The play is based on genuine historical events – an unsuccessful trip to Africa by Portuguese troops under the command of the infants Fernando and Enrique, who tried in vain to storm the city of Tangier in 1437.
King Fetz wants to beat off the Portuguese city of Ceuta. Prince Taroudant promises to send him to the aid of ten thousand mounted, if the king will give his daughter Phoenix for him. The princess does not dare to contradict her father, but in her heart she is against marriage with Taroudant, for she loves the Moorish commander Moulay. The father hands her a portrait of the prince. At this time, appears Mulej, who, on the orders of the king, sailed for reconnaissance to Ceuta. In the sea he noticed a fleet from Lisbon, which was heading for Tangier under the command of the brothers of the Portuguese king of princes Enrique and Fernando. Don Enrique is the master of the order of Avis, and Don Fernando is the Order of Christ (religious knightly orders created to fight the “infidels”). Muley urges the king to prepare for Tangier’s defense and punish the enemies with “the terrible lash of Mohammed”, so that the prophecy of the prophets will come true that “
The mule before the battle blames Phoenix for the fact that she had a portrait of Taroudant. He believes that the princess changed him. Phoenix replies that nothing is to blame, she had to obey the will of her father. He demands to give a portrait.
Don Fernando and Don Enrique with the troops landed on the shore near Tangier. They want to take over the city and establish a Christian faith in Africa. However, Don Enrique sees bad signs in everything, “an evil ominous seal” – then a solar eclipse, then “the fleet scattered a cyclone by the sea”, then he stumbled himself, stepping on the land of Africa. He fancies “in the blood all the sky, over the head of the day, night birds, and above the ground… – around the coffin.” Don Fernando, on the contrary, sees good omens in everything, however, whatever happens, he is ready to thank God for everything, for God’s judgment is always just.
The battle begins, during which Don Fernando captures Moulay, who fell from the horse. Don Fernando remarks that the Moor is terribly saddened, but not by the fact that he was taken prisoner. The prince asks him about the cause of the tribulation. Mulei is struck by the nobility of the enemy and his participation in another’s grief. He talks about his unhappy love, and the prince lets him go to the bride. Muley swears that he will not forget about such good deeds.
Moors surround the Portuguese, and Don Fernando calls on the name of Christ to fight or die.
Brito, a clown from the retinue of Prince Fernando, trying to save his life on the battlefield, pretending to be dead.
Fernando and his entourage surrender, King Fetz is ready to save the life of the prisoner and release him to freedom if the Portuguese give Ceuta. Prince Enrique goes to Lisbon to the king.
On the deserted battlefield, two Moors see the lying Brito and want to drown his body so that it does not become a hotbed of plague. Brito jumps up, and the Moors run away in terror.
The Phoenix tells Muley what happened to her during the hunt: she met her at the stream in the forest, whether she saw the old woman, “ghost, ghost, delirium, swarthy, dried skeleton.” Her toothless mouth whispered mysterious words, full of meanings, but for the time being incomprehensible – “payment to you is exchange, ransom for the dead man.” Phoenix is afraid that rock gravitates over her, that she is in for a terrible fate “to be exchanged at the cost of someone’s death on earth.” Moulay interprets this dream in his own way, thinking that it is about his death as the only salvation from suffering and adversity.
Fernando on a walk meets the Christian slaves and encourages them, calls for staunch defiance of destinies, for this is the Christian wisdom: since this lot is sent from above, “there is a kindness in him.” There is no fate forever in the same position. the king is waiting and slave. “
King Fetz appears, and together with Prince Fernando, they see a Portuguese galley swim to shore, covered with a black cloth. On the beach comes Don Enrique in mourning attire and reports the sad news that the king, learning about the capture of Fernando, died of grief. In the will, he ordered, in exchange for the prince, to give the Moors to Ceuta. The new king, Alphonse, approved this decision. However, Prince Fernando, in indignation, refuses such a proposal and says that “it is inconceivable that the sovereign Christian Moors passed without a fight the city.” Ceuta is the “center of goodness, the citadel of Catholicism,” and it can not be given to be scoffed by “infidels”, for they will turn “chapels into stalls, build nurseries at the altars,” mosques will be built in temples. It will be a disgrace to all Christians, the descendants will say that “Christians expelled God, To clear a room for evil demons to please. Residents of Ceuta, in order to preserve wealth, will change their faith and accept Islam. The life of one person, even a prince, says Fernando, is not worth such a sacrifice. He is ready to remain in slavery, so as not to sacrifice so many innocent people. The prince breaks the king’s letter and is ready to live in prison with the slaves. And for the illumination of the temple in Ceuta in the name of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin, the Prince, before the last drop of blood, is ready to give his life. The prince breaks the king’s letter and is ready to live in prison with the slaves. And for the illumination of the temple in Ceuta in the name of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin, the Prince, before the last drop of blood, is ready to give his life. The prince breaks the king’s letter and is ready to live in prison with the slaves. And for the illumination of the temple in Ceuta in the name of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin, the Prince, before the last drop of blood, is ready to give his life.
