I would like to aim at what the objects of criticism in Shaffer’s Royal Hunt are. According to Said’s theory, colonialism is consequence of the practice and attitude of dominating centres to rule distant territories, meaning the implanting of settlement in the lands (Culture 8). Shaffer introduces the attempt of domination by implementation of Christianity in non-Christian world. The mission of the conquest is lead in uncompromised visions of turning the savage natives into civilized society regardless of their cultural and historical background. Shaffer emphasizes the unscrupulous selfishness and ruthlessness impelled by sick ideology through which ‘the only truth’ and ‘the only right thoughts’ are delivered to the West Indian people. Furthermore, the vocabulary addressing the colonized nation is loaded with words and concepts such as “the land of Anti-Christ”, “Show them rigour!” and “pagan dust” (Shaffer “The Royal Hunt”) which, according to Said, are ideological formations carrying a message that certain territories and people ‘require’ domination (Culture 8).
Said, on the other hand, refers to an idea propagated by J.R. Seeley that some of the initial overseas territories were acquired ‘absentmindedly’, without any imperialistic concepts, but is very doubtful about this idea as it does not account for the persistence and systematized acquisition and administration of these empires (Culture 9). Then it is a matter of consideration whether Pizarro is a sole representative of colonial criticism or just an absent-minded explorer whose expansive adventures were not framed into structural concepts until later era of imperialism. He, therefore, can be perceived as a primitive anti-hero with personal ambitions to reach the heights of his life career or as the initiator of the colonization process which was later adopted and domesticated by the British.
Especially the communication between Pizarro and Atahuallpa reminds the practises the British colonizers employed in their overseas lands. Those included a certain respect to the native authorities and maintaining the intro-political agenda by the colonized. This progress in colonization was beneficial for both sides since it had been assumed that only the citizens who were culturally rooted to their territory could successfully manage the economy. This mechanism originated the common sense of the natives who remained in the colonies since the very first days. Concerning with the colonialist practices and imperialist ideology Said points out that despite the bitterness and humiliations of the experience, many native people believe they gained benefits in terms of liberal ideas, national self-consciousness and technological goods that over passed time made imperialism more humanized. In the post-colonial era they also deal better with the difficulties in the newly independent states (Culture 18).
From the post-modernist point of view the book caricatures Westerners rethinking of the colonization era, questioning the process of decolonization. It implies that western democracies feel a state of ingratitude since it was ‘them’ who provided ‘the others’ with order and stability that ‘they’ (the others) have lost and who had been given progress and modernization.
Said, referring to Rushdie’s The Satan Verses gives space to the theoretical thinking of some Third World intellectuals who claim that most of the present barbarities, tyrannies and degradations are ascribed to their own native histories before colonialism (Culture 23). That seems to contrast with Shaffer’s depiction of the West Indian social system (which can be referred to any colonized society) as harmonic and disciplined, with its people faithful to their chief.
Shaffer addresses the conflict between men’s free will and the will of the group. While the Inca worships his Sun-God freely, the Spaniards worship the King Carlos V and European traditions as if they were law. Shaffer depicts the conflict between “separate worship and codification” (The Royal Hunt vii). Atahuallpa is presented as a man who stands alone without the need of any attachment to socializing power or institution. He represents the value of being self and independent of any external control. Shaffer tends to back the native concepts strongly and structures the colonizers as undisciplined, argumentative, untruthful flaws who get overwhelmed by the impact of the manners and way of thinking of the colonized (de Ituarte 71):
ATAHUALLPA. All your pictures are of prisons and chains.
DE NIZZA. All life is chains. We are chained to food, and fire in the winter. To innocence lost but its memory unlost. And to needing each other.
ATAHUALLPA. I need no one. (Shaffer “The Royal Hunt” 49-50)
The Spaniards are intruders who gain superiority by employing a violent assault using western arsenal of weapons along with a scheme of institutions that demonstrate the western advanced social maturity. Shaffer deals with the greediness of the colonizers and the institutionalized patterns of western thinking, in his play represented Christianity imposed on the West Indians in Peru. He may share similar perspective of the pro-imperialistic role of Victorian novel with Said who in his Culture and Imperialism discusses the contribution of novelists, especially British novelists, to the process of colonization.
He considers that “the novel as a cultural artefact of bourgeois society and imperialism are unthinkable without each other”. Literally he claims that
Of all the major literary forms, the novel is the most recent, its emergence the most datable, its occurrence the most Western, its normative pattern of social authority the most structured. Imperialism and the novel fortified each other to such a degree that it is impossible, I would argue, to read one without in some way dealing with the other. (Culture 84)