impotence as a way of luring Sidi to visit him. Sidi exits the stage singing.


a. Morning – Sidi Argues with Lakunle the Village Teacher

It was in the morning, the pupils are in class and the voices of them reciting Arithmetic times are heard, their school projected into the market which is the centre of ilujinle village.

Sidi appears on the stage; she is a slim girl with a plaited hair. She carries a small pail of water on her head. Lakunle who had sighted her from the school window, immediately appears and seizes sidi’s pail of water and he who has been accused by sidi of full of stories opposes her for carrying loads on her head as this does not befit her as a woman who is supposed to be ‘modern’. Sidi asks him why this should bother him after all he has claimed to love her even if she is ‘crooked or fat’. Lakunle who insists that only spiders carry load the way she does. He also further his argument by urging sidi to cover
up her shoulders. Sidi, having been held for a while by Lakunle is inconvenienced as she can ‘hardly breathe’. She agrees that she may be subject of common talk from her shoulder’s nakedness but Lakunle is like a madman who often uses ‘big loud words’.

Their argument continues, Lakunle made an unverified claim that she has a smaller brain
than him. Lakunle is of the opinion that women are not good for argument because they are intellectually inferior. Sidi became crossed by Lakunle’s claim of superiority over women for which the latter are said to be weaker sex. Sidi extricate herself from Lakunle’s grip and asks: ‘is it the weaker breed who pounds the yam/or bends all day to plant millet with a child strapped to her back’. Lakunle promises her that in a year or two machines will have to do the pounding, grinding of pepper without getting into her eyes. But sidi perceives all he said as turning the world upside down. But Lakunle objects that he is not turning the world upside down but he wants to begin from the village
since they say charity begins at home, that he would like to begin with the crafty rogue-Baroka.

Lakunle sees the Baale as an antagonist who made it a bit difficult for him to be admired by the people of llujinle. Sidi pleads to have her pail but Lakunle says ‘not till you swear to marry me’. But Sidi insists on a bride price because she does not want to be made a’a laughing -stock’ or a cheap bowl for the village pit.

Lakunle labels the culture that persists on a bride price being paid before a man can marry a woman as a ‘savage custom’, ‘barbaric’, ‘out dated’. He calls sidi an ignorant girl for remaining a traditional woman. He tries to justify why he does not accept the payment of bride price.

After a long talk in defense of what an ideal modern wife should be, Sidi then admits
why the villagers says Lakunle is mad and she fears that the pupils will soon turn mad
too. Sidi makes a final attempt to snatch her bucket as they heard noise of youth
approaching the stage.

Morning – The Imaginary Camera and Motorbike Scene

Here, the girls announce to Sidi the arrival of the stranger, who had previously visited the village with a motorbike and camera, takes pictures of Sidi and Baroka,has now return with a book that contain beautiful portraits of Sidi . Sidi asked if they{girls} had seen “the book”. The girls informed her that the baale has been looking at the images.

The girls praises Sidi’s beauty and declares that the baaale isjealous but pretends to be proud of her,when the stranger tells him how famous you are in the capital. Sidi becomes so excited to learn all that have been said about her and how Baale’s picture in the book is placed in a ridiculous angel which to her means she is more esteemed than the Baale, the lion of the Ilujinle.{p.11}

Morning- Baroka- Lakunle Confrontation

Prior to Baroka -Lakunle confrontation was the pantomime scene where four girls had come to mime the snake dance. Lakunle was dragged into the role of a drunk which he objected but sidi says he is dressed like the drunk character {p.14}. As the mime progresses, at a sudden moment, all noise- drumming and singing stop and Baroka, a sixty-two years old man but with a tougher look emerges from behind the “Odan tree”.

All present prostrate except Lakunle who tries to sneak off but the baale calls him back And when he greets the baale,he made fun of the greetings. Baroka who had suspects Lakunle bears him a grudge asks if he, Lakunle has query, but Lakunle assures him of none.

Baroka recognizes the pantomime scene as a play ascribing it with Iiveliness which stops as soon as he enters. The sudden discontinuation makes him feel as if he was chief Baseje and urges them to continue the play by asking his attendants to seize Lakunle and accuses him of stealing “our village maidenhead’ and says he should be served a slap if he has forgotten. The mime is returned, with the accusation that was levelled on Lakunle. Lakunle began to protest but he was crowded out. Soon he takes to his heels
with all the women going after him.

