Masaryk university of brno faculty of education

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7.4. The meaning of God

The dramatic structure in most Shaffer’s plays is supplied with the motifs of God and multiple varieties of Gods that establish the moral conflict between the characters. For instance, Pizarro in The Royal Hunt embarks on an economic expedition but the subject of the play turns into questing for a particular kind of God represented by Atahuallpa. The theme of divinity triggers the conflict in the plays and serves as a communicative platform that catalyses streams of thoughts. The protagonists deliver messages to their Gods but are answered only by silence. The monologues afterward return upon the speakers and their memories uncovering the crucial fragments of their lives and the soliloquies presented by Pizarro in The Royal Hunt and Salieri in Amadeus signalize the climax in the plays. The ‘silent God’ stimulates the crisis of the characters while they remain spiritually isolated (Shaffer, Hilský 37).

I did not live on earth to be His joke for eternity. I have one trick left me – see how he deals with this! (Confidentially, to Audience) All this week I have been shouting out about murder. You heard me yourselves – do you remember? (Shaffer “Amadeus” 99)

Religious conception is prominent throughout Shaffer’s work. Despite the compelling settings in different times and environments, the masterpieces are common in exploration of search for Gods, the attempt to make a contact with them and the crisis when the protagonists elude them. Shaffer sets a clash between Catholic and Pagan divinity and different religious visions of the world which is intensified by the massacre of the Inca tribe. The Inca chief personifies an embodiment of God that he eventually loses. Again, Shaffer imposes his dramatic form a silent God that the Inca King renounces by the act of baptism. There is no response from above, and coming to his death by burning at the stake, Atahuallpa is divested of the possibility to follow the pathway to his God-Sun and undergo the process of reincarnation.

The Royal Hunt of the Sun is simply divided into Act 1 The Hunt and Act 2 The Kill the former extending the motifs of long-lasting search for God and the latter, ironically, its murder when is finally found. Pizarro is a desperate man who has lost a trust in his own religion and feels attracted by the worship of the Inca rites. He becomes spiritually – and literally, by the rope in one part of the play – bound to Atahuallpa, but he is not able to maintain the union (de Ituarte 70).

PIZARRO. Yes. Yes . . . yes. (Bitterly.) How clever. He’s understood everything I’ve said to him these awful months – all the secret pain he’s heard – and this is his revenge. This futile joke. How he must hate me. (Tightening the rope.) Oh, yes, you cunning bastard! Look Martin – behold, my God. I’ve got the Sun on my string! I can make it rise: (He pulls the Inca’s arm up) – or set! He throws the INCA to his knees. (Shaffer, “The Royal Hunt” 76)

What attracts him to the Inca is the latter’s composure and mental balance rather than his beliefs. Pizarro is a solitaire and despises organised religions: “Dungballs to all churches that are or ever could be! How I hate you . . . (Shaffer “The Royal Hunt” 71), yet he is seeking a sort of release from his inner turmoil and, fascinated by the Inca King’s harmony and assertion “I need no one”( Shaffer “The Royal Hunt” 61) is impressed even more and nearly seems to be convinced about the Inca’s sacred power. He further explains “He has some meaning for me, this Man-God. An immortal man in whom all his people live completely. He has an answer for time” (Shaffer “The Royal Hunt” 45). In turn, Atahuallpa willingly extends his personal embrace to the conquistador . . . “Believe in me. I will give you a word and fill you with joy. For you I will do a great thing. I will swallow death and spit it out of me.” (Shaffer “The Royal Hunt” 76). Should Pizarro feel tempted to believe in the act of reincarnation it is not that the pagan religion is more reasonable than the Christian, but it lies in the fascination by the completeness of the Inca’s personality (de Ituarte 70).

PIZARRO. It’s the only way to give life meaning! To blast out of time and live forever, us, in our own persons. This is the law: die in despair or be a God yourself!... Look at him: always so calm as if the teeth of life never bit him… or the teeth of death. What if it was really true, Martin? That I’ve gone God-hunting and caught one. A being who can renew his life over and over? (Shaffer “The Royal Hunt” 75)

As noticed in the introductory part of this thesis, Shaffer allows his human individuals defy God’s superiority despite the personal loss they eventually suffer. Salieri bears the sign of biblical Cain, as portrayed in the Old Testament. Cain murdered his younger brother Abel under the weight of grievance and jealousy because God rejected his sacrificial gift, which was not worthy enough and accepted only the offering from Cain’s brother Abel. Cain, filled with a feeling of injustice, killed his brother. As a verdict, God signed Cain and let him wander the world as a homeless drifter (“Genesis 4”). This biblical resemblance forms Salieri into a sort of a mysterious creature. He pleaded God to be exceptional, but kept gifting him with assets of average values. He killed his ‘Abel’ and till the end of his life served punishment in the form of remorse, despair and semi-madness

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