Our knowledge of the play The King In Yellow is largely restricted to its first act, and is not much. In The Repairer of Reputations it is said that the "banality and innocence of the first act" belies the awful effect of the rest. Thus any reconstruction of the play should have a first act that is not that strange, horrific or challenging, save, possibly, for its conclusion.
Of the three quoted sections of the first act, two are specifically stated as belonging to the second scene. Depending upon one's interpretation of which lines are the last lines of the first act, we may be restricted to just two scenes (which would work best with the unmasking representing the transition from the banal to the supernal, as well as forming a pleasing reflection of the probable two act structure of the play).
In addition, there is a brief poem at the start of The Yellow Sign that could be part of the play, although it is unattributed, and an utterance of Hildred Castaigne that could conceivably be a quote from the play.
It is unclear where Act 1 is actually set. The city of Hastur has been suggested by some. Carcosa would seem a logical choice, given its reference in Cassilda's Song, except that her words seem to imply that Carcosa is strange and disturbing to her, rather than her home, unless she is visiting the city and is not native to it. Whether both scenes take place in the same location and whether the second act takes place in the same location as the first are unknown.
Act 1, Scene 1
Nothing is known of the contents of the opening scene of the play. How they connect to scene two is unclear.
The two quotations from Scene 2 are Cassilda's Song and the Unmasking. It is not certain which order they appear in, although the likelihood of the latter falling towards the end of the scene make it likely that the song is earlier.
- Along the shore the cloud waves break,
- The twin suns sink behind the lake,
- The shadows lengthenIn Carcosa.
- Strange is the night where black stars rise,
- And strange moons circle through the skies
- But stranger still isLost Carcosa.
- Songs that the Hyades shall sing,
- Where flap the tatters of the King,
- Must die unheard inDim Carcosa.
- Song of my soul, my voice is dead;
- Die thou, unsung, as tears unshed
- Shall dry and die inLost Carcosa.
- "Camilla: You, sir, should unmask.
- Stranger: Indeed?
- Cassilda: Indeed, it's time. We all have laid aside disguise but you.
- Stranger: I wear no mask.
- Camilla: (Terrified, aside to Cassilda) No mask? No mask!"
Of uncertain location in the act
The bitter cry of Cassilda is not stated as being from the second scene, but would appear to fit best in relation with the unmasking (see The Final Lines Of The First Act, below):
- "Cassilda: Not upon us, O King, not upon us!"
Of uncertain origin
- Hildred Castaigne, in The Repairer of Reputations, is heard to mutter: "The scalloped tatters of the King In Yellow must hide Yhtill forever" – which has the ring of a quotation, perhaps from the play.
- The following lines from The Yellow Sign can be confirmed as not being part of the play, being part of a poem penned by Bliss Carmen:
- Let the red dawn surmise
- What we shall do
- When this blue starlight dies
- And all is through.
The final lines of the First Act
Described by Castaigne as: "...Camilla's agonised screams and the awful words echoing through the dim streets of Carcosa". They were the last lines of the first act. Although an agonised scream may imply injury, linking it with awful words may show a relationship with the unmasking or some other unfortunate event that elicited Cassilda's bitter cry.