Masaryk university of brno faculty of education


The setting into unfamiliar environment



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7.3. The setting into unfamiliar environment

One of the dramatic features that characterize several Shaffer’s plays is setting the main protagonists into unfamiliar and new environments: Mozart arrives in Vienna, Pizarro conquers Peru, Alan Strang in Equus undergoes a therapy at psychiatric clinic, Walter Langer in Five Finger Exercise stays with his hosting family in Suffolk. This parallel, in Amadeus and The Royal Hunt of the Sun particularly, has the psychological effect on both Francisco Pizarro and Mozart. As they are newcomers, they need to identify with the social and moral conditions and explore their territories.

Both protagonists are hunters for success and public recognition. Pizarro comes to Peru primarily to commit robbery and make a fortune, his enrichment is eventually not as material as it is moral. Beyond the glitter of the gold retained by the Inca tribe for centuries, he finally finds his self-awareness and higher moral principles. Towards the end of the play Pizarro experiences his gradual moral purification by means of accepting the fact that in such a distant land there can be other religions apart from Christianity and that Atahuallpa can serve as a representative of the deity in his country.

But Christ’s to be the only one, is that it? What if it’s possible, here in a land beyond all maps and scholars, guarded by mountains up to the sky, that there were true Gods on earth, creators of true peace? (Shaffer, “The Royal Hunt” 75)

Pizarro himself abandons Christian faith in exchange for the newly gained spirituality that promises to fill him with joy. This appears as a contradictory act regarding the background he comes from. He receives and accepts multilateral interpretation of representatives of Gods in the world and a function of a different social system. He subsequently feels confused, mentally fragile, but, perhaps for the first time in his life, genuine. The audience are involved to witness a formation of Pizarro´s character, a transformation from a greedy hunter for his prey into the prey itself. Just as Mozart is finally caught up in the networks of Vienna conventions, so Pizarro surrenders to the local divine values. Both of them practically failed in their primary purpose.

Edward Said emphasises mutual influence according to which it should be assumed that not only the colonizers influenced the natives but they were also themselves influenced by the culture of the colonized. In other words, the environment significantly contributes to the shape of one’s personality (Culture 133).

The Spaniards intend to deprive the Indians of their cultural heritage in order to gain sovereignty over the land. Said in his book implies an obsession of bringing the treasures of the colonized lands to Europe and get them displayed in the public eyes in museums. He talks about imperialistic act of geographical violence in terms of exploration of the lands, their excavation and bringing under control at the expense of losing territories of the natives to the new-comers. The geographical identity was somehow disturbed during the presence of the colonizing outsiders. He underlines the movement of general observation of the localities to specific transformations of the lands (Culture 195).

As for Shaffer, this seems to be a relevant subject since he donates an essential part of Act I - The Hunt to geographical exploration before the conquerors are confronted with the Incas. To emphasize the importance of the geographical change, he allows Pizarro to settle (comfort) his consciousness by recalling his hopeless days back home in Spain and in Italy when he served army. Pizarro, disappointed by the deal in his homeland, tries to bring his images of successful career abroad.

Said, in continuity of this aspect, refers to Crosby’s Ecological Imperialism in which the author claims that Europeans began to change the local habitat wherever they moved. The reason was to transform the territories into images they had brought with them from their homeland. The change of agriculture, crops and ecological system caused environmental imbalance and dislocation for the natives. The introduction of a new political system was only logical consequence. Furthermore, a project of long-standing territorial possession was supposed to make the land profitable and in the same time integrated with external rules. Said further refers to Neil Smith’s book Uneven Development in which the results of such an integration are described , namely an unequally developed landscapes sharing poverty with wealth and urbanization with agricultural diminishment. If the colonized locations served for the outsiders’ purposes then the natives felt necessity to imagine, seek or discover ‘second’ land (Culture 271-272).

Said then introduces the final process of transformation during which the colonial space must be transformed sufficiently not to appear foreign to the imperial eye. He refers to Brien Friel’s play Translation in which the author says that “In such a process the colonized is typically [supposed to be] passive and spoken for, does not control its own representation but is represented in accordance with a hegemonic impulse by which it is constructed as a stable and unitary entity” (Culture 273).





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