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Study of the comic elements in Wole Soyinka's "The Trials of Brother Jero andThe Lion and the Jewel. The literature is said to be interpretation of life itself and it's in three segment, which are prose, Drama and Poetry.


Drama which is the most relevant on this study. Drama has been defined as a literary composition that tells a story usually representing human conflict by means of dialogue and action as portrayed by Wole Soyinka in “Trial of Brother Jero and The Lion and the Jewel.


Soyinka uses comic element to project and achieved his aim without jeopardizing the message intended to the audience. For instance "Trial of Brother Jero" where he portrayed the lust of Brother Jero for women, especially at the beach and the mocking of his followers prayer by referring to them speaking Jabber and in The Lion and the Jewel where Soyinka portrayed Baroka speaking both pidgin and English together like "guru m morin" and also mocking stance of Lakunle whom he portrayed to represent the western culture.


For instance when Lakunle tries to carry a pale of water from Sidi head and which he eventually pour the water on his body.


Soyinka lets us know that Comic Is not only by oral but also by action, as we can see in Trial of Brother Jero and The Lion and the Jewel.










1.1       Comedy

1.2       Comic element




2.1       Synopsis

2.2       Religion as Perceived by the Society 

2.3       Jero as a Fake Prophet

2.4       Chume as a Gullible Follower




3.1       Synopsis

3.2       Culture as perceived by the society

3.3       Baroka’s Craftiness

3.4       Lakunle’s Superficiality












The history of literature can be traced to the ancient civilization of Egypt. It began as representation of ideas on rocks, in caves, in motifs and other means of conveying ideas. But inspite of the diversity of communicating devices, they all talked about situations. This continued and evolved through the years to the broad category we now team "Literature".


Literature as mentioned is a vast but succinctly. We can view it as a body of writing by a people or by peoples using the same language. It has received different definitions from various writers.


Literature has been described as anything written as an interpretation of life. It has also been defined as the best word in the best order. Another definition see literature has an expression the temper of an age in terms of imaginative art.


Literature as terms emerged from the Latin word "Littera" which means letter of the alphabet. This of course means writing as an art, started with the Egyptians (Hieroglyphics) before it became adopted in other cultures like the Greek and French symbols were the initial forms of writing. Situations and activities were highlighted in caves in form of symbols. Paintings and line etching as means of communication and like literature of today, this means of communication was used to inform us and depict real life situations which is the essence of literature.


Over the years literature has continued to play this role effectively. To this effect it has been segmented into three major genres: Drama, Poetry and Prose of this three, drama is the most relevant to this paper.

Drama captures real life situations and displays them on stage for corrective purposes. A Greek term which means "action" drama can be described as a form of literature intend to be interpreted to an audience by actors who impersonate the characters, recite the speeches and perform the actions of the story.


Drama has been defined as a literary composition that tells a story usually representing human conflict by means of dialog and action to be performed upon the stage yet another description of drama is that it is the creative creation of authors, actors and audience.


Because drama is used to portray real situations, these are usually highlighted to an audience who are the real people. The beginning and the end of the business from the author's point of view is the art of making the audience believe that real things are happening to real people (Bernard Shaw).


Drama was necessitated by the fact that it had a more potent impact on an audience. The ear\test forms of drama were tragic because they portrayed the particular era in which they were performed and therefore were more relevant as tragic.


Two types of drama are generally acknowledging comedy which can briefly be described as any play which ends happily and tragedy which ends unhappily.


The drama seems to have originated in religious tribal dance such as existed among primitive peoples today. There is a controversy as to the origin of drama: Egypt or Greece. But the first crude drama, whether Egyptian or Greek, told stories and legends of some gods, having originated in rites of worship held in the god's honour.

Drama is a form of expression peculiar to no race or epoch. Some form of drama or the other is found in every society-primitive and civilized and has served wide variety of functions in the society.


The dramatic pieces capture a particular time-frame of human existence because they tend to document h6tory a peculiar to a people. In achieving this, they employ different plays can satirize society, or they can gently illuminate of human weaknesses; they can define the greatness and the limitation of man in tragedy, or as in modern naturalistic playwriting probe man's mind.  


