Short summary - Fanaticism, or Mahomet the Prophet - Voltaire, pseudonym of François-Marie Arouet

French literature summaries - 2021

Short summary - Fanaticism, or Mahomet the Prophet
Voltaire, pseudonym of François-Marie Arouet

The plot of this tragedy by Voltaire was based on events from the life of the Arab tribes of Arabia, associated with the spread of Islam and the activities of the religious reformer Mohammed. The author wrote: “I know that Mohammed did not commit such a betrayal, which is the plot of my tragedy. My goal is not only to show truthful events on the stage, but to truthfully depict morals, to convey the true thoughts of people generated by the circumstances in which these people found themselves, and, finally, to show how cruel a malicious deception can reach. and what horrors fanaticism can create. For me, Mohammed is nothing but Tartuffe with a weapon in his hands. " The action of Voltaire's play unfolds in Mecca around 630.

Sheikh of Mecca, Zopyr, learns of the intention of Mohammed, his worst enemy, to conquer the city. Zopir's family was exterminated by Mohammed, so he is very attached to the young Palmyra, whom he had captured, whom Mohammed considers his slave and demands her return, since she grew up in Medina, a place already converted to Islam. There he is a lord and an idol. The girl appreciates the kindness and gentleness of Zopyr, but asks him to fulfill the will of the Teacher and return her to Medina. The Sheikh refuses, explaining that he does not want to indulge the tyrant who has crept into the trust of Palmyra.

Senator Fanor reports to Zopyr about the appearance in the city of Omar, the commander of Mohammed, with his retinue. Omar six years earlier "went on a campaign to protect Mecca, and, pushing back the troops of a traitor and a thief, suddenly went over to him, not fearing shame." Now, on behalf of Mohammed, he offers peace, swears that this is not deceit, and as proof agrees to give the young Seyid hostage. Omar comes to negotiations with Zopyr, and the sheikh reminds the messenger who his illustrious ruler was ten years ago: "a simple driver, a rogue, a vagabond, an unfaithful husband, an insignificant chatterbox, an unparalleled deceiver." Sentenced by the court to exile for rebellion, he went to live in caves and, blushing, began to seduce the people. Without denying the talent and intelligence of Mohammed, Zopyr notes his rancor and cruelty: "The East has not yet known more vengeful tyrants." The military leader, having patiently listened to the sheikh, invites him to name the price for Palmyra and the world. Zopyr angrily rejects this proposal, and Omar declares that in this case he will try to win the Senate to the side of the Prophet.

Lovers Seyid and Palmyra are immensely happy when they meet again. When the sheikh kidnapped Palmyra, Seid could not find a place for himself from grief, but now his beloved is near and he hopes to free her. Young people believe that Mohammed will unite their two destinies into one. Meanwhile, the Prophet was approaching the gates of ancient Mecca. Omar was able to convince the Senate to let into the city the one who was expelled from it by an unrighteous court. For some he is a tyrant, but for others he is a hero ... Revealing his secret to Omar, Mohammed admits that his calls for peace are a myth, he only wants to benefit from people's faith in the messenger of God capable of stopping the flames of war. His goal is to conquer Mecca and destroy Zopyr. In addition, Palmyra and Seid, despite their loyalty to Mohammed, are his enemies - so he declares to Omar. The Prophet loves Palmyra and, having learned that she preferred a slave to him, he becomes enraged and thinks of revenge.

