Aguirre depicts the true story of a 16th century Spanish expedition in search of the mythical city of El Dorado. In this play’s historical blueprint, the participants coursed the Amazon in pursuit of unbounded riches, and instead found mutiny, sedition and death; an outcome which was orchestrated by one Lope de Aguirre, a previously unknown conquistador who had come to the New World looking for fame and wealth. Generally undistinguished except for his loud and overbearing voice, Aguirre suffered much abuse at the hands of his fellow men, and resolved to take revenge in the unfocused manner particular to desperados with nothing to lose. Revenge he did take, and many paid the ultimate price on behalf of Aguirre, a man his own contemporaries would have rather ignored but for his insistence that he be taken in deadly earnest.
And so the search for El Dorado might well have devolved into nothing more than a power struggle among Spanish outcasts lost in the Amazon jungle -- an intriguing though unsatisfying drama -- were it not for the two women along for the boat-ride. Set against this turbulent backdrop, the two audacious women who joined the quest for the city of El Dorado were case studies in the circumscribed life choices available to 16th century women: The willful temptress accused of felling an entire expedition, and the virgin compared to whom all men were seen as base and temporal. One of the two women was the love interest of the captain and Governor-in-waiting of El Dorado. The other was the daughter of Aguirre.