In summary, drama is aimed at either one or more of entertainment ritual celebration and promulgation of an idea. Drama has the widest range of all arts. This is because it not only represents life but is also a way of seeing life. There are some common features in drama the play tells its tales by migration behavior a situation must be represented or the stage often play describes its style up which the mood quality of illusion degree of fantasy or realism are embedded. The languages of drama ranges from intensely theatrical to an almost exact reproduction of real life. Another major component of drama is conflict which is clash of ideas and will. The resolution of the conflict usually marks the ends of the plays.


The deeper and more important the conflict is to the spectators. The greater the worth of the drama. As a matter of fact, intensity through concentration is an absolute law of the stage. A good drama or play does three basic things: entertainment instruction and exultation.


As mentioned earlier there are two main categories of drama of which comedy is one. The other tragedy.

Although tragedy IS often used loosely used to describe any sort of disaster or misfortune, it is actually a work of art that probes with high seriousness questions concerning the role of man in the universe. Tragedy deals with the rebellious spirit in man which resist the limitations of being human.


The history of tragedy can be traced to the Greek Dionysian festivals of the 5th century BC. In the Aristotelian view, tragedy imitates men who are better than the average and deals with personages of high estates and matters of great public importance. Tragedy on the whole deals with issues that affect man in a serious manner.


1.1     COMEDY

Eons ago comedy was merely an art form for entertainment coined from the Greek word komoidia which means merry making.  According to modern tradition, comedy was type of drama whose chief objective was to amuse.  But in the midst of laughter comedy can raise surprisingly serious questions.  We see therefore, that comedy can be both critical and playful.


The term comedy has passed through various shades of meaning.  In the middle ages, it simply meant a story with a happy ending; subsequently, the term was applied to mystery plays with a happy ending.


Comedy has been defined as many comic or ludicrous incident or series of incident of a form of dram that deals with humorous or ridiculous aspects of human behavior of a dramatic piece of pleasant or humorous character a story with a happy ending an incident suggesting comic treatment.


Deeper definitions of comedy have however produced statements describing comedy as vehicle of corrective satire.


Comedy (says Aristotle) is an imitation of the worst sort of people in respect to their manners.  They must be exposed after a ridiculous manner.  For men are to be laugh out of their vices in comedy.


The business of comedy, according to Sir Richard is to render vice ridiculous, to expose it to public decision and contempt, and to make men ashamed of vile and sordid actions.  James Drake also agrees that the business of comedy is to recommend virtue and discountenance vice.


The origin of comedy date back to the rituals in honour of the Greek god of vegetation.  Dionysius’ Comus ode’ which was the term used to refer to the songs sung during the festivals was what was later called comedy.  The term then became applied to the satire plays of Aristophanes and writes like Plautus and Terence.


Comedy as a word can be concerned by derivation to the Greek verb meaning to revel which enable as to bind up the origin of comedy with vegetation rituals.


As an art form however, comedy has a lot of devices as its disposal to achieve effectiveness in exploring the concept of didacticism because there is always a moral behind all the laughter.


Some views of the aims of comedy claim that comedy criticizes the finite for not being infinite. Comedy provoked laughter at the world which man has made himself in his conscious activity. Hegel Comedy consists of the indirect affirmation of the ideal logical order by means of derogation of the limited orders of actuality.

Chief among these device for didacticism are comic effects and "epigrams" which are comic situations in the actions of the dramatists and witty remarks in their speeches respectively. These devices make it distinct. Though comedy's message is usually subliminal, that is not easily seen on the surface level because its comical effects temporarily hide it, it is one of the most powerful literary tools didacticism today.


Comedy has been associated with laughter but the Idea behind all the laughter varies according to the attitude of the author. The author's attitude towards the subject of discussion can be for different purposes to ridicule a person, satirise a society or conventional way of doing things; it can be on love or romance and so on. Laughter as a common criterion in comedy is therefore just a means to an end. The aim of most writers of comedy is to present situations concepts and lines apt to excite their audience's facility of laughter.


Sir Philip Sidney observed that in higher forms of the comic there is more delight than laughter.


