The Lion and the Jewel

The Lion and the Jewel Quotes and Analysis

How often must I tell you, Sidi, that / A grown-up girl must cover up her... / Her... shoulders? I can see quite... quite / A good portion of—that!

Lakunle, 2

Lakunle is full of words, and these words are usually directed at Sidi in terms of trying to woo her and trying to admonish her at the same time. Lakunle wants her to be a modern wife and kiss him in the street, but he also expresses shock that she bares her shoulders and décolletage. He does not want people to look at her and lust after her, yet he claims that when they are married she will walk beside him. He seems to want both a chaste wife and a wife whom he can openly flaunt. This is not the only time in the text that Lakunle reveals his hypocritical nature, but it certainly is a conspicuous example of it.

What I boast is known in Lagos, that city / Of magic, in Badagry where Saro women bathe / In gold, even in smaller towns less than / Twelve miles from here...

Lakunle, 5

Lakunle lauds the city of Lagos as an urban paradise, painting a picture of it as a fantastic, idyllic place. Lakunle uses words to shape his reality and to try to make others embrace it as well. He boasts, exaggerates, and clumsily tries to beguile (Sidi calls him out on wearying her with such words). No matter that his words are often contradictory and his conclusions easy to poke holes in; this is the essence of Lakunle. Lagos was certainly a fascinating and modern city, but it was also heavily influenced by colonialism and experienced the loss of many of its traditions and customs. It was a place like Baroka disliked—a place of sameness. Lakunle does not see this or does not care about it, for modernity is his end.

Bush-girl you are, bush girl you'll always be; / Uncivilized and primitive—bush-girl!

Lakunle, 9

Lakunle certainly has an odd way of trying to woo Sidi, excoriating her here as being primitive and backwards. Of course, this is no doubt one of the things that Lakunle likes about her. After all, why did he not find and bring a modern wife from Lagos to Ilujinle? Sidi is exotic to him, but perhaps even more importantly, he sees in her an opportunity to do what he likes best: teach, criticize, and mold. He even seeks to do this with the elderly Sadiku, telling her she must join his school. Sidi appeals to Lakunle because she is beautiful and wild, and also because she is someone he hopes to make his mark upon. He doesn't care about her actual feelings or wishes.

My Ruth, my Rachel, Esther, Bathsheba / Thou sum of fabled perfections / From Genesis to Revelations

Lakunle, 20

When Lakunle tries to compliment Sidi's beauty, he tellingly refers to women of the Bible rather than to Yoruba goddesses or other cultural figures. The Bible is a Western text, foreign to Nigeria until it was brought along with colonial rule. Lakunle is almost fully Westernized, wearing English-style clothes, bringing Western educational disciplines, and using the Bible to make his points. He cares not if others are unfamiliar with the text, and he also does not care if the comparisons he is making are harmful or plain wrong. Again, Lakunle wields words and the West in a way that makes him more bumbling and obnoxious than powerful.

Sadiku, I am young and brimming; he is spent. / I am the twinkle of a jewel / But he is the hind-quarters of a lion!

Sidi, 23

Sidi is a more interesting character than she might seem on the surface. On the surface she is vain, silly, coquettish, and obsessed with her own image. However, she is also fiery, opinionated, and witty. She sees right through Lakunle and also knows that Baroka only wants to marry her because he sees how famous she has become. She sees both men for what they are: Lakunle is a pompous charlatan and Baroka is an aging leader trying to cling to power. She has no interest in either of them at this point, because she knows her worth. She knows she is a "jewel," and for the time being, she has all the power.

No! I do not envy him! / Just one woman for me!

Lakunle, 26

The traditional and the modern are rarely viewable as binaries in Soyinka's play. Both the main male characters, Baroka and Lakunle, fall somewhere in the middle of these two extremes. Whereas Baroka's straddling of both seems more genuine, Lakunle seems more opportunistic. It is very plausible that if he had the opportunity to have multiple wives, he'd take it. This is buffeted by his steadfast opposition to the bride-price...but mostly because he can't afford it. At the end of the play, Lakunle ends up giving up Sidi altogether as he pursues another young woman.

To husband his wives surely ought to be / A man's first duties—at all times.

Sidi, 47

Sidi may not be as witty as Baroka, but she has some excellent lines with both him and Lakunle. Here she levies a clever insult at him, poking fun at his new impotence. This is part of her plan to thwart him and humiliate him as she and Sadiku planned. At this point in the play the audience thinks that Baroka is impotent, so they may be cheering on Sidi's comment. However, when Baroka's manipulation is laid bare, his reasons for treating Sidi as he did in his room are clearer, and her wittiness does not seem so impressive anymore. Thus, despite her appearance of power at points in the play, it is all illusory: Sidi ends up being nothing but a pawn.

I do not hate progress, only its nature / Which makes all roofs and faces look the same.

Baroka, 52

This is one of the more famous lines in the play because it succinctly and straightforwardly reveals that Baroka is not as stodgy and traditional as the audience once suspected. Lakunle painted him as utterly against progress, but it is clear that Baroka's views are more nuanced: he does not mind progress; he just hates that everything ends up looking the same. Progress for progress's sake, in the Bale's eyes, is useless and enervating. He frankly admits that he can learn from the schoolteacher, and that the young and old must collaborate in this new world. This very well could be Soyinka's exact view, uttered by a character who in many other respects is reprehensible.

Moreover, I will admit, / It solves the problem of her bride-price too. / A man must live or fall by his true / Principles. That, I had sworn, / Never to pay.

Lakunle, 61

As if there were not enough fodder to find Lakunle obnoxious, at the end of the play his reaction to Sidi's maidenhood being stripped away is very impactful. Lakunle first seems horrified, but then decides that he will be a martyr figure and marry her anyway. Caring nothing for the trauma Sidi has just endured, he is relieved that he does not have to pay the bride-price anymore because it was very expensive and his "principles" dictated that if he said he was going to do something he had to carry it out. These principles are clearly flawed and malleable: he simply does whatever works for him.

Lakunle, last seen, having freed himself of Sadiku, clearing a space for the young girl.

Soyinka, 64

The end of the play is almost hopeful in a few ways (if one can ignore Sidi's rape...). Sidi prepares to marry the Bale, telling herself and everyone else that he is strong, manly, and powerful. Sadiku resigns herself to her husband's victory and happily blesses the newest member of the harem. And Lakunle, rather than being devastated that his true love is marrying someone else, ends up following his most basic instinct and running after another young girl. It is clear he will be okay: he will continue to vex the village with his modern plans, but he will not be heartbroken over losing Sidi.