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The Lion and the Jewel
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Drama > Group Play - The Lion and the Jewel (Summer '16)

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Leslie | 15985 comments Our focus play for July -September is Wole Soyinka's The Lion and the Jewel. Soyinka is a Nigerian author and the first African to win the Nobel Prize in Literature (1986). You can read more about him here.


Pink I read this a couple of days ago and thoroughly enjoyed it. A quick, amusing, yet thought provoking play. Very easy to get through and worth a read. I'm going to try some of his other works now.


message 3: by Gill (last edited Jun 20, 2016 08:30AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Gill | 5720 comments I sent away for a paper copy of this, which has just arrived. Hopefully, with my new magnifier, I'll be able to read it.


Leslie | 15985 comments Gill wrote: "I sent away for a paper copy of this, which has just arrived. Hopefully, with my new magnifier, I'll be able to read it."

Fingers crossed for you & your magnifier, Gill! I need to start hunting for a copy myself...


Pink Good luck Gill :)

I have a copy of Death and the King's Horseman: A Play to start soon.


Pink Just to update that I've now read Death and the King's Horseman: A Play (I hope it's okay to post about it here) and I enjoyed it just as much as The Lion and the Jewel, maybe even slightly more. I'm very pleased to have finally read some work by Wole Soyinka, as I've been meaning to try something by him for such a long time.


message 7: by Greg (last edited Jun 22, 2016 12:32PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Greg | 7684 comments Mod
Pink wrote: "Just to update that I've now read Death and the King's Horseman: A Play (I hope it's okay to post about it here) and I enjoyed it just as much as The Lion and the Jewel, m..."

So glad you liked it Pink!

I thought the moral dilemma was so fascinating .. complex and very affecting. Also the language in parts put me in mind of a Greek chorus. I unfortunately gave my copy to an aunt; so I'll have to get another copy to re-read it. I loved it at the time - hence my sharing it with my aunt! :)


Pink Yes, it did have a similar feel to the greek chorus in places, perhaps that's why I enjoyed it so much!


message 9: by Beth (new)

Beth | 405 comments I read Death and the King's Horseman today and found it a really powerful drama. My edition has several critical essays that I'll start reading tomorrow, so I will have something to say about those soon.


message 10: by Greg (last edited Jul 01, 2016 01:53AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Greg | 7684 comments Mod
Beth wrote: "I read Death and the King's Horseman today and found it a really powerful drama. My edition has several critical essays that I'll start reading tomorrow, so I will have something to say..."

I definitely agree Beth! One thing I feel very strongly in both Death and the King's Horseman: A Play and The Lion and the Jewel is a deep ambivalence about the abandoning of the old customs.

On the one hand, Soyinka doesn't flinch at all from the negative aspects of those customs. In The Lion and the Jewel, there's no doubt in my mind that the "chief" Baroka for selfish reasons (preserving his own petty power in the village) prevented the nearby railway and exacerbated the poverty of the village. And there's something sad about all of these young girls being dominated and manipulated by him, scrabbling for the honor to pluck the hairs of his armpit. What will happen to Ailatu now that (view spoiler)? The women's dance celebrating (view spoiler) shows a deep reservoir of bitterness and resentment at their lot .. quite justifiably so!

On the other hand, the new customs are colored by the old prejudices .. such as the modern man Lakunle's insistence that women have smaller brains than men. And some of the most powerful moments come in Baroka's arguments against modernity, despite his self serving reasons for them .. modernity's "spotted wolf of sameness" that "makes all roofs and faces look the same" with its "murderous roads." I felt a little chill despite myself when he says, "Does samemess not revolt your being my daughter?" Then also, his argument against the loss of the past is very seductive:

"The old must flow into the new, Sidi,
Not blind itself or stand foolishly
Apart. A girl like you must inherit
Miracles which age alone reveals.
Is this not so?"


How gorgeously and eloquently he puts this couched in these metaphors and images! What a clever and powerful orator Baroka is!

