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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 628

“This story is about ruin,” says Martin Ruiz at the beginning. Old Martin, a soldier of Spain now worth millions, serves as the chorus, telling the story of how Francisco Pizarro, a man in his sixties, managed to conquer an empire of twenty-four million Incans with an expeditionary army of one hundred and sixty-seven men. Ruiz regrets the day he first set eyes upon Pizarro.

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The action then goes back forty years, when Pizarro is recruiting soldiers in Spain for his Peruvian expedition. Young Martin, at the age of fifteen, is schooled in the codes of chivalry and is an idealistic advocate of his king and religion. He eagerly enlists his services. The next scene introduces the churchmen: Valverde, the Dominican chaplain; his associate, the Franciscan de Nizza; Pedro de Candia, cavalier from Venice, in charge of weapons; and the arrogant Miguel Estete, overseer in the name of King Carlos who threatens to challenge Pizarro’s authority in the New World. The expedition departs into the forest.

The third scene introduces the God-king Atahuallpa, sovereign Inca of Peru; Villac Umu, his high priest; and Challcuchima, his general. Atahuallpa believes the white god is coming to bless him. This naïve belief will be his undoing.

The action alternates between the Inca court, fortified high in the mountains, and the approaching Spanish army. After six weeks, the army passes through the forest and arrives at the border of the Inca Empire, finding a road fifteen feet wide. The army is met there by the Incan General Challcuchima, who brings commands that the Spaniards should visit the God-king at Cajamaarca, a month’s march up into the mountains. After the Spaniards arrive, the sovereign Inca demands to see their god, whom he believes to be Pizarro. Valverde, angered by this blasphemy, orders Pizarro to attack. The first act ends with the mime of the great massacre. The Incans are massacred and Atahuallpa is taken hostage. Pizarro crowns himself king.

Act 2, “The Kill,” is about the conflict between Pizarro and the captive Atahuallpa, who still has the power and authority to crush Pizarro and his army. Communication is at first complicated by Felipillo, the treacherous Incan interpreter, who lusts after the Inca’s wife, but young Martin has learned enough of the Incan language to recognize Felipillo’s deceit and advises Pizarro. The tactful and honest Martin from that point forward becomes the interpreter, and he is therefore...

(The entire section contains 628 words.)

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