Baroka is then left sitting down alone. He brings out his copy of the magazine where his picture and Sidi’s appear. He admires Sidi and nods slowly that it been five full months since he last took a wife. {p.18}.

Noon- Sadiku proposes to Sidi on behalf of Baroka.

This scene took place on a road by the market. Sidi is seen in admiration of her images in the magazine. Lakunle also appears on the stage bearing a bundle of firewood and they both meet Sadiku, Baroka’s oldest wife. Sadiku informs them that she has a message from the lion to sidi and takes sidi aside to relay the message. She announces that Baroka wants to take her as a wife. On hearing Baroka’s intentions, Lakunle is appalled and cries out that Baroka is a greedy dog. Sidi quieted him. Even when he tries to praise her in a western way, she snatches her hand from him and accuses him of playing “your other game“ that is giving her funny names he had picked up from his wretched books. {p.20}

Sidi praises herself, saying how beautiful she is and proclaim that she is famous and her fame has spread to Lagos and beyond the sea. Sadiku promises that Sidi would experience a blissful life in Baroka’s household as he has sworn never to pick another wife after her if she agrees to marry him. However, sidi turns down the proposal and accuses the bale of merely seeking to raise his manhood above her beauty.

Finally, as sadiku prepares to take her leave, she remembers the last message from the Baale who will love to have sidi sup with him tonight and as expected, Sidi mocks the supper and says she does not sup with married men because she knows that every woman who has sup with him becomes his wife or concubine the next day. Lakunle intervenes by accusing the bale of deception by telling the story his father told him before he died on how Baroka sabotaged an attempt to build a railway line near llujinle, which is performed in a mimed dance as Lakunle tells the story.

Noon- Baroka tells Sadiku about his impotence

Baroka lies in bed in his room, kneeling beside the bed is his latest wife known as favorite, she is helping Baroka to pull the graying hair from his armpit. After a while, Baroka announces his desire to pick another wife, favorite who seem like the news wasn’t pleasing inflict pain in her next pull of hair from Baroka’s skin. Baroka calls it “an angry pull” [p.27] and labels her a ‘vengeful creature’. Then Sadiku enters and favorite exits. She told Baroka that Sidi will not come and she had turned down his proposal as well.

Baroka became sad to learned that sidi says he is too old and began to list the activities he had engaged in the recent times to declaim that he is not too old as said. He searches for a copy of the magazine, opens it and studies the pictures in the magazine.

He compares his picture with sidi’s. he suddenly flings the book away and stares at the ceiling for a moment then he announces that his manhood fails about a week ago and made sadiku to promise never to tell anyone. Sadiku promises not to mention it to anyone. Baroka began to lament, he compares himself to his grandfather who had fathered two sons at age sixty -five and yet he may not be able to atjust sixty-two.

Night- Sadiku reveals Baroka’s assumed loss of virility

The scene took place at the village centre. Sidi stans by the schoolroom window, looks at her photograph with admiration and contentment. Sadiku enters and she is gleefully celebrating the news of Baroka’s impotence. She finally tells Sidi about it after an intensive persuasion from her. Lakunlejoins the women and in process of his engagement with them, he was shocked to leaned that Baroka is no longer a man. Sidi immediately develop and idea and decides to visit Baroka so that she can inwardly
mock him. Sadiku fears that sidi sudden acceptance of the supper would reveal that she had let the secret of Baroka’s impotence out. Lakunle also opposes this idea because he fears that Baroka may become violent towards Sidi if he realizes that she is mocking him. Lakunle warns Sadiku on sidi’s safety but she assures Him that sidi can take care of herself.

Night- Sidi arrives at Baroka’s house {page 38-54}

Here, Baroka is seen with his wrestler engaged in wrestling. Sidi voice is heard as she greets the head and the people of the house. Baroka who heard but ignores her pleasantry. However, At her arrival to Baroka’s palace, Baroka feigns no knowledge of Sadiku proposing to Sidi on his behalf and reveals to Sidi that he has plans for the village to print its own stamps and promises Sidi that he will print her picture on the stamps, meaning that her face will become famous throughout the country. Sidi
becomes fascinated and Baroka gradually lures sidi into seduction and gradually bends over her as he intensifies his promises to her and shows that he is progressive too and not averse to modernity. In that process, Baroka psychologically wrestles with sidi’s intelligence in order to seduce her, shortly after sidi slowly falls on baale’s shoulder and a group of female dancers are seen pursing a masked male while the drumming and shouts continue audibly thereafter.

