->''"Songs that the Hyades shall sing,\\
Where flap the tatters of the King,\\
Must die unheard in\\
Dim Carcosa."''
-->--From Cassilda's Song in ''The King in Yellow'', Act i, Scene 2

''[[http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/The_King_in_Yellow The King in Yellow]]'' is a rather surreal collection of short stories by Creator/RobertWChambers published in 1895. The stories are scattered all over the map between horror and romance, but all generally have ties to France as a setting, the later ones moving more and more into romance and increasingly starring artists. A common thread is a fictional play also called ''The King in Yellow'', the reading of which either drives people mad or leads them to a dark fate.

Due to the publishing date, it's in the public domain in most countries and readable online.

Creator/HPLovecraft cited this book as an influence, and it's the direct[[note]]Chambers himself got it from a short story by Creator/AmbroseBierce, "Haïta the Shepherd", in which it's just a shepherd's god[[/note]] source of Hastur's name. According to Lovecraft's friend and fellow writer Creator/AugustDerleth, the actual performance of ''The King in Yellow'' is a summoning ritual for an EldritchAbomination.

Several authors have crafted facsimiles of the "real" text of Chambers' fictional play, including playwright Thom Ryng's 1999 version, which premiered at the Capitol Theater in Olympia WA and has seen two printings from Armitage press. A particularly notable version was written by James Blish for the story "More Light".

You might be looking for the Creator/RaymondChandler short story of the same name (in which the lead refers to ''this'' book).
!!This work contains examples of:

