The Lion and the Jewel

The Lion and the Jewel Themes

Tradition vs. Modernity

This is perhaps the most conspicuous theme in the play. It initially seems like Soyinka is setting a clear dichotomy between these two things, tradition embodied by Baroka and modernity embodied by Lakunle. However, as the play progresses Soyinka defies the audience's assumptions. Lakunle espouses a variety of backwards views and seems to abandon his progressive principles when it is convenient to do so. Similarly, Baroka says he does not hate progress but merely finds its sameness and stagnation boring. He is preparing to use a stamp machine to make the village make money as they do in Lagos. Soyinka thus suggests that progress is not bad, but that it must be done on African terms.


It does not seem that Soyinka consciously tries to make a statement about gender, but he does so nonetheless. On the one hand, he creates two female characters that are sassy, opinionated, manipulative, and independent. On the other hand, both of them are ultimately pawns in the games of men. Sidi does not want to marry either Lakunle or Baroka, but Baroka tricks her, rapes her, and then gets to marry her. She is an object and nothing more. Sadiku is also tricked, and sees her elation over the Bale's impotence and the power of women vanish as his plot is made clear. Women may seem like they have power in mid-20th century Nigeria, but they ultimately do not.

Trickery and Manipulation

Most of the characters in this play decide to trick and manipulate others in order to achieve their ends. This is perceived to be a much more effective method than being forthright, as the things characters want come at the expense of others' feelings and wishes. Sidi and Sadiku try to fool the Bale so they can feel a sense of triumph at his humbling, and the Bale fools Sadiku and Sidi so he can subdue Sidi and acquire her as one of his wives. Even though Soyinka carries this out with a light touch and a great deal of witty repartee, the fact remains that there is a lot of lying and manipulation in the play.


There are several instances of performance in the text; they include singing, dancing, and acting. All characters, including the Bale, participate in them. Performances are a crucial part of Nigerian culture and serve to define, celebrate, and emphasize the things that matter to the people. The story of the stranger was already known, but the performance cemented it as a crucial moment in the collective history of the village. The mummers' performance of the Bale's downfall and Sadiku's participation in it were a way to express discontent with the leader. The performance gives the powerless Sadiku a sense of power, though it is ultimately a dream and nothing else.


Words in this text are often associated with foolishness, pride, and tendentiousness. Lakunle is the wielder of words, but even though he spews them out, they rarely accomplish their aim. His words do not win Sidi, nor do they dissuade her and Sadiku from tricking the Bale. They do not inure the village to Lakunle but rather make him look like a proud fool. The Bale is much more sparing with words, although he does use them to his advantage when he manipulates and woos Sidi.


Images have a great deal of power in this play. First, photographic images are emblems of the modern. They are incredible to behold, easy to disseminate, and evocative of status and stature. It is no wonder that Sidi is obsessed with her own visage as found in the magazine. Second images carry social influence. Sidi's reputation grows because she has a large picture in the magazine, and the Bale feels embarrassed because he only has a small picture next to an image of the latrines: whether people do it on purpose or not, they will associate him with such disreputable things. Soyinka emphasizes his belief in the power of images when he has Sidi give the magazine to Lakunle and tell him she tried to destroy it at the end of the play when she is going to marry the Bale. She no longer has power, and the image likewise no longer has power.

Legacies of Colonialism

Even though Soyinka does not deal with this as explicitly as he does in some of his other works, colonialism and imperialism in Nigeria exist below the play's surface. Lakunle represents the West: his clothing, his words, his learning, and his callous foolishness are all indicative of Britain's impact on Nigeria. The Bale is a traditional African figure who knows he cannot bury his head in the sand. The mid-20th-century Nigerian village he rules has been affected by British rule, and even though the country is on the road to independence (1960), it will never be able to go back in time. It is part of a modern world and must start to change, whether it wants to or not.