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    Literature in the Flanaess - The History Plays of Liam Wilspare
    Posted on Sat, May 06, 2006 by Dongul
    gvdammerung writes "The Bard. Of Greyhawk. His history plays include:

    King Thrommel
    Oeridianus Rex
    Rhola & Neheli, Part I
    Rhola & Neheli, Part II
    Rhola & Neheli, Part III
    The Taming of Iuz
    The Two Crowns

    Get your first folios!

    Literature in the Flanaess - The History Plays of Liam Wilspare
    By: Glenn Vincent Dammerung, aka GVDammerung
    Posted with permission. Do not repost without permission from the author.

    The towering literary figure of the Flanaess in the early 600's is Liam Wilspare of Willip in Furyondy. A poet, actor and playwright, Wilspare began his career as a traveling bard, performing works of his own composition with a troupe of fellow performers. While such performances are still Wilspare’s chief trade, written copies of his compositions have proven just as popular as his performances. Copies of his plays, sonnets and ballads have circulated throughout the Flanaess to universal acclaim, allowing Wilspare to stop traveling and open a renowned theater in Willip, The Round Theater. Wherever one goes, bards include Wilspare’s poems and ballads in their repertoires, and actors perform Wilspare’s plays. It is the later for which the Bard of Willip is best known.

    Wilspare’s plays may be usefully categorized as histories, tragedies and comedies. In each, Wilspare demonstrates an amazing ability to depict and comment upon the human condition, while losing nothing of the particular story that is being unfolded to the audience. This, and a capacity to scale the heights of drama and navigate the intricacies of comedy with equal skill, mark Wilspare as a genius in his field. This genius has been recognized by the crown of Furyondy that has chosen to personally patronize the Bard. His theatrical company, alone in Furyondy, may style themselves royal players - The Royal Wilspare Company. This Company regularly performs at the Round Theater in Willip but will also mount brief stands in Dyvers and Chendl, usually for a fortnight of lucrative performances.

    Before becoming more confident in his abilities and daring in his compositions, Wilspare concentrated on plays that had as their subject matter the obsession of much of the Flanaess - its history. Such plays had a built in audience and were almost guaranteed to be financially successful. While a shrewd business move, the power of these plays immediately established Wilspare as a playwright of note. His success was assured, not merely through business acumen, but through genuine ability.

    Each of the history plays published to date are discussed below. Editions represent the first published version of the play, which is usually a year or two after the first actual performance.

    King Thrommel
    by Liam Wilspare (1 Volume)
    1st Edition - 578 CY

    Note - King Thrommel was actually written and performed a number of years prior to its technical publication and circulated in monographs. Few such monographs survive and are as prized as the first folio edition.

    King Thrommel is one of Wilspare’s earliest works. It is obviously intended to curry favor with a home town audience. While successful, it is not of the same quality as later works. Wilspare’s desire to please is too evident and favor is too readily seen to be curried. Nonetheless, King Thrommel is more than competently written. It is entertaining certainly and there are glimpses of what will come to be recognized as Wilspare’s unique genius. King Thrommel remains vastly popular in Furyondy and is annually performed in Chendl.

    The story itself is straightforward. The tale is told of the founding of Furyondy from the earlier Vice-Royalty of Ferrond. In its presentation, this play is one of the most historically accurate. Liberties are taken as certain events are dramatized for affect but nothing deviates from actual historic accounts. The treatment of the Aerdi is passing. They are not the villains of the piece, save in absentia. King Thrommel responds more to necessity than any particular provocation of the sort that makes for high drama.

    Oeridianus Rex
    by Liam Wilspare (1 Volume)
    1st Edition - 579 CY

    Note - Oeridianus Rex was actually written and performed a number of years prior to its technical publication and circulated in monographs. Few such monographs survive and are as prized as the first folio edition.

    Oeridianus Rex is another early work. It is displays, however, distinctly more ambition than King Thrommel, with which it is almost always compared. The story is that of the migration of the Oeridians, with a particular emphasis on the rise of the Aerdi in the Eastern Flanaess. The play is in all ways complimentary to Oeridian sensibilities but does not shy away from unflattering incidents along the road to eventual triumph and greatness. The sweep of the play foreshadows the grandeur of the Rhola & Neheli cycle.

