Notes on Wole Soyinka’s The Lion and the Jewel

Introduction: The Lion and the Jewel is a satirical piece of dramatic masterpiece crafted by the Nigerian Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka. The comic play has its background in the conflict between Western and African cultures arising from the largely unfortunate incident of colonialism. In the play, Lakunle represents Western culture while Baroka represents African culture. The conflict in the work is built around the issue of bride price and who, between Baroka and Lakunle, will eventually succeed in getting married to Sidi, the Jewel of Iluginle. The triumph of Baroka, which invariably refers to the superiority of African culture over its Western counterpart, as seen in his marrying Sidi in spite of his old age and initial rejection by Sidi, is owed to his age and experience, his tact and wisdom, as well as his proverbial craftiness. The play’s subject matter is realised in the demonstration of the strength of African culture, but it is also alluded to in the subtle suggestion that a culture risks death or self-extinction if it does not evolve or adapt in order to survive traumatic historical events such as colonialism. This is seen especially in the final scenes where Baroka, in wooing Sidi, sees himself as progressive; he has allowed workers in his employ to form a union, he has a mechanical contraption in his house that interests Sidi and he also believes that ‘the old must flow into the new’. It is seen from this point onwards that Baroka believes in cultural hybridity. Unlike Lakunle, Baroka resists the outright replacement of one culture with another.

Plot: The Lion and the Jewel has a chronological plot structure, as the events flow from the beginning to the end in their order of occurrences. However, the playwright deploys flashback to help in the recollection of past events, like the play-within-a-play which mimes the dance of the lost stranger and which also illustrates the incursion of western culture into the village of Iluginle. The chronological texture of the play can further be attested to by the organisation of the play. It is organised in three acts/parts, namely Morning, Noon and Night.


Morning: The Morning part of the play begins with the stage direction describing the village centre where the first scene of the play is set. The village centre is where the village school is located and where Lakunle, one of the principal characters of the play, teaches. Sidi is also introduced at this point in the play. She is described as ‘a slim girl with plaited hair’, and as ‘a true village belle’. Sidi is returning from fetching water from the village stream and is scantily dressed as is expected of a maiden. Lakunle notices Sidi and abandons his class where the pupils are chanting ‘arithmetic time’. Upon seeing Sidi, the pupils start making faces at her. They are instantly punished by Lakunle who gives them a knock on the head before shutting the window of the classroom as he goes to meet Sidi outside. The narrative voice places Lakunle’s age at 23. The fact that Lakunle dresses in an old-style English suit implies that though he loves the English culture, he is poor at keeping up with it. His dressing is further described as ‘threadbare but not ragged, clean but not ironed’. It is symbolic that Lakunle’s dress (suit) is described as a bit too small for him. Hence, Lakunle is depicted, fashion wise, as a cultural misfit.

Lakunle offers to help Sidi carry the bucket of water. It is seen that he has always advised Sidi against carrying water container or any load for that matter on her head. Sidi refuses Lakunle’s help. There is a struggle and the water spills on Lakunle. Sidi is happy about this: ‘There. Wet for your pains. Have you no shame?’ Lakunle refuses to give back the container to Sidi. He repeats his warning that carrying water on the head can make her grow shorter, adding that Sidi is as stubborn as an illiterate goat. He goes on to tell Sidi that only spiders carry loads on the head like she does. Lakunle is not also happy about how Sidi exposes her breasts through the way she dresses. He is not comfortable that the men in the village, whom Lakunle looks down upon, can see Sidi’s breasts. In his words: ‘How often must I tell you, Sidi, that a grown up girl must cover up. . .’ Sidi protests that she has dressed the best way she could and that it is not her fault as the exposure is inevitable owing to the nature of her outfit: ‘I have to leave my arms so that I can use them. . . or don’t you know this?’ Lakunle chides Sidi for refusing to wear something modest, adding that her manner of dressing could give her a bad name. Again, Sidi protests this claim and instead posits that it is actually Lakunle who attracts gossip to himself in the village by the way he behaves. She says that Lakunle is known around the village as the mad man of Iluginle. She cites Lakunle’s penchant for using bombastically meaningless words as an instance of his madness.

