Act I It is December 1823 and Spain’s King Ferdinand VII is in Madrid. Ferdinand discusses past, present, and future with his advisor, Francisco Tadeo Calomarde. Ferdinand has just been restored to the throne with help from the French, and he and Calomarde discuss what to do with his political enemies, the Liberals. Of special note is the letter that the king’s men have intercepted. It is from Francisco Goya to a friend. The letter contains words against Ferdinand, and for this Calomarde wants Goya hanged. Ferdinand appears calm and instructs Calomarde to arrange two meetings: first, with the commander-general of the Royal Volunteers, the king’s army/police; second, with Don Jose Duaso y Latre, a priest and chaplain to the king. Suspense is aroused as a result of Ferdinand’s order to Calomarde not to allow Father Duaso and the commander-general to see each other.
Scene two opens at the home of Goya, formerly the king’s painter. Goya lives with his mistress/ housekeeper, Leocadia Zorilla Weiss, who is legally married to someone else, but now estranged. Because Goya is deaf, he speaks to Leocadia in sign language, who signs back. Goya is, for unknown reasons, worried about his daughter and chastises Leocadia for allowing her to go out. When Goya goes out to look for Mariquita, Eugenio Arrieta, Goya’s friend and physician, enters and discusses the old painter alone with Leocadia. She tells Arrieta that Goya is insane. His paintings, says Leocadia, are a sure sign. In one painting, she thinks she is the model for a woman beheading a man (Judith and Holofernes), and is upset at the obscenity of another in which a man masturbates while two women look on (The Busybodies). Dr. Arrieta questions Leocadia, a woman less than half Goya’s age, about her and Goya’s sex life. Arrieta learns that Goya—now seventy-six years old—formerly had a robust sex drive that is now diminished. Arrieta finds that Leocadia also believes Goya crazy because he is unafraid of persecution by King Ferdinand. Leocadia says with all the king’s banishments, whippings, and executions of Liberals (those wanting to rein in the monarchy), Goya, a Liberal, should be fearful and escape. That he refuses indicates madness. When Goya enters and sees the doctor, Goya con- firms he is unafraid, even though he has just seen— having just returned from seeking his daughter—the Royal Volunteers near the house. Goya then talks to Arrieta about his paintings. Goya remarks that he was formerly brought before the Inquisition (1478– 1834), the infamous Catholic court, to account for painting a nude. Goya then confides he is hearing things and wonders if it means that his hearing is on the mend (throughout the play, Goya has auditory hallucinations heard by the audience over a sound system, but unheard by the characters). The doctor replies that Goya’s hearing is not returning, that Goya is indeed, irrevocably deaf. Leocadia now returns with news the king has decreed new repressive measures threatening Liberals and other enemies of the crown, but she only tells Arrieta. Then Goya tells the doctor he has seen flying men who Goya hopes will ‘‘put an end to all the cruelties in the world.’’ Arrieta advises Goya to escape but Goya says he must remain. The scene ends with Leocadia urging Goya to flee Spain.
Scene three opens in Goya’s home with Leocadia speaking with Gumersinda Goicoechea, Goya’s daughter-in-law. Gumersinda tells Leocadia she refuses to hide Goya from Ferdinand. When Gumersinda leaves, Goya tells Leocadia that he believes she is having an affair with a Royal Volunteer stationed near the estate....
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She denies it. Father Duaso arrives, sent by Ferdinand. There is some tension between Arrieta (who has also entered) and Duaso, who are, politically, on opposite sides. Goya now enters with news that someone has painted a threatening cross and written ‘‘heretic’’ on the door of his house. Duaso indicates that this kind of harassment will stop if Goya to apologizes to Ferdinand. Goya refuses. As Duaso leaves, a rock, with a threatening note attached, breaks through a window. Still, Goya refuses to leave.
Act II The king is speaking to Father Duaso, who is reporting on his trip to Goya’s. Duaso argues for Goya’s safety, but Ferdinand is far more interested in Goya’s submission. Though Ferdinand will not actively demand it, he does seem pleased that Goya feels somewhat threatened. Ferdinand affirms he will not rescind the decree making an assault against the property of Liberals pardonable for the reason that he wants to keep the Liberals afraid. Duaso is instructed to visit Goya again on December 23, but told not to arrive before 8:00. Ferdinand does not say why.
Goya is alone but listening to the voices in his head, especially that of his daughter, Mariquita. Mariquita tells him to look for the button from a Royal Volunteer’s uniform amongst Leocadia’s belongings. Mariquita fills Goya with suspicions of Leocadia having an affair. When Leocadia enters, Goya reveals his suspicion and shows her a button from an officer’s uniform. She denies any affair, but says an officer did give it to her outside the house and promised to return to get it. Goya doubts Leocadia’s story. Arrieta interrupts them and Leocadia exits. Goya tells Arrieta there have been no more threats since Arrieta last visited (Goya wonders to himself if Leocadia’s affair has kept the threats away). Goya is also worried that the letter he sent has not been answered. By scene’s end, Goya finally receives a letter from his friend asking why Goya has not written. Goya suddenly realizes his letter has been intercepted.
On December 23 at Father Duaso’s, the father and Doctor Arrieta are conferring before going to Goya’s. Arrieta says that Goya’s letter was intercepted and that he wants Duaso to convince Goya he is in mortal danger. Arrieta knows that the king has told Duaso not to leave before 8:00 but convinces Duaso that this indicates Goya could be in danger. Duaso agrees and both leave to try and save Goya.
At his home, Goya is dreaming. In his dream, he hears the voices of demons, part animal, part human (the audience is able to see them) accusing Goya of crimes and tormenting him. When he awakes, he hears beating at the door. Five Royal Volunteers have broken in. They tie Goya in a chair and place him on mock trial. Then they beat him. After, the sergeant rapes Leocadia, with Goya a helpless witness. When the Volunteers leave, Goya accuses Leocadia of having collaborated with the Volunteers. Goya threatens to shoot her, but comes to realize his jealousy has been a sign of his own weakness. As Leocadia ushers him out, Gumersinda enters and Goya (showing he has come to his senses) asks her for asylum. She refuses, saying it will put her family in danger. Angry, he slaps her. Then, as with Leocadia, Goya blames himself, realizing his reason has been sleeping. Duaso and Arrieta now enter too late to save Goya and Leocadia. To make up for what he has done, Duaso promises to provide Goya with temporary asylum until Goya can escape to France.