    If Rhola & Neheli made Wilspare a superstar with an international following, Oeridianus Rex first made him a star. In every land with large Oeridian populations, Oeridianus Rex was an immense and immediate sensation. Wilspare and his company received invitations to travel to the Great Kingdom and perform before the Overking but, probably wisely, declined. The company did travel to the City of Greyhawk and to Mitrik, outside their normal touring schedule, and were rapturously received for nearly a month in each locale.

    Rhola & Neheli, Part I
    by Liam Wilspare (1 Volume)
    1st Edition - 580 CY

    Note - The first folio edition is extremely rare as it was published speculatively and in very small numbers. One copy is known to be held by the Royal Library in Niole Dra.

    Rhola & Neheli Part I tells the story of the two royal houses of Keoland in the late Suel Imperium through the Rain of Colorless. The Suel are depicted as vile and evil, the Rhola and Neheli being the best of a bad lot. This is in accord with general Oeridian opinion. Wilspare, however, allows the Suel an evil dignity that has found for the Rhola & Neheli plays an acceptance even in Keoland. The Suel of the plays are neither comic nor craven villains. They are evil but convinced of their goodness.

    The staging of Rhola & Neheli Part I is spectacular. The sets depicting the old Suel Imperium never fail to impress and the costumes are equally fantastic. The highlight of the play is, of course, the Rain of Colorless Fire, which comes in the last act. Slerotin is ostensibly the hero of the play, allowing some of the Suel to be saved, most notably, of course, the titular characters. Anazatos of Rhola and Nelerose of Neheli are the respective protagonists of their houses. Whether either was an actual historic figure is something that now obsesses some scholars. The villains are the Suel themselves, not the Baklunish, who never appear on stage.

    Rhola & Neheli, Part II
    by Liam Wilspare (1 Volume)
    1st Edition - 582 CY

    Note - Like Part I, the first folio edition is extremely rare as it was published speculatively and in very small numbers. One copy is known to be held by the Royal Library in Niole Dra.

    Rhola & Neheli Part II continues the story of the two royal houses of Keoland. Anazatos and Nelerose are now old and their grandchildren take center stage. The story follows the two houses through Slerotin’s passage and into the Flanaess proper. Considered controversial are the depiction of Slerotin and the relationship between Ranus of Rhola and Solemeni of Neheli. Slerotin, something of a hero in Part I, is now the villain of the piece, attempting to bind all of the Suel in the new land of the Flanaess to himself and his reign. He is opposed successfully, not by the heads of the Rhola and Neheli, who appear rather ineffectual, but by lesser scions of these houses - Ranus and Solemeni, who become lovers. Historians are again split on how much history is actually depicted.

    The staging of Rhola & Neheli Part II is by no means as spectacular as Part I but the drama and characterizations are far richer. Slerotin is a mighty but subtle villain and the love affair between Ranus and Solemeni adds urgency to the fight against his tyranny. In the final act, Solemeni sacrifices herself that Slerotin can be defeated and Ranus. However, with Slerotin defeated, Ranus does not long survive his love, choosing suicide to life without Solemeni. A huge success, Rhola & Neheli Part II drew both strongly negative and positive reaction in Keoland, where Slerotin is something of a national hero but where the sacrifices of Ranus and Solemeni spoke strongly to the royal houses there.

    Rhola & Neheli, Part III
    by Liam Wilspare (1 Volume)
    1st Edition - 590 CY

    Note - The first of Wilspare’s first folio editions to see a fair distribution, this volume is by far the easiest of the Rhola & Neheli plays to find in the first edition.

    Rhola & Neheli Part III was produced and published with the highest of expectations, given the success of the first two installments. Wilspare did not disappoint. Where Part I was full of spectacular sets and Part II featured political intrigue and drama leading up to a climatic showdown, Part III introduced epic battles like none staged before. The story focuses on General Thoxatin and his efforts to defeat opponents of the Suel in the Sheldomar and have himself crowned king. He is thus both hero and villain - brave, determined, cunning and ruthless. When he is brought low before the Great Council of Niole Dra, the audience is left uncertain whether to weep or applaud.

    The staging of this play makes great use of light and shadow effects to produce the epic battle scenes without employing many dozens of extra actors. General Thoxatin is given a number of memorably grandiose soliloquies. Among the most notable is his last before the Great Council where he makes veiled reference to some great disaster. "Antique writ shall not rest, nor potence be shriven within a grave. None living may speak or know its like, save wholly ignorant in bliss enjoy, a doubly false seeming of mein and might, that can but see the world enslaved." Scholars continue to debate the precise meaning of this reference. It is commonly read as an imprecation against Houses Rhola and Neheli. An alternative reading has it a warning to the Rhola and Neheli, who condemn Thoxatin, of some hidden danger. In Keoland, this line is stricken from the play.