Lakunle defends himself of these charges. He is of the opinion that the villagers misunderstand him and have failed to realise his worth. Notice how Lakunle views the rest of the villagers just as the colonial masters perceive them; ‘a race of savages’. He incurs Sidi’s wrath when he suggests that women are intellectually subordinate to men because they have smaller brains compared to the men. He quickly placates Sidi, pleading that his ideas are drawn from scientific facts. Sidi faults such derogatory, jaundiced and biased view of the woman as the weaker sex by citing women’s strength. In her words; ‘The weaker sex, is it? Is it the weaker breed who pounds the yam? Or bends all day to plant millet with a child strapped at her back?’ It should be noted that Lakunle’s idea of the woman being the weaker sex is an outdated mode of thinking that was predicated on biased patriarchal ideologies in Western societies and passed on to Africans through the colonialist education system. It is gratifying that Sidi successfully debunks this idea with facts drawn from the woman’s experiences in her milieu.

Lakunle soon expresses his desire to transform the village. This vision of colonialist transformation is global but Lakunle intends to start with Iluginle. His main target is Baroka, the Bale, whom the playwright quickly sets up as Lakunle’s opponent, competitor and foil. Lakunle refers to Baroka as a ‘. . . crafty rogue’ and ‘paymaster of self-indulgence’. It is obvious from this point onwards that Lakunle has scores to settle with the Bale. It would be seen as the play evolves that the two men are subtly antagonistic towards each other mostly because of their opposing ideologies or beliefs. When it appears that Sidi mocks his ideas, Lakunle states that a prophet has no honour in his home and goes on to compare himself to the wise men in history who were mocked and misunderstood but who were later vindicated. The ideas he holds and expresses are also being propagated in places such as Lagos and Badagry. These are colonialist metropolitan centres where colonialist ideologies have already taken roots. Sidi advises Lakunle to go to these places where he would be appreciated. ‘Have you lost shame completely that jeers pass over you?’

Lakunle soon asks Sidi to marry him. He would only return her bucket of water if she agrees to marry him. ‘Sidi, a man must prepare to fight alone. But it helps if he has a woman to stand by him. . .’ Sidi’s response to Lakunle’s proposal is that she will marry him the day he pays her bride price. According to Sidi, it will be a dishonour to her name and family if she marries Lakunle without the dowry as stipulated in her culture and tradition. The payment of bride price forms one of the major conflicts in the play. It is obvious that Lakunle does not want to pay the bride price. But Sidi insists upon it because she does not want to be a laughing stock in the whole village: ‘They will say I was no virgin/that I was forced to sell my shame and marry you without a price.’

Lakunle refers to the custom that demands the payment of bride price as ‘savage, barbaric and outdated’ among other high-sounding epithets. He insists on marrying Sidi based on love and the need for companionship. He quotes the Bible, a symbol of Western culture, to justify his idea on marriage: ‘The man shall take the woman and the two shall be together.’ It should be noted that this quote constitutes biblical allusion in the play as it is more or less a paraphrase of Genesis chapter 2 verse 24, Matthew chapter 19 verse 5 and Mark chapter 10 verse 8. Lakunle tells Sidi that ‘he seeks a friend and an equal partner in my race of life’ and that ‘to pay the bride price would be to buy a heifer off the market stall’.

It is important to note the arguments here. To Sidi, the bride price is necessary to save her honour as a maiden. To Lakunle, to pay the bride price is tantamount to trading Sidi, whom he considers priceless, in the name of marriage. It should also be noted that each argument is culturally determined and supported. Sidi’s argument is supported by the African traditional culture while Lakunle’s view is backed by the Western worldview. Lakunle can also be seen as a colonial agent, especially in his quest to bring civilisation to the people of Iluginle, including Sidi.

