Lion and the Jewel

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A: Wole Soyinka Pf: 1959, Ibadan, Nigeria Pb: 1963 G: Com. in 3 acts S: Nigerian village, 1950s C: 2m, 2f, extrasThe young village schoolmaster Lakunle, an inept intellectual who has learned modern ways, is wooing Sidi, the ‘jewel’ of the village, an attractive and self-confident young woman. His modern thinking will not allow him to buy her with the traditional bride price, and he repels her by adopting a Western style of loving: she complains that his kissing consists of ‘strange unhealthy mouthing’ and the ‘licking of my lips with yours’. Sidi's beauty is such that she is photographed for a national magazine, which makes her even more vain and unapproachable than before. Angered by her fame, and wanting her now for himself, Baroka, the village headman (‘the lion’) tries to seduce her, but she rejects him. However, when his senior wife Sadiku assures Sidi that the old chief is impotent, Sidi agrees to go to him, in order to tease him about his lack of virility. To her surprise, the old lion lacks nothing, and the next day she admits that she will now be marrying without bride money after all. Pushing the disappointed schoolmaster aside, she invites the village maidens to sing ‘of children sired of the lion stock’.

A: Wole Soyinka Pf: 1959, Ibadan, Nigeria Pb: 1963 G: Com. in 3 acts S: Nigerian village, 1950s C: 2m, 2f, extras

This was the second play by Soyinka, which consolidated his international fame through a production at the Royal Court in London in 1963 (The Invention had been staged there in 1959). Like many African intellectuals, he had an ambiguous attitude towards the gradual decline of tribal power in the 20th century, and this gentle comedy makes a plea that some of the old values be retained in the Nigerian drive for modernization.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).

Reference entries

Wole Soyinka (b. 1934) Nigerian dramatist, novelist, and critic

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