Examine how Shaffer's use of stagecraft contributes to the themes and ideas of The Royal Hunt of the Sun

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Examine how Shaffer’s use of stagecraft contributes to the themes and ideas of the play

The title of the play “The Royal Hunt of the Sun”, instantly suggests a story about a thrilling quest or an epic adventure.  To create a piece of drama that is compatible to it’s title, Shaffer includes many elements in the play, which are involved with the many complex themes that are threaded into a play that consists of only two acts.  Shaffer incorporates many stage effects that appeal to almost all of the audience’s senses, to create a memorable performance. Most of them are visual, like his choice of props, lighting and costume. Music also plays a big part of this production. Shaffer cleverly uses all of these elements and combines it with some of the main themes he wants to convey and translates on to the stage for the audience to enjoy, and question the meanings behind the story.

One of the central themes portrayed consistently throughout the play is religion. In the first scene, the unusually close relationship between religion and violence is already conveyed through the first prop shown on the “bare stage” – “four black crucifixes, sharpened to resemble swords”. The “bare stage” allows the audience’s attention to be immediately drawn to the contradicting prop placed on the “back wall”. Christianity is clearly and strictly against violence, yet the symbol of Christianity is somewhat associated with a weapon – “sword[s]”.  The unusual combination of the two themes foreshadows the future conflicting ideas to the audience.  This is only one of the examples where Shaffer conceals a theme in a prop. In scene 2, an “immense wooden Christ” is “b[orne]” by Valverde the priest. This perhaps suggests the importance of religion at the time, and that it is a major theme in the oncoming play.

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To further extend the theme of violence, Shaffer shows the various “relentless” and “savage” like behaviour of Pizarro and his crew. One of the most dominant scenes that display this brutality is right at the end of Act 1 – “The Mime of the Great Massacre”. Before this episode Shaffer creates surprising moments to build up to the final outbreak of the “massacre”.  “Instantly from all sides the soldiers rush in” –  this creates an element of surprise especially because of the number of people who suddenly enter the stage from “all sides”. While the audience is still overwhelmed ...

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