The comic artist's purpose is mirror the society's follies and vices hoping that they will, as a result be mended. The comic drama takes on the features of satire as it fixes on professions of virtue and practice that contradict them.  Satiric comedy dramatizes the discrepancy between the ideal and the reality the pretensions that would mask reality’s hollowness and viciousness.


The most important English renaissance statement concerning comedy is that of Sir Philip Sidney in The defense of posies (1595)

Comedy is an imitation of common errors of our life, which (the comic dramatist) represents in the most ridiculous and scornful sort that may be so as it is impossible that any beholder can be content to such a one.


Comedy in Africa began a while ago as a ritualistic and royalty tool.

In ancient African civilization, festivals, fiestas and yearly rituals to gods took place. Processions were also a part of the lives of these people. The activities were spiced with dance, music and folklore. Mime was also an important part the festivals. Mimesis was meant to be a span of bout five to ten minutes or more showing life in a light way. Because it is a silent act, it depends on rhythmic body movement and gesture to give information and messages. It was from this mimetic form that comedy sprang up as a form of drama.


Today comedy in African context as with the past reflects the peculiar aspects of a society. It looks at the society through an intellectual microscope, discerns its ills and puts it forward in a laughable manner.


There are different media of comedy, mimesis as earlier mentioned is one of such it parodies the good or bad events in the society, highlighting them to an audience. It is mainly silent and more descriptive. It ushered in theatre groups and itinerant entertainers.


Comedy could also be written for performance on stage. Here action is combined with speech. Some plays are also published by notable authors the satire work parade themes ranging from good to evil. Some note worthy authors in this include Ola Rotimi, Femi Osofisan and Wole Soyinka.


The establishment, in 1948, of University colleges at Accra (Ghana) and Ibadan (Nigeria) gave impetus to poetry, the novel and drama in the 1950's and 60's. The most intense activity was in Nigeria, the Igbo proving particularly profile with writers like Cyprian Ekwensi- Jagua Nana (1961). Onuora Nzekwu with Wand of Noble wood, (1961) and Nkem Nwankwo ­Danda (1964) Wole Soyinka is however the main playwright for this paper.


Akinwande Oluwole Soyinka was born on the 13th of July 1934 In Abeokuta, Nigeria. He is a playwright, poet, novelist and critic. He received the Noble prize for literature in 1986 (the first African to win it). Soyinka attended Government College and University College in Ibadan before graduating in English in 1958 from the University of Leeds in England.


Upon his return to Nigeria, he founded a theatre; the 1960 mask (later the Orisun theatre) and wrote his first important play, A Dance of the Forests for the Nigerian independence celebrations. The play satirizes the fledging nations by stripping it of romantic legends and showing no great difference between the past and present.


In the plays of a lighter vein, he made fun of pompous, westernized school teachers as in The Lion and The Jewel (first performed in Ibadan, 1959) and published 1963 and the mocked the clever preacher of upstart prayer churches who exploit their parishioners as in The Trails of Brother Jero and Jero’s Metamorphosis (1972).


Soyinka's work reflect the complexities facing an African playwright writing in English moving from naturalistic treatment of his subjects to a profoundly Yoruba view of universal themes. His early comic satires, The Lion and The Jewel and The Trials of Brother Jero are popular with all levels of English speaking audiences, but his later works were verbally and philosophically complex, so they are for an intellectual elite.


Powerful statement on cultural conflict is made in The Strong Breed (1963) and Death and The King’s Horseman (1975) while he had political satires in Kong's Harvest (1965).  A dance of the Forests (1963) showed dramatic contrast of life in Africa through the complex Yoruba mythology.


Wole Soyinka has contributed to all literary genres Including both tragedy and comedy in drama. Soyinka's writing is very thorough as he touches on every aspects of man's Itte relevant to his existence, social, political and religious. One thing that is noticeable in Wole Soyinka work is that he does not deviate from cultural values rather uses the theme to enlighten his readers. Soyinka propagates desalination from our traditional values. He goes for originality in his works. Even when he borrows from myths or legends, he stamps the work with something that is unique to him. For' example the name Baroka in The Lion and Jewel cannot be tied to any particular ethnic group. As described by Bola Ige ... Even the literary pieces Soyinka plucks out and hands to you are not found anywhere else.



