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Review: The Lion and the Jewel by Wole Soyinka

October 14, 2011

Title: The Lion and the Jewel
Author: Soyinka, Wole
Length: 65 pages
Genre: Fiction, Drama
Publisher / Year: Oxford University Press / 1962 
Source: Used bookstore in Johannesburg
Rating: 4.5/5
Why I Read It: It sounded really interesting.
Date Read: 07/10/11

I was really excited to see this, one of Soyinka’s best-known plays, in a second-hand shop and had to grab it. I’ve long heard fantastic things about his plays but have never until now had the opportunity to read one. The Lion and the Jewel is a short work set in a Yoruba village that pokes fun at a number of people and happenings. Through it Soyinka does a great job of portraying the clash of cultures and of people.

Sidi is the young belle of the village whose head has swollen due to being photographed by a man from the city. Lakunle is the poor village teacher who went to the city to be educated and now wants to change the whole customs and events in the village. He has been influenced by Western thought and thinks many customs – whether really good or bad – are evil and barbaric and wants them ended. But he is also in love with Sidi and wants her to marry him – without his having to pay the bride price of course.

Baroka is the Bale of the village and as such is the most powerful man in the village, and Lakunle’s nemesis. The two are always arguing with Lakunle of course losing but feeling like he has won. Baroka decides he needs a new, young wife, and that the ‘jewel’ of the village, Sidi, should become his newest wife. The play follows his and Lakunle’s exploits of trying to win her hand.

Soyinka cleverly shows village and western customs and pokes fun at both, showing that neither are truly good or bad, and that village customs exist for a reason. He also pokes fun at the way various people behave, showing humour and wit. For me the funniest part was Lakunle trying to convince Sidi both that women were much inferior to men, and that he shouldn’t pay a bride price because he wants a true companion and equal, not a trophy or possession. Clearly the two don’t equate and he can’t have it both ways!

Although small, Soyinka does a lot in this play and I really look forward to reading more by him in the future. I recommend his plays to any and all who want a good read.

20 Comments leave one →
  1. October 14, 2011 10:37 am

    This sounds like a fun read. I like playful plays like this.

  2. October 14, 2011 10:48 am

    I do think the satirical edge to this play would be interesting, and I particularly like the gambit about not having to pay the bride price. This sounds very interesting, and I am glad that you liked it!

  3. October 14, 2011 3:10 pm

    Sounds like a great find, Amy! I need to read more drama, I used to love reading plays when I was a teen.

    • October 30, 2011 9:30 pm

      I have never read a lot of them Bina but really must read more as I’ve enjoyed what I’ve read. I recommend Nigerian drama too, it’s good stuff apparently :)

  4. Sarah Norman permalink
    October 15, 2011 1:50 am

    I LOVE this play! It was my set book in high school when I was about 14, and I remember it very well. I used to love it when the teacher talked about ”international fame and conspicuosity” – I still use that phrase all the time. I think it is Soyinka’s best play.

    • October 30, 2011 9:30 pm

      I’m jealous you had this assigned in high school Sarah. We never got anything nearly as exciting. Definitely a hilarious phrase, I must try to work it into conversation somehow as well!

  5. October 15, 2011 6:08 am

    sounds nice!

  6. October 15, 2011 6:51 am

    This sounds good. I used to read plays all the time, but it has been ages since I last read one!

    • October 30, 2011 9:31 pm

      I definitely recommend this as a good one to start back with Kailana :)

  7. October 17, 2011 10:26 pm

    I can attest to how hilarious Soyinka’s plays are, having studied ‘The Trials of Brother Jero’ as an undergrad. I’ll definitely add this one to my TBR! If you’ve not read the ‘Jero’ works, Amy, I think you’d enjoy them quite a bit. :)

    • October 30, 2011 9:32 pm

      I haven’t read the Jero works Shivanee so thank you for mentioning them. I keep searching for more of his plays but no luck yet. I’ll find them some day soon I’m sure :)

  8. November 4, 2011 8:08 am

    One of Soyinka’s best. Also recommend the Jero works. He is such a classicist and a fine dramatist. Pity one cannot see the works on stage. Thanks.

    • November 6, 2011 5:20 pm

      Yes, it is a pity Kinna. I would love to see this performed! And I’m glad I started with a great one by him.

  9. November 10, 2012 8:45 am

    I luv the book so much especially Lakunle’s way of life

  10. JAISE S JOB permalink
    January 5, 2013 1:01 am

    I like this play
    the writer focus of the
    fun aspects of yoruba tradition.

  11. Samir Saleh permalink
    September 24, 2013 2:37 pm

    So short and brief and yet meaningful.Soyinka exhibit real African culture and ofcourse it weakness.

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