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Resident Evil Village: Duke Theory, Explained

From all the bizarre characters of Resident Evil Village, none is more mysterious than The Duke, a gluttonous merchant who follows Ethan Winters around while our hero tries to survive the village’s horrors. There’s no doubt The Duke is essential to the game, offering supplies, weapon modifications, and even permanent upgrades to Ethan’s health. But when it comes to The Duke’s history, we don’t have many clues to follow. That won’t stop us from trying, though.

As with our previous character explainers, our take on The Duke contains spoilers, both from Resident Evil Village and from the Resident Evil franchise in general, especially Resident Evil 4.

Spoilers Ahead

Ethan first meets The Duke outside Castle Dimistrescu, just after his first encounter with the Four Lords of the Village. Morbidly obese, The Duke doesn’t seem able to stand by himself, using a huge wagon to move around. We can see fish and sausages hanging on The Duke’s wagon, alongside tools and pieces of parchment, a hint both to the constant hunger the character seems to feel and his position as the village’s merchant. The Duke is responsible for bringing special goods for the villagers, who are generally cut off from the world. The glutton soon presents himself as a trader who can help Ethan in his mission, a part he decides to play for profit and profit only. If you have the coin, The Duke has what you need.

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We don’t need much more than greed to justify the presence of a merchant in Resident Evil Village, but The Duke presents some unique traits that make us wonder where he comes from. For starts, The Duke’s body is huge and exaggerated, which might indicate he suffered some kind of mutation. The Duke is also indestructible. Should the player use explosions and other tricks to try to hurt the character, they will find that all their efforts are in vain, as he doesn’t seem to feel pain at all. The Duke is also strangely calm in the middle of the Lycan attack unleashed by Mother Miranda, almost as if he knew nothing could harm him. His deep knowledge of the Four Lords’ intentions and physiologies can raise further suspicions, making The Duke a possible failed experiment, infected by Mother Miranda’s Cadou or the Mold.

Image via Capcom

Apart from speculations, however, there is no direct confirmation about The Duke’s true nature. Just a couple of Resident Evil Village files even mention the character, stating that he’s responsible both for giving villagers forbidden items from the outside world (such as newspapers) and for stocking up Lady Dimitrecu’s castle. Profit is The Duke’s ultimate rule, who deals with everyone he can while also turning a blind eye to Mother Miranda’s rules as long as he get some coin in the process. Nevertheless, what makes The Duke even more mysterious is one of his acquaintances: Resident Evil 4’s Merchant.

Should you pay attention to all the different things The Duke says while Ethan is at his Emporium, you’ll learn that he has an old friend who uses to say, “What’re ya buyin?” This friend is none other than The Merchant, another trader figure who sold guns and supplies to Leon during the events of Resident Evil 4. The Merchant doesn’t have a past and only shows up in key moments so that Leon can restock his suitcase and get rid of some precious treasures. Both The Duke and The Merchant, then, serve the same purpose to the gameplay, also sharing the fact that their history is unknown. As with The Duke, The Merchant isn’t human either, showing incredible regenerative abilities. Should the player shoot and kill The Merchant in Resident Evil 4, he’ll be back safe and sound on the next encounter.

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At the release of Resident Evil 4, The Merchant was thought to be a Ganado, a human infected with the parasite Las Plagas. Yet, contrary to other infected beings, The Merchant seems to keep all his mental faculties intact, staying completely out of the control of the hive-mind all the Ganados share. A Ganado’s body also vanishes after death, with the parasite that was occupying the host dissolving into the ground. This doesn’t happen with The Merchant, whose body remains intact should you shoot him in the head. The only exception happens on the Professional difficulty of Resident Evil 4, which makes The Merchant’s death permanent. Then again, since his body still doesn’t disappear in the highest difficulty, we can speculate that he only got angry with Leon after receiving a headshot and choose not to help anymore.

The fact The Duke and The Merchant know each other, however, opens new interpretations for both characters. Maybe The Duke is not infected with the Cadou, and The Merchant is not a Ganado. Maybe they both are something else, a kind of bioweapon that was never explained in the franchise. There is now a canon trading network in Europe that’s run by apparently indestructible beings without a past, and the fact that both The Duke and The Merchant share so much in common might mean they have the same origin.


Image via Capcom

There is no doubt both characters were created as gameplay resources, but now that their friendship is officially part of the lore, Capcom can expand on the concept and bring other traders into future Resident Evil games. It would certainly be interesting to explore the mysterious past of The Duke and his encounters with The Merchant. Maybe we could uncover a secret society of failed bioweapons, roaming the world and just trying to get by, counting only on each other’s support.

The Duke and The Merchant identities will remain a mystery for now. Even so, with a remake of Resident Evil 4 reportedly in production by Capcom, maybe we’ll get new pieces to this puzzle. Previous remakes of the Resident Evil franchise introduced new details and changed foggy plot elements to create a more streamlined version of the story. As Resident Evil 4 receives the same treatment, we might learn more about The Merchant, and perhaps about The Duke. Or maybe there is really nothing to learn, and Capcom will just keep using the “mystery past” excuse to not have to explain these characters, essential for the gameplay even if they don’t always fit in the overall narrative.

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