Lakunle as an embodiment of Western culture is also seen in his attempt at kissing Sidi. Sidi’s reaction to this strange act equally speaks of her current alienation and ignorance of the culture that Lakunle has imbibed. She reprimands Lakunle for kissing her: ‘. . .I tell you I dislike this strange unhealthy mouthing that you perform’. In response, Lakunle calls Sidi a bush girl for not understanding that a kiss is a civilised way of romance. All this speaks of the perceived cultural distance between Lakunle and Sidi. Yet there are instances in the play where it is dramatised how Lakunle is drawn to the practices of the African culture. For instance, he enjoys the songs and the dances, and envies Baroka for his harem of women. But he would not admit this to anyone except himself. And since he has been conditioned to view these practices as barbaric, he is determined to repress or suppress his feelings for the good of civilisation. He considers it as the price that he has to pay in order to ensure the civilisation of his people.

Lankunle and Sidi are soon distracted by a noise off stage. She asks Lakunle for her pail so that she could leave to avoid the jeers of the people since she is now convinced, more than ever before, that Lakunle is mad. She even fears that Lakunle would transfer the madness to his pupils.

A group of young girls, accompanied by drummers, comes on stage. These girls inform Sidi that the photographer – the stranger with the one-eyed box – has returned to the village. This time around, he has come with the devil’s horse (a motor bike) with two wheels as opposed to the one with four wheels that he came with during his last visit. The photographer has also brought all the pictures that he took in the village during his previous visit. He had promised to show, through his magazine, how beautiful Sidi is. Sidi is told that the Bale (Baroka) is still looking at the images in the magazine. It is also reported that Baroka admires Sidi in the pictures but that, at the same time, he is jealous because his image is not given ample space in the white man’s book. As one of the girls reports, ‘. . . it would have been much better for the Bale if the stranger had omitted him altogether. His image is in a little corner somewhere in the book, even that corner he shares with one of the village latrines’. This raises the question of representation in cultural objects. It is seen that Baroka’s representation in the magazine does not tally with his extra-textual image in the village of Iluginle where he is the chief, where he is known as the Lion, the Fox and the most powerful man alive. It also speaks of how a people’s culture, pride and dignity can be impugned through the art of representation. An instance is the colonialist representation of Africa/ns as ‘the Other’ – devils, evil, savages, primitive and uncivilised – against all historical facts. 

The information by Second Girl to the effect that Sidi is at the centre of the magazine’s discourse makes Sidi suddenly proud and vainglorious as can be seen in her words: ‘If this is true, then I am more esteemed than Bale Baroka, the Lion of Iluginle. This means that I am greater than the Fox of the undergrowth, the living god of men.’ At this point, it should be noted that humour is one of the dominant dramatic techniques in this play. It is seen when Lakunle sarcastically adds ‘and the devil among women’ to Sidi’s string of epithets about Baroka’s heroic figure which she assumes has now been blighted by the magazine and her sudden fame. Sidi is so full of herself that she reconsiders Lakunle’s marriage proposal: ‘Known as I am to the whole world, I would demean my worth to wed a mere village school teacher’. Thanks to textual representation, the table has now turned against Lakunle and he is now the underdog in the politics of gender relations and nuptial narratives that are usually a realm of power politics, intrigues and war. Sidi’s triumph is marked by self-exaltation, hyperbolic self-praise and deliberate attempt to rub it in on Lakunle’s wounded pride and misery. In the end, she proposes the dance of the lost stranger.

The dance of the lost stranger is realised through a dramatic device known as a-play-within-a-play. The play-within-a-play also constitutes a flashback in the drama as it helps to recall the first time a colonial agent arrived at the village. They begin by choosing characters and assigning roles. The characters include the devil-horse, a python and the lost stranger, which is to be played by Lakunle. Sidi is the one who selects the characters and is the one who forces Lakunle, whom she refers to as a ‘book worm,’ to play the lost stranger. Humour is seen when Lakunle protests his role as the stranger because, according to him, he has never been drunk and Sidi says, ‘We know. But your father drank so much, he must have drunk your share, and that of his great grandsons’. Lakunle tries to run away, but he is held. He says it is time to take primary 4 in Geography, but when he opens the window of the classroom, he finds no student inside. It is obvious that they had gone to see the stranger’s magazine. Lakunle has no other choice than to participate in the mime. Everyone agrees that Lakunle resembles the stranger in every way.

