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The Adventures of Marco Polo

The Adventures of Marco Polo

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Synopsis

Born in 1254, Marco Polo was an Italian traveler and explorer with the distinction of being the first European to cross the entire continent of Asia and leave a record of what he saw and heard. In 1260 at the age of seventeen, he made an overland journey with his father and uncle from Bukhara, Uzbekistan, to China. Two years later, they made a second journey. The route led from modern-day Akko, in Israel, to the Persian Gulf, northward through Iran to the present-day Amu Darya (known to the ancients as the Oxus), up the Oxus and its tributary the Pamir to the present-day Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, and finally across the Gobi Desert. They reached Shang-tu in 1275. His father and uncle served as military advisers to Kublai Khan while the youthful Polo served in several high-level government positions, including ambassador and as the governor of the city of Yangzhou. While the Great Khan enjoyed having the Polos as his subjects and diplomats, he eventually consented to allow them to leave the Empire, as long as they would escort a princess who was scheduled to marry a Persian king. The three Polos left the Empire in 1292 with the princess, a fleet of fourteen large boats, and 600 other passengers from a port in southern China. The armada sailed through Indonesia to Sri Lanka and India, along the east coast of the Arabian Sea to its final destination at the Strait of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf. Reportedly, only eighteen people survived from the original 600, including the princess, who could not wed her intended fiancé because he had died. She married his son instead. In 1298 Marco Polo served as a captain of a Venetian galley that participated in a battle between the fleets of Venice and Genoa and was eventually taken prisoner by the Genoese. While serving time in prison for two years, he dictated an account of his travels to a fellow prisoner named Rustichello. Shortly thereafter, The Travels of Marco Polo was translated into French and went on to become the basis of the first accurate maps of Asia. The book is divided into chapters covering specific regions and Polo delves into the politics, agriculture, military power, economy, sexual practices, burial system, and religions of each area. He also brought the ideas of paper currency and coal to Europe as well as second-hand reports of areas that he had not visited, such as Japan and Madagascar. Despite the fact that many claim his book to be unreliable, the influence of Marco Polo on geographic exploration was enormous, and he was also a major influence on Christopher Columbus. Columbus owned a copy of the Travels and made annotations in the margins. Even today, his book stands among the great records of geographic exploration. Marco Polo died in 1324 at the age of 70. He was reported to have said in his later years, “I didn’t tell half of what I saw because no one would have believed me.” The Adventures of Marco Polo originally aired on April 14th, 1956, on NBC television. Alfred Drake narrates: “I, Marco Polo, a citizen of Venice, sailed away in 1271 …” (“Beyond the Sunrise”). “Of course there was a girl I left behind me …” (“You’ll Be Seeing Me”). “I saw a continent beyond comprehension …” (“Market Day”). “And there I saw a damsel with a dulcimer …” (“Xanadu”). “I saw Kublai Khan, an old man, a wise man; he asked me what I’d learned along the way …” (“Population”). “The Great Khan liked me, and kept me in his palace; and there in a garden one morning in Spring, I saw a girl …” (“Silver Bells”). “But there was little time for listening, or looking, for there were other things that the Great Khan had planned …” (“The Tartar Song”). “I, Marco Polo, a citizen of Cathay now, journeyed for the Khan into far Tibet. And there I met another girl, in another garden …” (“The Garden of Imagining”). “They filled me with wine, till my steps were unwary …” (“Who, Me?”). “After escaping, by some rather neat swordplay, I reorganized the government and set the country straight. Then I journeyed to the Khan with my mission accomplished …” (“Uneasy Lies the Head”). “Years had gone by since first I sailed from Venice. It was time that I returned …” (“Worlds”). “Then, when I thought my story was over, I met with a girl I’d met before …” (“Is It You?”). “But princesses and sailors seldom ever marry, and dreaming may end with the end of a song …” (“You’ll Be Seeing Me” – reprise). “Time flies, and love dies, and sailors grow older …”(Epilogue).

Credits

Marco Polo: Alfred Drake The girl he left behind, the damsel in the garden, the princess, etc.: Doretta Morrow Tibetan host: Ray Drakely Kublai Khan: Paul Ukena Courtiers, Merchants, Slaves, Sailors: Ray Drakely, Paul Ukena Music by Clay Warnick and Mel Pahl, based on themes of Rimsky-Korsakov Lyrics by Edward Eager Book by William Friedberg and Neil Simon Produced and directed by Max Liebman Musical Direction by Charles Sanford and Clay Warnick