    The Taming of Iuz
    by Liam Wilspare (1 Volume)
    1st Edition - 586 CY

    Note - In addition to the first folio edition, there is said to exist a "black binding edition" bound in human skin and commissioned by Iuz in very small number.

    The Taming of Iuz tells the story of Iuz’ capture and imprisonment beneath Castle Greyhawk. The point of view is that of none of the principles. Rather, the story is told from the perspective of Roskran and Greensleeve, two disreputable types in the employ of Lord Robilar, who never appears on stage. Roskran and Greensleeve are classically unreliable narrators and it is possible to read the play in a number of ways. Wilspare employs brilliant plays on words and double entendres that leave viewers spellbound but uncertain of what that takes place is truth and what the product of the narrator’s vices. The public reaction to The Taming of Iuz illustrates the point.

    A huge hit in Furyondy, The Taming of Iuz was also a huge hit with Iuz! Where the Furyondians saw their nemesis brought low, Iuz saw himself terribly set upon and martyred by lesser beings. The Furyondians cheered Iuz’ fall. Iuz applauded the sanctioning treatment of his wrongful imprisonment at the hands of vainglorious fools. Thus, was the "black binding edition" born. Iuz wanted his own first edition. Wilspare threaded the needle. If rumors are to be believed, Wilspare saved his own life by not offending Iuz but also in garnering Iuz’ protection when attempts were made on the playwright’s life by parties unknown after Rhola & Neheli Part III was published.

    The Two Crowns
    by Liam Wilspare (1 Volume)
    1st Edition - 587 CY

    Note - The first folio edition was published as a double royal folio with a royal binding, featuring the arms of Nyrond. It was published in Rel Mord and marks the only publication of a first edition outside of Willip.

    The most recent history play to be published by Liam Wilspare, The Two Crowns tells the story of the founding of Nyrond. The villains are clearly the Aerdi of the Great Kingdom, and this volume, as well as any performance, has been banned in Aerdi, with the exception of Rel Astra. This play marks the beginning of Wilspare’s tenuous relationship with the Aerdi successor states. While Oeridianus Rex was welcomed throughout Aerdi and is still performed, The Two Crowns and the tragedy, Naelax Agonistes, have soured Wilspare’s reputation in those lands. At the same time, however, he has grown ever more popular in Nyrond. Had not Furyondy extended royal patronage to the Bard of Willip, it is entirely possible the crown of Nyrond might have done so.

    A standing invitation for the Royal Wilspare Company to travel to and perform in Rel Mord has been extended. The crown of Nyrond has also offered patronage for Wilspare to produce two more plays that would, with The Two Crowns, compose a "Nyrond Cycle," in the manner of the Rhola & Neheli Cycle. To date, neither offer has been accepted. Perhaps, this is because something of an "Aerdi Cycle" exists in Oeridianus Rex, the tragedy Naelex Agonistes, and The Two Crowns. Literary scholars continue to debate whether such a cycle exists, with some in favor of the proposition arguing for King Thrommel to be given equal place with The Two Crowns, even though the latest history is far superior in composition to the very early King Thrommel.

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    Re: Literature in the Flanaess - The History Plays of Liam Wilspare (Score: 1)
    by Wolfsire on Mon, May 08, 2006
    (User Info | Send a Message | Journal)
    Great job GVD.  One of the things I love about L2, Assassins’ Knot is the theater because it provides a venue for advancing the plot different from the ubiquitous inn.  It is somewhat of a disappointment that that module does not have a description of the plays, etc. that can be seen.  Having some from a playwright everyone can relate to will certainly come in handy for that purpose (I recall the play within the play in Hamlet) as well as for providing background information to color in the Flanaess for players.  Thanks.

    Re: Literature in the Flanaess - The History Plays of Liam Wilspare (Score: 1)
    by Scottenkainen on Sat, May 20, 2006
    (User Info | Send a Message)
    Culturally, I felt the Flanaess was about a century too young for Shakespeare (or I would have stole from him myself!).  However, I concede this is mere nitpicking when compared to the quality of the conversion from reality to Greyhawk.

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