The Trials of Brother Jero

The Trials of Brother Jero Summary and Analysis of Scene 1


In Scene One, Jero introduces himself directly to the audience. The setting is a completely dark stage with the spotlight shining directly on Jero, emphasizing the religious nature and importance of his role. He is described as "suave," a "heavily but neatly bearded man" with hair "thick and high."

Jero immediately asserts that he is a prophet, "by birth and by inclination." He was born with thick hair that covered his eyes and neck, convincing his parents of his prophethood. He laments that prophethood is no longer as respectable as it had been in the past; he explains that a struggle among competitors for land on the beach degraded the profession until the Town Council stepped in to "settle the prophets' territorial warfare once and for all." We learn that Jero helped his master, the prophet who educated him, win land through a campaign of "six dancing girls from the French territory, all dressed as Jehovah's Witnesses."

Jero admits, however, that he was really intending to help himself. Yet he tells the audience "the beach is hardly worth having these days," as worshippers have depleted and gaining converts becomes increasingly difficult. He complains that "they all prefer high life to the rhythm of celestial hymns" and attributes a lack of worshippers to the popularity of television. As he is explaining that he aims to show the audience an important day in his life, "a day when I thought for a moment that the curse of my old master was about to be fulfilled," the Old Prophet enters the scene.

Shaking his fist, the Old Prophet interrupts Jero, to call him an "ungrateful wretch" and admonish him for driving him off his own land, neglecting the training he had received. He curses Brother Jero but becomes inaudible as Jero continues his explanation. Finally he cries, "I curse you with the curse of the daughters of discord. May they be your downfall" and goes offstage, as Brother Jero continues. He admits that women are his only weakness but insists that he would not risk his profession and calling by giving into the temptation. He insists that he has never been involved in a scandal with women. He sets up the next scene by concluding, "And it was a sad day indeed when I woke up one morning and the first thin to meet my eyes was a daughter of Eve. You can compare that feeling with waking and finding a vulture crouched on your bed post." The stage goes black.


The first scene introduces Brother Jero as a confident, self-righteous character with little conscience. He has no qualms about deceiving his old tutor, and is confident in his ability to convince the audience that his actions are warranted. Soyinka makes clear that he speaks with "accustomed loftiness," emphasizing that he is well versed in the art of influence, which Jero aims to show the audience by presenting them with a day of his life.

Also important is the managerial nature of Jero's profession and the language with which he discusses it. Jero must sell his prophecies like a businessman, eagerly convincing the audience of his authenticity and capabilities. Yet he also admits to recent hardships, posed by modernity, in what he calls "the trade." Already the audience has a sense of Soyinka's satire, as Jero's entire sense of self is built off a phony prophecy and actions unbefitting of a true prophet.