(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

“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.

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...

(The entire section is 628 words.)