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The King In Yellow (Reconstructing The Play)

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Only a tiny amount of the titular play is actually given by Robert W. Chambers in his book The King In Yellow, consisting of:

plus a reference to the last lines of the first act.

The similarity of the poem opening the story The Yellow Sign to Cassilda's Song suggests it too may be from the play, although this is unspecified. Beyond these, anything else is conjecture.

Descriptions of the PlayEdit

Chambers offers some idea of what might be in the play, but only tangentially and it is unclear exactly what is written in the play and what is inferred by the characters reading it due to their connection with Carcosa and the King in Yellow.

For example, it is unclear whether the following extract from The Repairer of Reputations is based more on the 'actual' play or the madness of the story's narrator Hildred Castaigne, who tells us:

He [Mr. Wilde] mentioned the establishment of the Dynasty in Carcosa, the lakes which connected Hastur, Aldebaran and the mystery of the Hyades. He spoke of Cassilda and Camilla, and sounded the cloudy depths of Demhe, and the lake of Hali. "The scalloped tatters of the King in Yellow must hide Yhtill forever," he muttered, but I do not believe Vance heard him. Then by degrees he led Vance along the ramifications of the Imperial family, from Naotalba and Phantom of Truth, to Aldones, and then tossing aside his manuscript and notes, he began the wonderful story of the Last King.

– yet it is nevertheless almost single-handedly responsible for introducing a great many of the (relatively small band of) characters, places and/or concepts generally understood to be part of the Yellow Mythos in its various forms; in several cases it is their only mention in the original stories. Whole worlds of fiction have been built upon this, a handful of cryptic references from possibly a deluded madman.

Perhaps more reliable is this from The Yellow Sign, in the final pages before the two protagonists die after reading The King In Yellow's play script:

Night fell and the hours dragged on, but still we murmured to each other of the King and the Pallid Mask, and midnight sounded from the misty spires in the fog-wrapped city. We spoke of Hastur and of Cassilda, while outside the fog rolled against the blank window-panes as the cloud waves roll and break on the shores of Hali. [...] And now I heard him moving very softly along the hall. Now he was at the door, and the bolts rotted at his touch.

Dramatis PersonaeEdit

Only Camilla, Cassilda and the Stranger are actually named by Chambers as characters in the play. It may be assumed that 'characters' such as Aldones, Naotalba, Phantom of Truth, Uoht and Thale are present in the play thanks to their mention by Hildred Castaigne, although it is equally possible that they are only linked through his claim to be an heir of some sort to the throne of Carcosa.

StructureEdit

It is believed that the play consists of at least two acts, and probably no more than these two, as this is all that is mentioned by Chambers and the dichotomy between the banal first act and the horrific second act makes any more superfluous. However, The River of Night's Dreaming implies three or more acts ("But you haven't read beyond the second act, dear Cassilda.")

Additions to the PlayEdit

Some authors have added their own play fragments to the mix, whilst others (such as James Blish and, following his lead, Lin Carter) have attempted to reconstruct the play in its entirety. It is these latter attempts at reconstruction that have defined the roles of many of the characters who, otherwise, were nothing but names in the original, as well as adding new characters such as The Child. Despite seeing print, they have no veracity and other authors need not feel bound to follow their lead unless they wish to.

Attempted ReconstructionsEdit


See also First Act and Second Act

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