Night-Sidi loses her virginity and accept Baroka

Lakunle and Sadiku await sidi’s return from Baroka’s house. Lakunle is seen pacing up and down in frustration, Sadiku looks helpless, Sidi had been away for half a day and she is yet to be back from the visit to Baroka. Lakunle blames Sadiku as he thinks the old man might have kill her. Shortly after their long wait for sidi’s return. Sidi burst in and throws herself to the ground as she begins to cry. Sadiku and Lakunle approach her simultaneously but she pushes them off. Lakunle in ignorance thinks she might have probably been beaten by Baroka and promise to kill him. After a while, sidi calls them a fool and revealed that what was said about Baroka losing his virility was a lie rather it was a trick that he knows that Sadiku cannot keep a secret. Lakunle’s fear is confirmed and he tells sidi to forget the past. He proposes to her and promise that she will be cherished and keeps what happened between her and Baroka secret.

Lakunle who thinks sidi would accept his proposal as he feels it will solve the problem of bride price he had sworn never to pay. Sadiku announces that sidi is packing her things. He earnestly thinks she is coming with him to his house. But when sidi shows up, she hands over “the book” and announces to the crowd to attend her wedding. Lakunle who still thinks she would be marrying him was shocked when she made it clearer to him that Baroka had given her strength and referred to Lakunle as a “book-nourished shrimp” and mocks her that he will be ten years dead and invites him to her wedding.


The play has its geographical setting in Nigeria,especially in a Yoruba village called llujinle. Physically, it is set at the village centre, where the school headed by Lakunle is located, at a road by the village market, behind the Odan tree, Baroka’s bedroom, and at the market where night trading is taking place in the village of llujinle.

The time frame of the drama is morning, noon and night.

Socially, the play is set at the time when there is a partial acceptance of modernity and all that come with it. Sidi likes Lakunle and his modernity but would prefers Baroka the old and experienced in the culture of the people and one who can pay her bride price unlike Lakunle who prefers marrying her without bride price. It is set when Africans believe in polygamy as seen in Baroka the Lion. It is also set when Africa and its culture is seen by few modernized Africans as primitive, barbaric and uncivilized. This is seen in the life of the school teacher, Lakunle. The time setting indicates a traditional society undergoing some changes between tradition and modernity.


The Struggle between Tradition and Modernity.

The struggle between tradition and modernity is conceivably the most evident theme in the play. Baroka represents tradition while Lakunle depicts modern consciousness in the play. It seems Soyinka is setting a clear dichotomy between these two. However, as the play progresses Soyinka defies the audience’s assumptions. Lakunle espouses a variety of backward views and seems to abandon his progressive principles when it is convenient to do 50. Similarly, Baroka says he does not hate progress but hardly finds its sameness and stagnation boring. He fights off the intruder, the surveyor who supervises the construction of the railroad. This he achieves by bribing the white surveyor to move the rail tracks through other neighboring towns. This way he blocks civilization from comin to llujinle. Lakunle on the other hand, his notion of modernity is superficial. In the end, tradition wins modernity when Baroka proves that modernity and tradition can subsist side by side.

However, Soyinka uses these activities and struggles between the characters that represent tradition and modernity to proposes that progress is not bad, but that it must be done on African terms.

Marginalization of Women as Property

Wole Soyinka’s “The Lion and The Jewel” is written when polygamous is fashionable in Africa, thus its theme of the marginalization of women as property. Traditionally, they were seen as properties that could be bought, sold or accumulated. In the play, Baroka inherited his late‘s father’s last wife, Sadiku, who then becomes his eldest wife. Even when he announces to his latest wife of his intention to marry another wife was done with no regards to her feeling and was even labelled as a “vengeful creature”.

This theme also played out even through the “modern” Lakunle when he looks down on Sidi for having a smaller brain, and later by thinking it will be easier to marry her after she lost her virginity, since no dowry was required in such a situation.

Deception and Manipulation

The theme of deception and manipulation is evident in the play when Baroka lied about his virility to Sadiku knowing fully well that she can’t keep a secret. Also, other characters in the play decide to trick and manipulate others to achieve their ends. This is perceived to be a much more effective method than being straightforward. Sidi and Sadiku try to fool the Baale so they can feel a sense of triumph at his humbling, not knowing that the Baale had fooled Sadiku to subdue Sidi and wins her as one of his wives. Even though these activities in the play was downplayed with a great deal of witty repartee, it is a known fact that lying and manipulation are pronounced in the play.

Male Gender Superiority.

