I was in Cajamarca, Peru, a couple of weeks ago and my friends and I were at the main square when I just started wondering how things had really happened for the last king of the Incas in that vey place some centuries ago. Then my friend Sara Walker asked me if I had read Peter Shaffer’s play about the last days of the Inca empire. I told her that everyhing I knew about Peter Shaffer was Amadeus, because of the film. A few days after arriving from Peru I received a pack with the book – Sara’s present.
I really would like to watch a performance of the play, but for a while I’ll have to do with just reading it, which was already a intriguing experience. Along the pages I had to force myself to see Cajamarca in the 16th century at the same time that images of our days there kept popping up in my mind.
It is a short but complex play, without clear-cut division between good and evil, conqueror and conquered. I confess that I almost pitied Pizzarro at the end and quite despised Atahuallpa for being so naive, vain and irresponsible towards his people. Of course, post-colonial readings here are almost a must, but I wouldn’t limit myself to them since power relations are entangled with strong psychological dependence among characters making psychoanalytical criticism and cultural materialism also valid ways to approach the text.
Shaffer, P. (1981) The Royal Hunt of the Sun. London: Penguin.