Characters

  1. Christopher Columbus: Christopher Columbus was an Italian explorer and navigator who completed four voyages across the Atlantic Ocean.
  2. Don Pedro Gutierrez: An officer who worked under Columbus
  3. Pepe: Pepe was a young boy. He had great respect for Columbus. Pepe was an obedient, loyal, and devoted servant of Columbus.
  4. Juan Patino: One of the sailors
  5. Diego Garcia: another sailor
  6. Seamen
  7. Francisco: Sailor
  8. Guillermo Ires: Sailor

Introduction

‘The Discovery’, as suggested by the title, is a one-act play on the voyage of discovery taken up by Christopher Columbus. Columbus sets on a voyage with his crew in search of the new world under the orders of the Royal Sovereigns of Spain. The passage gets drawn out as even after days of the voyage there is no sign of the land. The seamen grow indisciplined and even officers like Pedro find the behavior of Columbus autocratic. Francisco warns Columbus that disciplining the crew is no longer possible. The crew gets more and more drunk and sailors like Diego and Guillermo openly show their defiance of Columbus.

Summary

Columbus Doesn’t Like to Listen to Seamen’s Song

In the opening scene, we see Juan getting concerned that captain Columbus will get angry if he heard the song of the seamen but Diego protested that they had the liberty to sing to keep up themselves feeling lively and entertained. Through the conversation of other seamen, it was revealed that they were not happy to follow the captain. Then came captain Columbus, he ordered Diego to correct the candle and to take his position at the quarter-deck because a man should know his place. The seamen again started singing and Pedro tried to defend the drunken seamen, Columbus blamed and said his tongue is his worst enemy as he is always in temper.

Then entered one of his servants called Pepe who always preferred Columbus’s company. He further tells him that he doesn’t speak to the other seamen and that everybody has doubts about Pedro except him. Columbus says to Pepe that he is young enough to have faith. Then, Pepe further replies that Seamen are horrible and sometimes desperate, but the song of the seamen did not give him any peace instead their noise keeps growing louder.

Pedro Tries to Control the Drunken Seamen But They Don’t Listen

Pedro comes to Columbus and informs that the seamen do not pay any attention to his orders and won’t stop singing. Columbus becomes furious and he finds somebody crawling about the deck and calls him but Pepe replies that they shall not. He says that the seamen believe that “The Santa Maria (the Ship) will be the lighter for his carcass”. Another crew member Francisco begs an excuse but Columbus talks about disciple and says that it has no buts and bids. He asked Don Pedro to call Guillermo Ires, who knows better what it is like in irons. Pedro observes Guillermo Ires and other seamen rushing in angry mass towards the captain growling like angry animals. Columbus warns that the first man who comes before him spends the rest of the night in irons. Nobody moved except Guillermo. Columbus says that if nobody works, he will perform it himself.

Guillermo expresses his disappointment and says that they all want to go home and Columbus had made them sheep. He further tells him that they will blow their way back home. Columbus appeals for silence. He praises Guillermo as an excellent sailor and an able-bodied seaman. He further told him to obey him as he is his captain. He sends him to his duties. The tone of authority calms all men. Later they make noise and they blame Columbus. They are about to stampede but Pepe spreads his arm out and prevents them from doing so and calls them cowards. But they blame Pepe as the dog.

Columbus Gives a Speech About Discipline and Loyalty

At this moment, Columbus goes for a speech. He makes clear his vision but he has discovered that Loyalty passes like seaweed, Friendship breaks as a mast hollowed by worms’ breaks, and Discipline, duty, and honorable obedience are bubbles that burst at the first contact but Pepe says that he is loyal and obedient. Pedro also says about his loyalty.

Then Columbus looks out at sea with fixed attention. He peers more earnestly into darkness. Here Juan says that they are all simple men. Guillermo doesn’t want to wait. However, Columbus remarks that simple men shall not judge their betters, and dark deeds are better done in the dark. Francisco says that desperate men do not always act up to the best that is in them.

Columbus doesn’t speak anything and then speaks to Don Pedro that he saw some faintly flickering light rising up and down. He drew their attention. Pedro is delighted. He said, ‘Glory be to God’ Blessed Mother of God, the voices proclaimed. A light, land’ Columbus ordered them to stop and the conflict was resolved.

Conclusion

Herman Ould’s play ‘The Discovery’ dramatizes the events on the last night of Christopher Columbus’ sailing expedition to search for a sea route to India. This story shows that Columbus is a man of discovery. Apart from discovering the new land, he has come to know about many things. First, he says, one has to depend on one’s vision, not on the support of others. For, loyalty is as temporary as the seaweeds on a tide. In the beginning, there may be some discipline, but soon it bursts like a balloon. Ultimately what remains is faith in oneself. The daring nature of Columbus survives till the end. and he attributes his success to the blessings of God. On the one hand, if we say that Columbus is impatient with the seamen, on the other we have to admit that as far as the pursuit of his goal is concerned, he is full of patience whereas other seamen are impatient and want to give up. Hence, when we consider the larger picture, we find Columbus possessing the virtues of purity, patience, and perseverance. Purity because he considers the expedition the will of God and pursues it with grit and determination. We should remember that, like the seamen, Columbus is also away from home and family. But he remains steadfast. As the captain of the ship, the pressure on him is much more. Being doubted all the time can be stressful. But Columbus withstands all this because of his love for his work and love for God’s mysteries.