The players mime the breakdown of the stranger’s vehicle in the bush, which in itself is a frustrating experience for the colonialist. Perhaps this explains why he drinks to cope with the situation. He is called the lost stranger because he lost his way to the village of Iluginle. He did not intentionally set out to visit it. This is the situation with all western ‘discoveries’ of lands and continents across the world.

The play-within-a-play recreates the coming of the stranger to the village of Iluginle, how his vehicle breaks down, how he tries to make it work again but in vain, how he abandons it and goes on foot, fighting the elements of the jungle and drinking as a coping mechanism until he encounters a village beauty after throwing his empty bottle in the direction where her sweet singing voice came from. As he tries to position himself to photograph the girl (Sidi), the stranger loses his footing and falls into the river, startling the unsuspecting village beauty who then screams and runs to the village to alert the people of the presence of a stranger in their midst.

Baroka soon arrives at the village centre where the stranger has been dragged to. Baroka is a man of 62 years. His dignity and status are not in doubt as everyone prostrates before him, as it is the tradition. Baroka’s entrance halts the mime. Everyone greets the Bale but Lakunle tries to sneak away. He is called back by the Bale. Now face-to-face with the Bale, Lakunle is seen to be referential to the Bale compared to how he talked about him in the Bale’s absence. Baroka wants the play to be resumed, not minding that Lakunle thinks that it is too childish a thing for him as a king to participate in. The play resumes with the Bale as one of the characters. He asks his attendants to seize Lakunle (the lost stranger) for having tried to steal the village maidenhead. The villagers are seen threatening the stranger as he begs for mercy. The Bale gives a signal and the stranger is thrown down and is forced to prostrate on his face. After this forced act of obeisance, the Bale begins to relent and starts showing sympathy towards the stranger. He even orders a feast in his honour. The stranger takes pictures of the feast’s proceedings. It is also seen that he admires Sidi who is among the dancers. With the consent of the Bale, the stranger takes pictures of Sidi, after which he overdoses on local drinks. He soon has to leave the feast as he appears sick with nausea which is apparently caused by excessive drinking. The mime comes to an end.

Sidi praises Lakunle’s role-playing with a tinge of mockery and sarcasm; ‘A court jester would have been the life for you. . .’ To this, Baroka says that the village would have been without a teacher like Lakunle if he were a court jester. Sidi now wants to locate the stranger in order to see the magazine for herself. She wants Lakunle to go with her so that he could help interpret the stranger’s ‘clipped tongue’. Sidi then acknowledges that Lakunle is useful to the village after all: ‘You see book-man we cannot really do without your head’.

The stage direction reports how Lakunle escapes from the girls who all run after him, leaving the Bale alone with his wrestler (body guard). He is seen admiring Sidi’s images in his copy of the magazine while nodding to himself. It is obvious that he has a plan to add Sidi to his harem of women as he says: ‘Yes, yes. . . it is five full months since last I took a wife. . . five full months. . .’

Noon: Sadiku, Baroka’s first wife, comes to meet Sidi on her way back from fetching firewood. However, it is Lakunle who carries the firewood while Sidi is seen admiring herself in the magazine. To Lakunle, his act of helping Sidi carry the load smacks of gentlemanly heroism, but Sidi now thinks of Lakunle more as her personal Page, an emasculated male even. Sadiku informs Sidi that Baroka has sent her to request Sidi’s hand in marriage. It is important to note that Sidi allows Sadiku to deliver Baroka’s nuptial message in the presence of Lakunle because she no longer regards him as her lover, but rather she sees him as her servant, ‘a eunuch’. Lakunle pleads with Sidi not to consider Baroka’s proposal, kissing her hands in the process and calling her many virtuous names drawn from the Bible, like Ruth, Rachael, Esther and Bathsheba. Desperation in love affairs usually leads to more rejection and loss of respect. This is Lakunle’s lot at this point in the play. His pleadings upset Sidi, who snatches her hands away from Lakunle’s hold and chides him for addressing him with Western loan names. She likes her identity as it is and desires to hold on to it as her words reveal. ‘My name is Sidi and I am beautiful.’ She goes on to call herself ‘loveliness beyond the jewels of a throne’. This is the name she wants Lakunle to call her, apart from her real name.

