The Royal Hunt of the Sun: Peter Shaffer and the quest for God


  • Maite de Ituarte



Shaffer, Peter, The Royal Hunt of the Sun, Literatura inglesa, Teatro, Dioses, Ritos


This paper wishes to establish how Peter Shaffer's great subject in his later plays and very particularly in The Royal Hunt of the Sun is the quest for some kind of god. The aging and spiritually depleted Pizarro embarks on a military and economic expedition which turns into a last-ditch spiritual quest for the Sun God Atahuallpa. After discussing the source for the play and the possible influence of Eugene O'Neill and Antonin Artaud, the essay goes on to demonstrate that god-hunting supplies the dramatic structure for Shaffer's masterpiece and that the multiplicity of gods is the source of dramatic conflict within the structure. It often seems as if Shaffer actually would like to believe that his dramas reflect a battle of wills between a role-player and a person who is so unstructured and unrestricted that he is literally a primitive. In The Royal Hunt of the Sun, Shaffer is able to realize his dream and begins to associate the ritual with the primitive characters found in the play. Through the ritual, Pizarro is able to mature and, for the first time in his life, he learns how false his life has been. By his nonrealistic intermingling of space and time, Shaffer forces his audiences to embark on a god-hunt along with his characters.


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How to Cite

Ituarte, Maite de. 1990. “The Royal Hunt of the Sun: Peter Shaffer and the Quest for God”. Alicante Journal of English Studies / Revista Alicantina De Estudios Ingleses, no. 3 (November):67-75.