Cosmic elements are devices that are employed to highlight situations in a work of comedy to create cosmic effects. They are usually less dialogic than active.


In a work of art especially the genre of force, comic effects are amply used. This is quite distinct from the ordinary comic work of literature which has a sprinkling of conic effects in its dialogic and its actions. However, the essence here is not the effectiveness in the particular work in which it is used in this study. We shall critically analyze comic effects and also its functions in the comic genre of literature.


Ideally comic effects as literary device can be seen from two perspectives.


Firstly, in the utterances of the character with humour and secondly in the actions of the various characters. In the first instance, comic elements can be found in the use of pun, fragmentary statements, exclamations and asides (side remarks).


Some examples can be found in Wole Soyinka's The Trials of Brother Jero

In Brother Jero's opening remarks.

I am prophet.... You have probably

          Seen many of us……. some prophets

Could name ……… Women penitent to shake

Their bosoms


The irony of women penitents shaking their bosoms is hilarious. Also when he makes a list of churches fighting for land, the names re funny.

The Brotherhood of Jehu ......... sister of

          Judgment day……… The Heavenly cowboys

Amope’s exchange with her husband tone, the of martyrdom she uses is come because it makes everything exaggerated. Also he exchange of results with the fish-seller is come


Go on and abuse me ......... all I wanted was

a few of' your miserable fish …….. Cross-eyed wretch pauper

Brother Jero’s prayer sequence with his followers are also comical for example when chume prays with him over his weakness with women.

Je- e- esu. Je - e e - esu. Je - e - esu. Help am

Abraka..... Hebra...... Hebra    .

Also in The Lion and The Jewel Soyinka shows how comic effects can be achieved through the words of the characters.


Lakunle’s hesitation at calling Sidi’s breast what it is when he corrects her about dressing is funny for a grown man.


A grown up girl must always cover up her .... shoulder

The hesitation creates a comic effect. Also has stupid display of high sounding words makes him sound funny.



Baroka's use of Yoruba and pidgin English mixed with proper English produces a comic effect.

Guru morin Guru monn ngh hn! Alakowe…….Guru morin

Lakunle's proverbs about the stewpot and tire is funny

Have you no shame at your age licking my bottom?

She was tackled all the same

When the character insult themselves, their choice of words is highly comical

sadiku says to Lakunle,

is this your doing, you Popinjay?

watch your wagging tongue, you uniformed creature

Lakunle' says to Sadiku

this is my plan you withered face

must every ward leak out of you

As surely as final drops of mother's

milk oozed from your flattened breast generations



Baroka says of the wrestler

Only yesterday, this son of I-suspect

A python for a mother and fathered

beyond doubt by a blubber-bottomed baboom


The allusion to sexual imageries is also comic.  All these contribute to creating comic effects through speech.


On the other hand comic element can be exhibited in actions of the character.


In The Trials of brother Jero for instance.  Amope and Chume's journey to Brother Jero's house. The Description of Chume's posture

a cycle is ridden on stage. The rider is

shortish man: his feet barely touch the pedals.

Amope's tone martyrdom at the sudden jerking of the bicycle and she has already begun to limp because of a landing no worse than an ordinary one.


When Brother Jero tries to sneak past Amope, she asks him where he thinks he is going without looking back.


They are very comic.


Jero's encounter with the woman that was chasing the drummer boy is another comic instance.


Also when Chume finds one jewel is a fake and comes after him the chase all around the stage produces a comic effect.


In The Lion and The Jewel, Lakunle's action trying to get the pail from sidi and spilling water all over himself is comic. We also find a comic instance


When Lakunle playfully pinches the dancer's bottom during the mime and she bites his knee. In fact the whole mime, including the bale manipulate of Lakunle to continue acting is comic.


When Baroka's favourite pulls his armpit hair out real hard out of jealous his reaction is funny.


Finally, the way Sidi and Baroka act when she goes to sup with him is comic more because of their expression and reactions than the words used.


Comic elements serve as a tool of correction by communicating the absurdity of the follies and ills of men in the society. It therefore serves the dual purpose of entertainment and purging. This is done by satirizing the society in a very light manner. 

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