King Fetz is enraged by such a response from the prince and threatens him with all the horrors of slavery: “Now, with all the people in front of your brother, you will lie on my feet in the ground slavishly kissing my feet.” Fernando is ready to transfer everything with joy like God’s will. The king declares that the slave must give everything to the master and obey everything in him, and that means that Don Fernando must give... the king to Ceuta. However, the prince replies that, first, Ceuta is not his, but “God’s,” and secondly, that “the sky teaches obedience only in a just cause.” If the master wants the slave “to do evil,” then the slave “has the power not to obey the order.” The king orders to put the fetters on the feet and neck of the prince and keep him on black bread and sea water and send him to the stable to clean the royal horses.
During the hard labor, the slaves of the suite of Prince Fernando try to surround him with care and help him, but he refuses this and says that in slavery and humiliation all are equal.
Phoenix on a walk meets Prince Fernando and with surprise asks why he is in such rags. He replies that these are the laws that tell slaves to live in poverty. Phoenix objects to him – because in the morning the prince and the king were friends and Don Fernando lived in captivity in a royal way. The prince replies that “this is the order of the earth”: in the morning the roses bloom, and by the evening their petals “found the grave in the cradle”, so the human life is changeable and short-lived. He offers the bouquet of flowers to the princess, but she refuses them – in colors, as in the stars, you can read the future, and it frightens Phoenix, for everyone is subject to “death and destiny” – “our destinies are buildings without support.” From the stars “our life and growth” depends.
Mulej suggests the prince to make an escape, for he remembers that Fernando gave him freedom on the battlefield. To bribe the guards, he gives Fernando money and says that the ship will wait for the prisoners in the agreed place. King Fetz from afar notices the prince and Moulay together and begins to suspect them of collusion. He orders Moulay to guard the prisoner day and night so that he can follow both. The mule does not know what to do – betray the king or remain ungrateful towards the prince. Fernando tells him that honor and duty are above friendship and love, he himself is willing to watch himself so as not to endanger his friend, and if someone else offers him to flee, Fernando will refuse. He believes that, it is clear, “God pleases, that in slavery and captivity” he remains a “staunch prince.”
Muley comes with a report to the king about how the Prince-slave lives: his life has become a hell, his appearance is pathetic, he stinks from a prisoner so that when people meet with him they scatter; he sits by the road on a pile of manure, like a beggar, his companions are begging, since prison food is too scarce. “Prince with one foot in the grave, the song of Fernando is short”, says Mulei. Princess Phoenix asks her father for mercy to the prince. But the king responds that Fernando himself chose such a fate, no one forced him to live in a dungeon, and only in his power to hand over as a ransom Ceuta – then the fate of the prince will immediately change.
A messenger from the Portuguese King Alfonso and the Moroccan prince Taroudant arrive to King Fetz. They approach the throne and simultaneously begin each speech. Then they start to argue, to whom to speak first. The king grants such a right to the guest, and the Portuguese messenger offers as much gold for Fernando as two cities can cost. If the king refuses, the Portuguese troops will come to the land of the Moors with fire and sword. Taroudant in the messenger recognizes the Portuguese King Alfonso himself and is ready for a duel with him. King Fetz forbids a duel, because both are his guest, and the Portuguese king is responsible for the same thing as before: he will give the prince in exchange for Ceuta.
Taroudant wants to take his fiancee Phoenix with him, the king does not mind, because he wants to strengthen the military alliance with the prince against the Portuguese. The king instructs Muleia with the soldiers to guard Phoenix and take her to the groom, who goes to the troops.
The slaves take Prince Fernando out of the dungeon, he sees the sun and the blue sky above him and is surprised at how great the world is, he rejoices that over him the light of Christ, he sees God’s grace in all the hardships of fate. King Fetz passes by, and turning to the prince, asks what motivates him-modesty or pride? Fernando replies that he offers his soul and body to God, he wants to die for his faith, no matter how much he starves, no matter how much he endures the torment, whatever rags he wore, no matter how heaps of dirt serve him, he believes in faith its not broken. The king can triumph over the prince, but not over his faith.
Fernando feels the approach of death and asks him to put him in the monk’s mantle and bury him, and then someday the coffin will be transported to his homeland and a chapel will be built over the grave of Fernando, for he deserved it.
On the seashore away from Fetz, King Alphonse is landed with troops, he is going to unexpectedly attack a mountain gorge at Taroudanta, which accompanies his fiancé Phoenix to Morocco. Don Enrique dissuades him, because the sun has set and night has come. However, the king decides to attack in darkness. The shadow of Fernando appears in the mantle of the Order, with a torch and calls the king to battle for the triumph of the Christian faith.
King Fetz learns of the death of Prince Fernando and over his coffin declares that he received a fair punishment for what he did not want to give Ceuta, death will not save him from severe punishment, for the king forbids to bury the prince – “let the unburied he stands – passers-by for fear “.
At the fortress wall, on which King Fetz ascended, appears the shadow of Don Fernando with a burning torch, followed by King Alfonso and Portuguese soldiers leading Taroudanta, Phoenix and Moulay captured. Shadow Fernando orders Alfonso at the walls of Fez to negotiate the release of the prince.
Alphonse shows King Fetz captives and offers to exchange them for the prince. The king is desperate, he can not fulfill the condition of the Portuguese king, since Prince Fernando has already died. However, Alphonse says that dead Fernando means no less than alive, and he is ready to give “for the corpse soulless, painted beauty picture” – Phoenix. So the fortune-telling is coming true. In memory of the friendship between Moulay and Prince Fernando, King Alphonse asked to give Phoenix to his wife Moulay. The coffin with Fernando’s body is carried to the ship with the sound of pipes.