Francisco Pizarro (pee-ZAH-roh), a sixty-three-year-old soldier of fortune who sets out to conquer Peru, the land of gold. He starts out with a neat uniform and a trimmed beard, but his appearance deteriorates as the play progresses. A bastard, born of peasant stock, he joined the army to seek glory and escape poverty, but he was never rewarded for his valor. At one time, he would have been satisfied with a title and a pension, but now he wants immortal fame. A disillusioned man, he no longer believes in the honor of war, loyalty to country, or the power of riches. Haunted by the ravages of time and faced with the inevitability of his death, he is looking for a god to replace his youthful hope and his lost faith. He forms a bond with Atahuallpa, the Inca ruler, who promises to rise from the dead especially for Pizarro. When the Indian fails him, the Spaniard is left in despair.
Atahuallpa (ah-tah-HWAHL-pah), the sovereign Inca of Peru, son of the Sun God, a tall, thirty-three-year-old Indian dressed in ceremonial garb, complete with a gold crown and a jeweled mask. A bastard who killed his brother to gain the Inca throne, he rules with godlike power. Believing that Pizarro is a white god come to bless him, he eagerly greets the Spaniards, who eventually capture him. With his ransom set at a room full of gold, he is held prisoner by Pizarro and forms a fraternal relationship with the old man, teaching him how to dance and celebrate life. Compassionately aware that Pizarro has lost faith in God and confident in his own immortality, Atahuallpa promises to rise from the dead after the Spaniards strangle him.
Old Martin, a grizzled old man in his mid-fifties, dressed in the traditional black costume of a mid-sixteenth century Spanish hidalgo. He is a lifetime soldier who has earned a fortune fighting and plundering for his country. As a weary and disillusioned warrior, he sadly recollects the conquest of Peru and his own adulation for Pizarro. As narrator, he describes the scenes, explains the actions of the men involved, and tries to come to terms with himself as a young boy. After narrating the story of the conquest, he is left with a sense of despair at the waste and ruin of an entire nation.
Young Martin, Pizarro’s fifteen-year-old page, who can read, write, and later translate. As a naïve young man full of dreams of glory, honor, and chivalry, he worships...
(The entire section is 1056 words.)