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
1.0 BACKGROND TO THE STUDY
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
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 est 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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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