The meeting between Zopyr and Mohammed took place. The Sheikh openly accuses Mohammed: "Having taken root by bribery, and flattery, and deceit, you brought misfortune to all conquered countries, and, having entered the holy city, you dare, you villain, to impose on us the lies of your religion!" Mohammed is not at all embarrassed by these speeches and explains to Zopyr that the people are now ready to worship anyone, if only a new idol, therefore his hour has come, and Zopyr must not resist, but voluntarily surrender power. Only one circumstance shook the Sheikh's confidence. Mohammed reports that the kidnapped children of Zopyr did not die, they were brought up among the servants of the Prophet. Now their fate depends on the prudence of their father. If Zopyr surrenders the city without a fight and announces to the people that only the Koran is the only law, and Mohammed is the prophet of God, then he will find both children and a son-in-law. But Zopyr rejects this proposal, not wanting to give the country into slavery. The merciless Mohammed immediately decides to kill the rebellious sheikh. Of all the servants, Omar advises him to choose Seyid for this, since he is "a devout fanatic, insane and blind, in awe of you." In addition, Omar knows the terrible secret of Mohammed: Palmyra and Seid are the children of Zopyr, so the son is sent by the villains to parricide. Mohammed summons Seyid to him and instills in him a command, allegedly coming from Allah: "It is ordered to perform holy vengeance and strike so that the enemy will be destroyed with the blade that God has placed in your right hand." Seid is horrified, but Mohammed bribes him with a promise: "The love of Palmyra was your reward." And the young man gives up. But already holding the sword in his hand, the young man still does not understand why he should kill the helpless and unarmed old man. He sees the sheikh, who starts a heartfelt conversation with him, and Seid is unable to bring his weapon over him. Omar, who secretly watched this scene, demands Seid immediately to Mohammed. Palmyra, finding Seid in terrible confusion, asks to reveal the whole truth to her, and the young man tells, begging to help him sort out his torments: “Tell me the word, you are my friend, my good genius! Guide my spirit! And help me to raise the sword! .. Explain why the bloody sacrifice is for the good Prophet, the father for all people? " Seyid says that, according to the decision of the Prophet, their happiness with Palmyra is a reward for the blood of the unfortunate Zopyr. The girl evades advice, thereby pushing the young man to the fatal step.

Meanwhile, Gersides, one of the servants of Mohammed, who in the past kidnapped the children of Zopyr and knows about their fate, appoints the sheikh a date; but it did not take place, since Omar, having unraveled the intention of Gersis to reveal the secret, kills him. But Gersis still manages to leave a suicide note and give it to Fanora. At this time, Zopyr goes to pray to the altar and does not skimp on curses against Mohammed. Seid hurries to interrupt the blasphemous speech, draws his weapon and strikes. Fanor appears. He is terrified that he did not manage to prevent the murder, and tells everyone a fatal secret. Seid falls to his knees with an exclamation: “Give me back my sword! And I, cursing myself ... "Palmyra holds Seid's hand:" Let him not stick into Seyid, but into me! I pushed my brother to parricide! " Zopyr, mortally wounded, hugs the children: “At the hour of death, fate sent me a daughter and a son! The summits of troubles and joys of the summit converged. The father looks at his son with hope: “A traitor will not escape execution and shame. I will be avenged. "

Omar, seeing Seid, orders the servants to capture him as the killer of Zopyr. Only now does the young man learn about the cunning of the Prophet. The commander hurries to Mahomet and reports on the situation in the city. Zopyr dies, the angry people, previously obedient in everything, grumble. Omar offers to calm the crowd with assurances that Zopyr accepted death for rejecting Islam, and his brutal killer Seyid will not escape punishment for what he did. The troops of Mohammed will soon be in the city - the Prophet can be sure of victory. Mohammed asks if someone could have revealed to Seid the secret of his origin, and the commander reminds him that Gersis, the only initiate, is dead. Omar admits that he poured poison into Seyidu's wine, so the hour of his death is close.

Mohammed orders to call Palmyra to him. He advises the girl to forget about her brother and promises her wealth and luxury. All her misfortunes are already behind, she is free, and he is ready to do everything for her if she is submissive to him. The girl with contempt and indignation throws: "Murderer, dishonest and bloody hypocrite, do you dare to seduce me with unclean glory?" She is confident that the false prophet will be exposed and retribution is not far away. The people, having learned about the murder of Zopyr, take to the streets, lay siege to the prison, and all the townspeople rise up to fight. The rebellion is led by Seyid. He cries out in a frenzy that Muhammad is to blame for the death of his father, and the spontaneous fury of the masses is ready to fall on the villain. Suddenly exhausted from the action of the poison, Seid staggers and falls in front of the crowd. Taking advantage of this, Mohammed declares that it is God who punishes the unfaithful, and so will be with all who encroach on him, the great Prophet: “Anyone who dares to object to the order, even in thoughts, will be punished immediately. And if the day is still shining for you, it is because I have softened my sentence. " But Palmyra exposes Mohammed, saying that her brother is dying from poison, and curses the villain. She calls Mohammed a bloody beast that deprived her of her father, mother and brother. There is nothing else that would bind her to life, so she leaves after her loved ones. Having said this, the girl rushes to Seid's sword and dies.

At the sight of the dying Palmyra, Mohammed for a moment succumbs to the feeling of love, but immediately suppresses in himself this impulse of humanity with the words: "I must be God - or the earthly power will collapse." And he manages to take possession of the crowd, to avoid the threat of exposure with the help of a new cynical deception, a false miracle, which again throws the ignorant mass of the inhabitants of Mecca at his feet.