So in the end I find a part of myself against my will enjoying the way this crafty man outsmarts everyone else, including the modern and the educated. It's a bit like the servant girl in the story of "Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves" who outsmarts all of her betters and wins the day .. except that here, the man Baroka is really unscupulous. He's winning (view spoiler), and he cares for nothing but his own power and ease. He knows exactly the lever to pull to (view spoiler)

It's quite horrible, and yet, I feel a little sympathy with him regardless. In Death and the King's Horseman: A Play, the custom is unconscionable too, but yet there's a little sympathy it moves in me .. an honor in the true observance of it, the sacrifice. There's a gulf between the old ways and the modern ways overtaking them, and there's much ambivalence in the gulf.

I really love these plays! The only reason I gave The Lion and the Jewel 4 stars instead of 5 was to reserve a higher rating for Death and the King's Horseman: A Play, which I liked even better!

How fun the early scene of the villagers enacting the arrival of the photographer must be on stage too! I can imagine reveling in the spectacle of the dance, miming, sounds, etc. I would love to see either of the plays performed one day!! I hope I get the chance!


message 11: by Beth (new)

Beth | 405 comments Greg wrote: One thing I feel very strongly in both Death and the King's Horseman: A Play and The Lion and the Jewel is a deep ambivalence about the abandoning of the old customs.

I agree. I haven't had a chance to read The Lion and the Jewel but the introduction to Death and the King's Horseman mentions that Soyinka was "concerned that the central conflict in Death and the King's Horseman -- that is, the confrontation between colonial authority and the custodians of African ritual -- might be reduced to a cultural cliche -- namely, the conflict between Western and African values... Soyinka tries to direct his audience away from the transparent cultural conflict that they might witness on stage and toward what he considers to be the deeper metaphysical conflict in the play."


message 12: by Greg (new) - rated it 4 stars

Greg | 7684 comments Mod
Beth wrote: "
I agree. I haven't had a chance to read The Lion and the Jewel but the introduction to Death and the King's Horseman mentions that Soyinka was "concerned that the central conflict in Death and the King's Horseman -- that is, the confrontation between colonial authority and the custodians of African ritual -- might be reduced to a cultural cliche -- namely, the conflict between Western and African values... Soyinka tries to direct his audience away from the transparent cultural conflict that they might witness on stage and toward what he considers to be the deeper metaphysical conflict in the play." ..."


I like that quote Beth! There's nothing simple about these two plays .. they're deeply complex and ambivalent.


message 13: by Greg (last edited Jul 01, 2016 12:32PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Greg | 7684 comments Mod
Beth, did your copy have Soyinka's "Author's Note"? I love what he says in his preface note to Death and the King's Horseman: A Play:

"It is thanks to this kind of perverse mentality that I find it necessary to caution the would-be producer in this play against a sadly familiar reductivist tendency, and to direct his vision to the far more difficult and risky task of eliciting the play's threnodic essence. ... The Colonial Factor is an incident, a catalytic incident merely. Confrontation in the play is largely metaphysical, contained in the human vehicle which is Elesin and the universe of the Yoruba mind - the world of the living, the dead and the unborn, and the numinous passage which links all: transition. Death and the King's Horseman can be fully realized only through an evocation of music from the abyss of transition."

There's no doubt a transition of customs going on due to the Colonial presence, and I think that does play a part in what's happening, mere catalyst or not. But I get the impression that Soyinka is greatly annoyed that this is all people see. We don't read Antigone and think primarily of Greek politics after all, even though historical uncertainty & upheaval in Greece plays a part in Creon's behavior.

There's also a profound human drama in Elesin's choice, a metaphysical crisis, and the play is deeply elegaic. It sounds like he prefers that those producing the play keep their primary focus on the dilemma inside Elesin (and his Yoruban sensibility) and the poetic elegy that is the beating heart of the story. Without that, the play is just dessicated theory, bloodless and dead.

