"The Play's The Thing"
"These darts and arrows will pierce my outer shell, but will not disparage the contents within." Developcus from Shakeyspeare's Urbania, Act 17, Scene 11.
Some of you may remember this lesser known play. I've been watching it play out recently. For those who are not as familiar, there are four main characters:
Developcus: the builder. This character, like so many Greek tragedy personas is not what he seems. At first he is presented as only after his own specific interests. As the play unfolds, it becomes more and more apparent that while his motives still contain self-interest, he is willing to work with the other characters to create a meaningful compromise.
Populas: one of the characters with the least dialogue, this character represents the people of Urbania and the surrounding area.
Statius: one of the more powerful and ancient gods, this character makes the general rules of the society.
Commissionii: this is the five-headed demigod whose sole purpose is to benefit Populas. In an unusual twist on the common Greek tragedy, this character is actually elected to his position.
When the play opens, Commissionii is hard at work speaking to Populas about the various mechanisms it will use to enhance their lives and communities. The areas under Commissionii control have been plagued by a monster, (somewhat like the Beowulf poem's character Grendel) called APFO. This monster continues to grow, but the Commissionii is unable to restrain its excesses. Populas is continually having to feed APFO and feels as if they see little benefit.
Developcus was working on various projects well in advance of the current Commissionii. These projects were very large and took Developcus much more time than previous Commissionii planned.
Developcus came to Commissionii requesting more time to complete the projects, which he argued would help Populas. Developcus had been working years at the projects and had many in the Populas who believed his work was good and beneficial. Developcus had made numerous tithes and gifts to Populas and the Commissionii had generally been pleased with Developcus.
But the monster APFO was constantly at the door. Commissionii had been working on plans to defeat the monster APFO. One head of the Commissionii was making talk that if a "gift" were offered to APFO that may pacify the monster. Never before had a demigod requested a "gift" for their decision. Populas wondered if Commissionii was now willing to trade their ethical behavior for some 'in kind' relationship.
Another head of Commissionii, Gardnia, presented a plan to cut off the arms of APFO. While this would not kill the monster, it was thought it might keep it at bay. When Developcus came before the Commissionii, this latter proposal was presented in exchange for giving Developcus more time to complete his projects. Developcus thought about the proposal.
As no one had ever seen the monster APFO, no one was sure of the number of arms possessed by the monster. Commissionii told Developcus that this would not be an issue, and they would work with Developcus to ensure all arms were captured.
Developcus already had all necessary documents for completion of his projects. Taking on the monster APFO would be a very dangerous quest and one which would give Developcus nothing in return except the potential for more time. What much of Populas did not realize was, if Developcus took on this quest, the monster APFO may well be able to grow more arms or other characters may enter the play and feed the monster APFO, making the quest almost unattainable.
Developcus came to Commissionii due to the size of his projects. They were very large. Developcus did not want Populas to have to bear the burden of his projects being finished without forethought. His projects had been planned and under work for many years, but due to their size, pushing forward slowly would provide both Populas and Commissionii a chance to hear about and consider possible changes which would benefit Populas.
Either way, Developcus was going to finish his projects, but if they could be slowed, then they may not feed the monster APFO to the same extent. And the Commissionii and Populas would have more time to determine the best mechanism to contain the monster APFO. If Developcus took on the monster by himself, he could lose the right to finish his existing projects or may have to provide substantial "gifts" to the monster APFO.
Developcus decided to push ahead with his projects and get them in the ground. He had new ideas and options, but these would take the priests and under-lords of Commissionii years to review. They simply could not be accomplished in the timeframe given. No new options for Populas, only a quick build by Developcus.
The play ends without Developcus completing his projects, so no one knows how it affected Populas. What is perplexing, at least to me, is Commissionii's motive.
While an attempt was made to develop a change in the text that Developcus would have to abide by, it had to have been known by Commissionii that this would not be accepted. It did seem that one or two of the heads had a bias against Commissionii, but not a plurality.
Commissionii was a different sort of demigod, one that was elected rather than appointed or born. So, one has to wonder if Commissionii felt that Populas would think they were helping Developcus by allowing him more time.
So, instead of doing whatever they could to help Populas, Commissionii seemed to drop its responsibility and allow the look to be that it stood up to Developcus. An odd perspective since Developcus does not have the power that Commissionii does.