The Lion and the Jewel
In my view, Wole Soyinka’s play, The Lion and the Jewel, is a commentary on the idea that no matter how a society changes, or strives to change, tradition will remain a powerful force, a stubborn sage, that appears destined to triumph over change every time. However, by the play’s conclusion, one comes away with the impression that appearances are not always what they seem, and that perhaps tradition and change are as inextricably linked as life and death.
The play revolves around a beautiful young village belle named Sidi (a.k.a. “The Jewel”), whose head has been a bit swelled as a result of her appearance in a magazine photo spread, which has been the cause of some celebrity in the small Yoruba village of Ilujinle. Sidi has two suitors. The first is a young, idealistic schoolteacher named Lakunle. The second is the most powerful man in the village, the Bale of Ilujinla, Baroka (a.k.a. “The Lion”). In the first Act, Lakunle professes his undying love for Sidi and asks her to marry him. Sidi is taken by the teacher in many ways, but seems unprepared to give up the power that comes with being a beautiful, young, semi-famous maiden in a small village. Lakunle pleads with her, proposing a modernistic wedding package that includes love, respect, companionship and perhaps the most novel selling point, monogamy.