Sadiku repeats Baroka’s message, asking if Sidi would be Baroka’s jewel. Sidi, who is now very conscious of her fame, dismisses Baroka’s proposal. Sadiku tries to persuade her by listing the privileges that Sidi will enjoy as the youngest and the last wife of the Bale. She would be his favourite till death, and when the Bale finally joins his ancestors, she would be the first wife of the new Bale, a position that commands authority, respect and wealth. Sidi’s refusal is firm. She tells Sadiku: ‘You waste your breath,’ wondering why Baroka did not propose to her before the stranger came with the magazine. According to Sidi, ‘Baroka merely seeks to raise his manhood above my beauty. He seeks fame as the one man who has possessed the jewel of Iluginle.’ Sidi now appropriates Lakunle’s ideas on the payment of bride price and its implication on the freedom of the woman. Sadiku is alarmed by Sidi’s radical words and views, but Lakunle is pleased that Sidi has rejected the Bale’s proposal. Part of Sidi’s reason for rejecting Baroka is the differences in their age; she is young and beautiful whereas Baroka is old and unsightly. ‘Be just, Sadiku. Compare my image and your Lord’s – an age of difference! See how the water glistens on my face like the dew-moistened leaves on a harmattan morning. But he – his face is like a leather piece torn rudely from the saddle of his horse.’ Sidi even adopts the image of the woman as a femme fatal on which a man lusts after to his own peril.

Sadiku believes that Sidi is out of her mind as she turns to leave, praying that Sango, the god of thunder, should restore her senses to her. Then Sadiku remembers that Baroka had also invited Sidi for dinner that evening to celebrate her making the village proud, even if she rejects his marriage proposal. Sidi sees this dinner for what it is; a trick, because legend has it that every woman who dines with the Bale ends up becoming his wife. Sadiku insists that the dinner is to honour Sidi for bringing fame to the village through her images on the magazine. Lakunle says that it is not for nothing that Baroka is referred to as the Fox. He is well known for his craftiness. He cites an instance where Baroka ‘foiled the Public Works attempt to build a railway through Iluginle.’ When Sadiku defends Baroka on Lakunle’s charge, Sidi insists that Lakunle should narrate the story of the foiled railroad. The story was told to Lakunle by his late father. It appears that Baroka did not want western civilisation for the people and land of Iluginle. His action of stopping or foiling the construction of the railway constitutes a symbolic rebellion against and resistance to the invasion of Western civilisation and culture.

The device of flashback is utilised to recall the symbolic event of scaring away the railroad workers by the bull-roarer and the bribing of the white surveyor by Baroka to take the project as far away as possible from the village of Iluginle. The stage direction is used to reenact this event.

Prisoners are brought in to prepare the land for the railway project. They are led by two warders. A white surveyor, the most senior member of the team, is also with them. Lakunle gives commentaries in-between the events narrated or enacted by the stage direction. When the Bale’s wrestler espies the men working, he goes to call the Bale. The Bale comes to assess the situation and then leaves. It is apparent that the bull-roarer that later disrupts the work by his scary and unearthly voice is sent by the Bale. When the other workers have all fled, Baroka goes ahead to bribe the white surveyor to abandon the project. The bribe items include a wad of notes, kola nuts, a coop of hens and a goat. The white surveyor then says that there has been a serious mistake and that the railway was not supposed to pass through Iluginle. He then packs up his instruments and depart. This situation is ironic in the sense that the white man who is supposed to be an embodiment of civilisation is seen to be dishonest by accepting bribe from the crafty Baroka to divert the project to another part of the country.

Lakunle comments that Baroka stopped the railway project for his own selfish interest; to keep his powerful hold over the people and to retain his retinue of wives. While he speaks, Sadiku and Sidi leave the stage quietly. Soon he discovers that they had gone and runs after them.