* AlienSky: Carcosa—black stars, twin suns, you name it.
* AllFirstPersonNarratorsWriteLikeNovelists: Taken to a rather odd extreme when [[spoiler:it turns out that the narrator of ''The Yellow Sign'' has been fatally wounded and is writing his account as he is dying]].
* AnthropomorphicPersonification: The Yellow King may personify decadence itself. That's what the colour yellow means (see the yellow book in ThePictureOfDorianGray).
* BilingualBonus: There's a lot of untranslated French.
* BrightIsNotGood: Hastur.
* BrownNote: The eponymous fictional play. [[SchmuckBait Don't read it!]] Also the Yellow Sign, which seems to leave the viewer susceptible to some kind of mind control if they've already read ''The King in Yellow''.
* CatsAreMean: The title character of ''The Repairer of Reputations'' not only almost lives in fear of his, but also seems to enjoy it.
** [[AlternateCharacterInterpretation It may have just realised]] [[EvilDetectingDog its owner was a psychopath.]]
* CrapsaccharineWorld: Arguable example, depending on the politics espoused by the actual author and the reader's interpretation. In "The Repairer of Reputations," the narrator waxes lyrical about how glorious and {{Utopia}}n America has become in the year 1920. But all the while he describes an America that is gradually becoming more xenophobic, more militaristic, more [[TheEmpire imperial]], less democratic, and more given to sweeping its problems under the rug. Everything is orderly, pretty, and colorful, but very dark currents are moving beneath the surface. (Notably, enough people seem to be dissatisfied with their lives that the government is subsidizing assisted suicide!)
* DrivenToSuicide: "The Repairer of Reputations," "The Mask". In "The Yellow Sign", once the protagonist's girlfriend goes insane from reading the play, he despairingly picks it up and reads it too.
* DuringTheWar: "The Street of the First Shell"
* EldritchLocation: The lost city of Carcosa, located somewhere in the Hyades, "where black stars hang in the heavens; where the shadows of men's thoughts lengthen in the afternoon, when the twin suns sink into the lake of Hali..."
* GenreBlind: [[OnceAnEpisode Almost every story]], somebody picks up a copy of ''The King In Yellow'' and reads it, even though they should know, both from the genre and from ''in-universe sources'', that the book is horrific and should never be read, no matter how artistic it is. Despite this, everyone keeps a copy on their shelf where anybody can read it and go insane. One character even mentions seeing it in bookstores...
** The main character of "The Yellow Sign", however, is both [[OhCrap shocked]] and bewildered to see his girlfriend pull out the book out of his shelves, wondering while he desperately and repeatedly tells her to put it down and not to open it, how the hell the book managed to end up in his apartment in the first place as he is well aware how dangerous it is.
* HumanoidAbomination: This is one of the texts Lovecraft was inspired by, after all. Notably, the King In Yellow himself is (seemingly) absent from the actual book, but he is the one that made the [[BrownNote play named after him]]. Book covers (and many depictions, before and after the internet arrived) generally depict him as a humanish being wearing [[LightIsNotGood bright yellow]] robes.
* KindHeartedCatLover: Severn.
* LoveTriangle: "The Mask"
* MadGod: The King in Yellow him/her/itself or as an inversion by making everyone crazy via the play.
* MasqueradeBall: "The Mask": Implied to occur in the play. ''"I wear no mask."''
* MercyKill: "Government Lethal Chambers" are introduced in "The Repairer of Reputations" so that any citizen who desires it can end their lives.
* MetafictionalTitle: ''The King in Yellow'', the book, is named after ''The King in Yellow'', the play.
* MindScrew: "In the Court of the Dragon"; "The Prophets' Paradise"; "The Repairer of Reputations"; even the opening poem. Let's just say that of all the authors whose work is regarded as belonging to the "weird tales" genre, most aren't ''half'' as weird as Chambers.
* NoodleIncident: Mr. Scott's love affair with Sylvia ended with him concealing an unnamed secret within the forests of Brittany.
** Most portions of the play itself.
* NotAMask: Played straight.
-->'''Camilla:''' You, sir, should unmask.
-->'''Stranger:''' Indeed?
-->'''Cassilda:''' Indeed, it's time. We have all laid aside disguise but you.
-->'''Stranger:''' I wear no mask.
-->'''Camilla:''' ''(Terrified, aside to Cassilda.)'' No mask? No mask!
* SchmuckBait: People keep reading ''The King in Yellow'' even if they've been informed doing so is a bad idea. There's a subtle implication that the play exerts some sort of [[Literature/TheLordOfTheRings One Ring]]-style influence on people to get itself read.
* ShoutOut: Chambers took the enigmatic names Hastur and Carcosa from two of Creator/AmbroseBierce's short stories.
** A ShoutOut in the other direction occurs in Creator/MarionZimmerBradley's {{Darkover}} series, which uses ''lots'' of the names from the book -- mostly for Darkovan mythical/historical characters, occasionally for places.
* SurrealHorror: Nothing about the horrific weirdness is explained. Ever.
* TakenForGranite: "The Mask" [[spoiler:but it's reversible]]
* TimeTravel: [[spoiler:"The Demoiselle d'Ys"]]
* TogetherInDeath: Well, madness but it works out to the same thing. In "The Yellow Sign", after the model he's fallen in love with gets an eye-full of the play and goes bonkers, the artist despairingly picks it up and starts reading.
* TwentyMinutesIntoTheFuture: Chambers' {{utopia}}n, reformed United States in the far-off year of our Lord... ''1920''.
* UncannyValley: {{Invoked}}. The pale hearse-driver in "The Yellow Sign" is constantly described in eerie terms as seeming unnaturally soft and puffy, and people often reacts to his presence with revulsion or fear. For good reason.
* TheUndead: "The Yellow Sign". It is linked to the eponymous sign.
* {{Unobtainium}}: "The Mask": A newly discovered element tentatively placed in the Incredibly Awesome group.
* UnreliableNarrator: [[spoiler:"The Repairer of Reputations". We don't even know if the CrapsaccharineWorld is real or not; the tales featuring the King in Yellow play are interconnected, but this is the only one which explicitly depicts such a world.]]
* WhatHappenedToTheMouse: Although [[spoiler: the evil cat is killed]], animal lovers will be pleased to note that [[spoiler: the bunny and the goldfish in "The Mask" are restored to life and the fish are immediately re-homed]].
** The exact fates of most people in the play are unrevealed, though [[NothingIsScarier heavily implied to be awful.]]
In 1999, playwright Thom Ryng wrote a production-length facsimile of the "real" ''King in Yellow'' based on Chambers' short stories (and following the rough plot laid out by Kevin Ross in the ''TabletopGame/CallOfCthulhu'' RPG). Set on the world of Hastur, the play centers on the last generation of a dying, world-spanning Imperial dynasty; Queen Cassilda must find choose a royal heir before she dies, but one of her kids is an empty-headed socialite, one has joined the ReligionOfEvil, and the last is a hothead who is too young to be crowned.