Wow, Soyinka is such an eloquent man too, such a poet in his thinking - I love his phrase "the numinous passage which links all," this idea of a darkened pathway between life, death, and the unborn that he says is part of the universe of the Yoruban mind.


message 14: by Beth (new)

Beth | 405 comments Has anyone read/planned to read The Bacchae of Euripides: A Communion Rite for this seasonal theme? I will probably read it sometime this month or August.


message 15: by Greg (last edited Jul 11, 2016 07:48PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Greg | 7684 comments Mod
Beth wrote: "Has anyone read/planned to read The Bacchae of Euripides: A Communion Rite for this seasonal theme? I will probably read it sometime this month or August."

I hadn't heard of this one Beth - I'll see if I can get a copy. I'd like to read the original too because I've never read it either.


message 16: by Pink (new) - rated it 4 stars

Pink Beth wrote: "Has anyone read/planned to read The Bacchae of Euripides: A Communion Rite for this seasonal theme? I will probably read it sometime this month or August."

Not yet, but I have Collected Plays: Volume 1: A Dance of the Forests; The Swamp Dwellers; The Strong Breed; The Road; The Bacchae of Euripides: 001 checked out from the library, so I'll start it soon.


message 17: by Gill (new) - rated it 3 stars

Gill | 5720 comments I'm just starting The Lion and the Jewel now.


message 18: by Gill (new) - rated it 3 stars

Gill | 5720 comments I've just finished reading this. Hmm.

I enjoyed the first section Morning, but not the rest so much. I preferred Death and the King's Horseman.

What I have enjoyed doing just now, is reading all the comments on here relating to both of the plays, which I'd decided to leave until I'd read them both. I've also found it very interesting reading the link to Wikipedia that you gave Leslie, thanks .


message 19: by Greg (new) - rated it 4 stars

Greg | 7684 comments Mod
Gill wrote: "I've just finished reading this. Hmm.

I enjoyed the first section Morning, but not the rest so much...."


What didn't you like about it Gill? Sidi's and Ailatu's fates are fairly disturbing/unsettling. Or was it just the lighter tone that you didn't like?


message 20: by Gill (new) - rated it 3 stars

Gill | 5720 comments Greg wrote: "Gill wrote: "I've just finished reading this. Hmm.

I enjoyed the first section Morning, but not the rest so much...."

What didn't you like about it Gill? Sidi's and Ailatu's fates are fairly dist..."

More the light tone, Greg. I didn't feel very interested in what was going on, to be honest.

In Death and the King's Horseman , I found the whole contrast between the colonial view of what was going on and the African view of what was going on extremely interesting, and very well expressed. I found the play a bit unsettling as well, which made it interesting.


message 21: by Pink (last edited Jul 15, 2016 01:05PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Pink Perhaps I like it more as I read them the other way around. I do think that Death and the King's Horseman is the deeper play, which gives you more to think about. In comparison The Lion and the Jewel feels almost lighthearted, though I really enjoyed it as my first work by Soyinka.


katie | 74 comments Beth wrote: "Has anyone read/planned to read The Bacchae of Euripides: A Communion Rite for this seasonal theme? I will probably read it sometime this month or August."

Hi Beth, I have The Bacchae and I was planning to read it soon. Let me know when you are starting and I'll join you!


message 23: by Beth (new)

Beth | 405 comments katie wrote: "Hi Beth, I have... The Bacchae"

I will probably read it sometime this week. (I have read the original before, but not lately - I will reread it after I read the Soyinka play.)


Leslie | 15985 comments I finally got a copy of this from the library so hopefully I will be reading it sometime this week.


Leslie | 15985 comments Here is my review -- more musings than review I am afraid!

http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/...


message 26: by Beth (last edited Sep 03, 2016 12:40PM) (new)

Beth | 405 comments I read The Bacchae and then had to return it to the library, but I will try to get it again soon. It was very interesting to see how Soyinka turned it into a story about the liberation of slaves. Is anyone else going to read it?


Leslie | 15985 comments Beth wrote: "I read The Bacchae and then had to return it to the library, but I will try to get it again soon. It was very interesting to see how Soyinka turned it into a story about the liberatio..."

It isn't one of the plays in the "Five Plays" book I got (GR doesn't seem to have this omnibus in their database...). So I probably won't read that one.


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