Note how Lakunle admits to himself that he envies Baroka’s polygamous life sometimes, but that he is committed to the ideals of civilisation and progress, and that explains why he is satisfied with Sidi alone. But then Sidi is nowhere to be found as she has followed Sadiku. This is ominous and constitutes foreshadowing in the play.

The scene shifts to Baroka’s house where the youngest wife is seen plucking hair from Baroka’s armpit. It appears that the young woman is not adept at this job of pulling hair to give her man pleasure, which prompts Baroka to voice out his intention to get a new wife. This displeasing news perhaps makes the young wife to pull the hair out of annoyance and jealousy. This hurts Baroka who says: ‘Now that had far more pain than pleasure. Vengeful creature, you did not caress the area of extraction long enough!’

Sadiku enters at this point and Baroka angrily sends the offensive and offended wife out of his bedroom. It is seen that Baroka dispenses with women as he pleases. Sadiku delivers Sidi’s message to Baroka. The part of the message that hurts him most is being seen to be old by Sidi. He deploys rhetorical questions to reassert confidence in his manhood and manliness by recounting some of his recent feats: ‘Do any of my wives report a failing in my manliness? The strongest of them wearies even before the Lion does!’

Baroka seems to have hatched another strategy of getting Sidi to marry him after taking another look at the magazine. He lies to Sadiku that he had actually lost his manhood the previous week and that he wanted to marry Sidi with the hope that she could help revive it. He then warns Sadiku not to expose his secret. Of course, he knows that she would. It is part of his plan to get Sidi to believe that he is not manly anymore.

Night: This scene returns to the village centre where Sidi admires her pictures by the window of Lakunle’s classroom. Sadiku comes along and reveals a naked caricature of Baroka, to which Sidi stares in amazement as Sadiku taunts the carved figure. She, oblivious of being watched by Sidi, prides herself for being one of the women who subdued Baroka and killed his manhood, just as she killed the manhood of Okiki, Baroka’s father. In her words, ‘I was there when it happened to your father, the great Okiki. I did it for him, I, the youngest and freshest of the wives. I killed him with my strength.’

‘Take warning my masters, we’ll scotch you in the end. . .’ Sadiku directs this admonition to the disgraced image of Baroka at the centre of the village. Sidi finally comes out and scares Sadiku who all the while had thought that she was alone. She tells Sidi that the hour of victory is no time for any woman to die. She believes that Baroka’s supposed loss of manhood is a victory for every woman. This reinforces the theme of gender war in the play.

When Sadiku eventually reveals the secret, Sidi joins her in the celebration. But Sadiku warns Sidi not to reveal the secret to anyone. The idea that two can keep a secret if one of them is dead is reinforced in this story. Again, the image of the woman as flippant or talkative is also dramatised.

Lakunle soon joins the duo. Sadiku calls him a ‘fob’ and ‘scarecrow’, referring to him as ‘less than a man’. She is trying to question Lakunle’s manhood as well. When Lakunle threatens to assert his manliness, Sadiku says: ‘You a man? Is Baroka not more of a man than you? And if he is no longer a man, then what are you?’ Lakunle quickly gets the message. The reader should note the traditional demonstration of masculinity in the play. A man is mostly recognised by his physical strength and sexual abilities. Any form of weakness in the gait of a man is seen to be womanish and, therefore, shameful.

Armed with the new piece of information on Baroka, Sidi reconsiders her earlier rejection of the Bale’s dinner invite. She wants to use the opportunity to mock the Bale. Lakunle urges her not to go, reminding her of the chief’s cunning. But Sidi’s mind is already made up. She runs off, asking Lakunle to wait for her. Lakunle is then left with Sadiku who taunts him about not deserving Sidi. Sadiku had agreed not to go with Sidi so as not to be suspected of leaking Baroka’s secret. Sadiku equally taunts Lakunle of not willing to pay the bride price, hoping to convert the whole village so as to avoid the dowry commitment. Lakunle uses the opportunity to outline his civilising mission and vision for the village. He even asks Sadiku to attend his school in order to be cured of illiteracy and darkness.

