The Royal Hunt of the Sun begins in darkness with old Martin, a wealthy soldier of Spain, serving as chorus and providing exposition. His function is to provide an eyewitness account of how the aging Francisco Pizarro, with a scruffy expeditionary army of 167, conquered an empire of 24 million Incans. “This story is about ruin,” he says. “Ruin and gold.” It is also a story of vaulting ambition and colonial greed. The mature Martin Ruiz rues the day he first set eyes upon Pizarro.
The action then shifts back in time some forty years to Trujillo, in Spain, where Pizarro is recruiting soldiers for his Peruvian expedition. Young Martin, a boy of fifteen, well schooled in the codes of chivalry and an idealistic advocate of his king and Roman Catholicism, is enlisted, along with others: Diego, who becomes master of horse; Salinas, the blacksmith; Rodas, the tailor; and the Chavez brothers, Juan and Pedro.
The second scene introduces Valverde, the Dominican chaplain; his associate, the Franciscan de Nizza; Pedro de Candia, a cavalier from Venice, in charge of weapons; and the arrogant Miguel Estete, overseer in the name of King Carlos V, who threatens to challenge Pizarro’s authority in the New World. The expedition departs into the forest at the end of the scene.
Scene 3 introduces the god-king Atahuallpa, Sovereign Inca of Peru; Villac Umu, his high priest; and Challcuchima, his general. Atahuallpa believes that the White God is coming to bless him. This naïve belief will be his undoing.
Thereafter, the action continues to alternate between the Incan court, fortified high in the mountains, and the approaching Spanish army. After six weeks, the army passes through...
(The entire section is 705 words.)