Although, this theme is not so pronounced in the play, nonetheless, Soyinka consciously creates two female characters that are sassy, opinionated, manipulative, and independent. but both of them are ultimately puppets in the games of men. Sidi does not want to marry either Lakunle or Baroka, but Baroka tricks her, rapes her, and then gets to marry her. She becomes an object and nothing more. Sadiku is also tricked and sees her elation over the Bale’s impotence and the power of women vanish as his plot is made clear. Women may seem like they have power in mid-20th century Nigeria, but they ultimately do not.

Pride, Vanity, versus Shrewdness

As the village belle, Sidi becomes exceptionally vain. She knows her worth is tied to her beauty, and she wastes no time reminding Lakunle and the other villagers that she’s beautiful especially, when the stranger who captures Sidi’s beauty on film returns to llujinle with photographs, Sidi’s vanity grows exponentially. When she was invited to supper by Sadiku on behalf of Baroka, she declines and says she does not sup with a married man. When she learns of Baroka’s sexual weakness, she does not hesitate to
mock him by placing her personality above his.

Baroka on the other hand had deliberately floated the disinformation, conscious that the wrong information will get to the target, Sidi. Truly, Sidi who had turned down the invitation to sup with the bale is now ready to accept the invite. it is at this point that Baroka’s Shrewdness is evident. He knows that a woman who places her beauty and newfound popularity important than any other things would easily be worked on if her tendencies are fed. In the end, Shrewdness and craftiness win over arrogance and unbridled love for materials and glossy things.

The power of Image

Images have a great deal of power in this play. First, photographic images are emblems of the modern. They are incredible to behold, easy to disseminate, and provocative of importance and prestige. No wonder Sidi is obsessed with her visage as found in the magazine. Secondly, images convey social influence in the play, Sidi’s reputation grows because she has a large picture in the magazine, and Bale feels embarrassed because he only has a small picture next to an image of the latrines: whether people do it on purpose or not, they will associate him with such disreputable things. The Image largely contributed to Sidi’s arrogance in the play.



Sidi is the village belle and the jewel of llujinle. She’s very beautiful and intelligent, Like Baroka, she possesses local intelligence and sensitivity with which to live as a human with dignity. She is an advocate of tradition, for instance, she would not agree to marry Lakunle without her full bride price paid because she does not want to make herself “a cheap bowl for the village pit”. Through this stance, she promotes the culture and customs of llujinle. She became so conscious of her beauty when the stranger returns to the village with a magazine of photographs that show Sidi in all her glory and seeing the photographs makes her obsessed with her image and gives her an exaggerated sense of her power over men. She became too conscious of her beauty and boast about it. She loves progress and accepts Baroka’s idea of progress because it reinforces her vanity and advertises her beauty, even outside llujinle. but Lakunle’s idea of progress is the type she feels will ” turn the world upside down”.


Lakunle is a young schoolteacher and a known figure in llujinle. He was educated in Lagos, presumably in a British school, which results in Lakunle’s overblown sense of his grasp of English. He is about twenty-three years old and wishes to modernize the llujinle to be like Lagos or lbadan. He wants Sidi to marry him and be a “modern wife.” without paying her bride price, a tradition that he perceived to be ‘savage’, ‘barbaric’ and ‘outdated. Lakunle speaks about village life and customs as though he finds them abhorrent, though he does seem to enjoy the village’s dance performances. He proposes to Sidi after she had been raped by Baroka, thinking the development would solve the problem of her bride price. This simply portrays him as a principled man who had said that he would not pay a bride price on whom he wants to marry. Even he realizes how much of a fool he is, he leaves the blame at the door of ” but 1 money my books”.


Baroka is the Bale (village chief) of llujinle. He’s known as both the “Lion” because of his strength, and the “Fox” because of his cunning tricks. At 62 he’s an older man, but he still performs impressive feats of strength despite his age. He has many wives and concubines, and he marries a new wife every few months. Though Lakunle believes that Baroka is set on conserving his traditional way of life, Baroka believes that progress can be good and necessary. However, he believes that progress must be made on his terms and that it should not be forced on the village. This is why he bribed off the white surveyor to divert the railway track to a neighboring town. Baroka is cunning and doesn’t hesitate to use his craziness to prey on young girls and Sidi certainly falls for his craftiness as she walks into the lion’s den. He plays on Sidi’s vanity as he reinforces her vanity and advertises her beauty, even outside llujinle through which he was able to achieve his desire to marry Sidi.

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