The scene shifts to Baroka’s palace where the Bale is engaging two men in arm wrestling contest. Sidi’s continuous greeting could be heard until she enters Baroka’s room. The house is deserted. Neither Baroka’s servants nor his wives are to be seen. Baroka recalls that his workers had formed a union and had decided to be taking a day off every week. He assumes that his last wife must be sulking somewhere for having been chided about hurting his armpit.

Sidi and Baroka engage in puzzling and cryptic conversations mostly made up of riddles and proverbs. For instance, Sidi says: ‘If the tortoise cannot tumble/It does not mean that he can stand’. This statement alludes to Baroka’s perceived loss of manhood despite being able to engage in arm wrestling. It means that the fact that Baroka is strong during the wrestling does not mean that he is still a man. Baroka equally responds with a riddle: ‘When a child is full of riddles, the mother has one water pot less’. This is a cryptic warning to Sidi not to engage in riddles which is considered an adult game. A child who can no longer fetch water for the mother is likely one who has become an adult through marriage and has started a home of his or her own. This is what Sidi is asking for at this moment if she continues the way she does.

Baroka wins the arm wrestling amidst taunts and jeering gestures that Sidi makes behind his back. By the time the wrestling resumes, Baroka has suspected that Sadiku had betrayed him as he expected. Sidi is not tactful even though they are conversing in innuendoes, and soon Baroka knows that she knows about his supposed loss of manhood. Baroka sends out the defeated wrestler to check if the palm wine has been brought. The wrestling soon returns with the wine and cups. It should be noted that Baroka has a policy of sacking his wrestlers once he had learnt to throw them in the wrestling match.  

Baroka appeals to Sidi’s by vanity creatively and dramatically praising her beautiful images on the magazine. She sees her as ‘the village goddess reaching out towards the sun, her lover’. At this point, Baroka knows that praise is a weapon that can help woo Sidi. As Sidi contemplates the pictures in the midst of Baroka’s praises, she consciously or unconsciously sits on Baroka’s bed. Baroka continues to make more inroads into Sidi’s defences by choice words and careful expressions. He also ensures that he gets Sidi to agree with him on most of his assertions. For instance, he tells her that ‘The old must flow into the new’ and Sidi agrees without examining the poetic import of the expression. Baroka also paints himself as progress-minded, even stating that he and Lakunle are not rivals. Baroka is seen to have the power of speech. He even tells Sidi that the proof of wisdom is the wish to learn even from children. When the stage direction indicates how Sidi’s head drops on Baroka’s shoulders, the reader then realises that all is lost and that the Bale has won.

The scene shifts back to where Sadiku and Lakunle are waiting for Sidi’s return from Baroka’s. Lakunle is worried and apprehensive. He fears that Baroka has killed Sidi, which is an instance of foreshadowing. Sidi returns shortly after the mummers’ dance which Sadiku forces Lakunle to pay for and which ridicules Baroka’s loss of manhood, a great instance of dramatic irony. Sidi is depicted crying helplessly. She pushes both Sadiku and Lakunle away. Lakunle thinks that Baroka had beaten Sidi, which turns out to be a statement of huge poetic import within the context of the play.

Sidi finally reveals what has happened. Baroka’s claim to have lost his manhood had been a lie. At this point, Lakunle only wants to know if Baroka had succeeded in having his way with her: ‘Tell me the worst; I’ll take it like a man’. Upon the revelation that Baroka had deflowered Sidi, Lakunle still stands by her, promising to marry her in spite of all that has gone wrong. He says that the tragedy has resolved the problem of the bride price. However, this is not how Sidi views the whole situation. Sidi goes to prepare herself as a bride. It is an instance of dramatic irony that Lakunle thinks that Sidi is preparing to marry him, whereas the audience knows the true situation of things. She tells Lakunle, ‘Marry you. . .? You thought . . . Did you really think that you, and I . . .why, did you think that after him, I could endure the touch of another man? I who have felt the strength, the perpetual youthful zest of the panther of the trees? And would I choose a watered down, beardless version of unripened man?’

Sidi then kneels for Sadiku’s blessings. Sadiku prays for fertility which is the hall mark of African womanhood. The marriage rites can then proceed.

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