Meanwhile, her brother plots to assume the throne for himself, the SinisterMinister High Priest undermines her family's power with the common folk, and as if that wasn't enough, a mysterious phantom city appears, bringing with it a dark messenger and all manner of unsettling omens. And then things go downhill.
!!Thom Ryng's play ''The King in Yellow'' uses the following tropes:

* AnachronismStew: The play is supposed to be over a hundred years old, but its vocabulary is inappropriate for Third Republic-era France and the stage directions involve technical references impossible in that period. Justified in that this is supposedly Ryng's "modern English translation" of the text.
* AristocratsAreEvil: Although some are just JerkAss, or hopelessly naive.
* TheAtoner: Thale, eventually.
* TheBlank: The Stranger in Pallid Mask aka the Phantom of Truth, whose equivalent haunts the protagonists in "The Mask". He is a living corpse whose face is white smooth like a mask.
* BlindSeer: Actually, eyeless altogether.
* BreakTheCutie: Camilla.
* BreakTheHaughty: Aldones, Naotalba.
* CallBack: Across multiple texts. Ryng uses all of the lines and passages quoted in Chambers' short stories, here found in their "original" context.
* CassandraTruth: If you pay attention, you'll see that the Stranger actually tells the characters everything they need to know.
* CloudCuckooLander: Bremchas, TheFool.
* ColdBloodedTorture: Cassilda tortures the Stranger for the entirety(!) of Act 2, Scene 1.
* CorruptChurch: The Brotherhood of the Yellow Sign.
* {{Determinator}}: Cassilda.
* TheDragon: Alar to Aldones. The Phantom of Truth to the King In Yellow.
* EldritchAbomination: The King in Yellow, probably.
* ExactlyWhatItSaysOnTheTin: The Stranger says his name is "truth", and indeed, he always tells the truth, although rarely do the other characters correctly interpret what he says.
* EvilChancellor: Aldones.
* TheEvilPrince: Also Aldones. As Cassilda's brother, he needs to get all three of her children out of the way in order to be king after her.
* EvilUncle: Aldones seems to hit all of the tropes that begin with "evil."
* ExternalRetcon: Ryng manages to compromise between the original, extremely ambigiously used name Hastur, which may refer to place just as well as a person, and August Derleth's rather liberal interpretation that Hastur is simply the King in Yellow's true name by making Hastur the name of the planet on which the play is set on, and in the end have the King declare "We are Hastur" to indicate that his presence has overwhelmed the entire world.
* FictionalDocument: Ryng's first edition claimed to be a translation of the "original French play." Of course, there is no original play, in this world at least...
* TheFool: Bremchas, a drunken (and possibly insane) guardsman who might be the only character who really understands what's going on in the play.
* GoMadFromTheRevelation: Camilla.
* GunsVsSwords: Only the royal family are allowed to carry swords, as a symbol of rank. The guards all carry muskets.
* HumanoidAbomination: The Stranger.
* JerkassGenie: In the last scene, the King in Yellow answers the surviving characters' prayers, but always in ways that pointedly do not profit them.
* {{MacGuffin}}: The Yellow Sign.
* MasqueradeBall: Act 1, Scene 2.
* {{Mindscrew}}
* OhCrap: When Cassilda sees the fabled city of Carcosa appear, she knows her dynasty is at an end.
* TheOphelia: Camilla.
* PoorCommunicationKills: If anyone had told Cassilda that her son had been imprisoned, a lot of tragedies could have been averted.
* PopularIsDumb: Camilla is the centerpiece of Yhtill's social scene, but apparently not all that bright.
* PropheciesAreAlwaysRight.
* ReligionIsMagic: The priests of the Cult of the King in Yellow are shown to be capable of becoming invisible at will.
* ReligionOfEvil: Played with. It's not clear whether the Brotherhood of the Yellow Sign are actually evil or whether they simply have a JerkAss leader.
* RoyalBlood: The members of the royal family seem to have absolute power in the city, regardless of their actual title.
* RoyallyScrewedUp
* RoyalWe: The King in Yellow addresses himself in this manner. None of the mortal royalty follow the suit.
* SignificantAnagram: Bicree and Bremchas are anagrams of Bierce and Chambers, respectively.
* SinisterMinister: High Priest Naotalba.
* SinsOfOurFathers: Apparently everything that goes awry in Yhtill is because the first king murdered the old prophet twelve generations ago.
* StandardRoyalCourt
* SuccessionCrisis: If Cassilda doesn't name an heir, this may happen. Aldones tries to set one off intentionally.
* ThoseTwoGuys: Bicree and Bremchas.
* WellDoneSonGuy: Aldones wants to return the empire to its glory days for the sake of his father's memory.
* TheUndead: At the end of the play, the King in Yellow overruns the imperial city with an army of the dead.
* UpperClassTwit: Uoth, Cassilda's hot-headed youngest son.
* VestigialEmpire: Ythill apparently once covered the better part of the planet, but a dozen rulers later it's rare for anyone to even leave the capital city.
* VillainousBreakdown: Aldones loses it at the end.
* WhenThePlanetsAlign: Cited almost verbatim.
* YouCantFightFate: Cassilda spends the entire play trying to avert the ancient prophecies, but of course everything she does just makes it worse.