The Merchant of Scundia is an old Remonian play written by William Veer. It's a racist, black comedy story set in Scundia but actually has a rather deep message about tolerance and the dangers of prejudiced beliefs.
The Merchant of Scundia was written by the noted Remonian playwright William Veer who used it as an opportunity to not only mock the denizens of Scundia and comment on the somewhat ruthless practices of the Bank of Wealthy Hands but also to discuss what is ultimately the value between man and other races and whether any culture is superior to the other. Although the play's antagonist, Cravenbolt the demon, can be seen as villainous due to being a demon and a moneylender, he has a sympathetic side to him, and his villainy stems from reason. The play's heroes, likewise, have a darker, selfish side to them, thus blurring the line between good and evil.
The play was thought-provoking in its subject matter, but the crowds who watched it merely saw the crude, racist exterior and failed to look deeper within to find the play's true message about tolerance. Because of this misinterpretation, many troupes have simply performed the play in a straightforward manner as a black comedy, not caring to look deeper to find the subtly hidden layers of complexity.
When Alent needed entertainment to keep the agitated Sarquil refugees pacified after the Threshold riots in 1017 AE, an innkeeper contacted the Midnight Circus, a travelling actors' troupe, and asked them to perform for the crowd. The merchant Javan al-Kassis ended up directing the troupe which actually consisted of demonic infilrators of the Northern Horde who were keeping him prisoner.
Realizing that he could affect people's minds with the play's still relevant content and perhaps make them see the Threshold demons in a more sympathetic light, Javan steered the play to make a subtle political and philosophical statement, punctuated by him playing the part of Cravenbolt, the play's vilified yet ultimately sympathetic demon antagonist.
- "Cravenbolt's a demon, but he's not like you. He lives on the edge of a foreign society. He's worked hard for every scrap of power and success he has, and over the next several hours he's going to lose everything he ever had; his wealth, his beliefs, and his family. And be laughed at for it. Cravenbolt is going to fail, utterly and completely. You want this play to not fall flat on its face? Let me go out there, and channel the best angry, frustrated, and fatalistic demon you can imagine. You guys just stick to being quirky and suffering minor setbacks."
- —Javan al-Kassis explaining to his captors why he should play the role of Cravenbolt
The down on his luck Vulgassio wishes to borrow money from his friend Marcello, the eponymous merchant of Scundia, to woo the quite woo-able, and quite rich, Cornelia. Despite Marcello being a well to do merchant, he's a bit strapped for cash at the moment, so the two friends turn to the ever villainous demon sorcerer Cravenbolt. In exchange for payment in the future, Cravenbolt will provide all the necessary ornaments and accoutrements to Vulgassio. However, being that Marcello and Cravenbolt have some bad blood between them, the price Cravenbolt asks of the Merchant should he fail to repay his debt is a pound of his flesh.
Due to the demon's trickery, ultimately Marcello ends up owing a pound of his flesh to him, but Marcello refuses to pay, which leads to a trial where Cravenbolt demands compensation. Meanwhile Vulgassio is successful wooing Cornelia who comes to the friends' aid and eventually manages to outwit Cravenbolt and humiliate him in front of the crowd and the judges in the courtroom, ending the dispute without shedding blood.
A list of characters:
- Cravenbolt - a demon moneylender
- Marcello - a merchant of Scundia
- Vulgassio - Marcello's friend; suitor to Cornelia
- Cornelia - a rich heiress
- Divinitio, Reithance, Severino, Severiano - friends of Marcello and Vulgassio
During the performance in Alent, the parts were played as follows: Cravenbolt (Javan al-Kassis), Marcello (Vassago), Vulgassio (Distreyd Thanadar XIII), Cornelia (Tarna), and the rest by several members of the Northern Horde's infiltrators.
Excerpt from the PlayEdit
The curtain pulls aside to reveal a sullen MARCELLO nursing a drink, flanked by his attendants SEVERIANO and SEVERINO, the former cautiously optimistic and the latter optimistically cautious.
I know not where this my disease is born,
But I fear it will be the end of me.
It wearies me as it must weary you.
Much ado to know myself is found here.
Your mind is tumbling on the trade routes;
There, the caravans of spice and mirth.
Uneven wheels cackling in the ill wind.
Its full belly eyed by hungry jackals.
Had I such a venture forth, I would to
Be worried, mooning out ev’ry window.
In such times, all things bring fear to one's mind
And all one's thoughts turn to misfortune.
Would make me sad.
Alas, no. My ventures are not in one
Expedition trusted, nor in one location.
My estates are multitudinous.
Therefore my merchandise makes me not sad.
Why, then, you are in love!
Nor in love is besotted Marcello?
Though I suppose I spoke without thought,
Who could Marcello love?
Enter VULGASSIO accompanied by REITHANCE and DIVINITIO.
Ah, here comes noble Vulgassio now,
Your dearest kinsman and both your good friends
Reithance and Divinitio.
Let now Severino and I away.
Would that I could have brought cheer to your tears
Had not those more qualified arrived.
I hold both of you more than qualified
But I shall not hold you from your own work.
Good morrow, my good lords.
You good men both deprive us of your cheer
When shall we next enjoy your company?
We shall attend our respites to yours.
Exeunt SEVERIANO and SEVERINO.
Marcello found, we too take our leave.
At dinner-time, we shall reconvene.
Remember, remember, the place of our
I will not fail you.
Signior Marcello, you possess an angst.
You hold too much value upon the world.
Those that do find themselves in the exchange
I hold the world but as the world, Divinitio;
A stage where every man must play a part,
And mine a sad one.
Let me play the Fool:
Let my bones ache with the fullness of life,
Worn down by the enjoyment of all things.
Why should we, born with this gift of life,
Let it fester in a fugue of ill and
Dark humor? I tell thee what, Marcello--
I love thee, and it is my love that speaks--
There are men who imagine themselves so wise
They reject all foreign seemings of life,
And cling to all old and familiar ways.
They are nothing but old and standing ponds,
Growing stagnant and putrid with their age.
It is the rushing and moving rivers
That retain their purity of essence!
But fish not, with this melancholy bait,
For this fool gudgeon, this opinion.
Come, good Reithance. Fare ye well awhile:
I'll end my exhortation after dinner.