King Rama VI was a prolific writer and placed much importance in the arts, especially literature and music. One of the quotes most commonly assigned to him is the following lines from his translation of William Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice:
“The man that hath no music in himself,
Nor is not moved with concord of sweet sounds,
Is fit for treasons, stratagems, and spoils;
The motions of his spirit are dull as night,
And his affections dark as Erebus.
Let no such man be trusted. Mark the music.”
In keeping with the King’s vision, Mrigadayavan Palace considers the preservation of classical Thai music to be part of the conservation effort. Musicians stick to the tradition of passing down music orally; no written sheet music are kept, except for the musicians’ personal practice. The music preserved includes traditional Thai classical music and the compositions of King Vajiravudh and his contemporaries.
The Mrigadayavan Palace Foundation also provides free Thai classical music lessons on the weekends to the children of the Border Patrol Police who serve in the Rama VI and Naresuan camps, as well as the children of the Palace employes. The Inner Court State Room was once the audience chamber of the ladies’ quarter. At present this room is used as a classroom for the Thai classical music lessons.
The living room stores and displays various types of classical Thai instruments with the most significant one being the Ranad, a Thai xylophone. This Ranad belongs to HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, sister of the current monarch. The princess played it with the Border Police Patrol classical music ensemble in the 1990s when she visited the Palace. There are also papier-mâché masks of classical music teachers ensconced on gold-loaf tiered tables.
King Vajiravudh loved literature and he is recognised as one of the major Thai poets of his day. His style was academic and apart from patriotic songs, his poetry lacked deep feeling. He was an admirer of Shakespeare’s works and translated three of his plays. He also translated from English and French nearly one hundred plays. He attempted to create Western-styled theatres but did not succeed beyond amateur clubs as most Thais prefer their traditional ballets.
The Samosorn Sevakamataya Throne Hall was where King Vajiravudah acted in his plays with his company of amateurs. The audience would face the north and the Ladies of the Court would sit along the east and west balconies of the upper floor. As this hall frequently served as a theatre, there are changing rooms for the actors located at each corner of the hall.
Details of these plays are as follow:
a) Phra Ruang: Phra Ruang was performed on 10 June 1924 as part of a birthday celebration for Her Majesty Queen Indrasakdisaji. King Vajiravudh played the role of Nai Mun Puenyao, a commoner, and Her Royal Highness Phranang Chao Suvadhana, who at that time Miss Krua Kaew Abhayavongse, performed as Nang Chandra, the maid who had a dialogue with Nai Mun Puenyao.
b) Vivahaphrasamudra: this play was a western style operetta performed on May 23rd and 25th, 1925. King Vajiravudah acted as King Midas, in which this was his last performance.
When not performing himself, he would watch performances of his cousins and courtiers from the south balcony. Despite the King’s passion for the arts, his performances caused people to be distressed at watching their revered monarch perform on the stage.