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Islam Mahomet (play) by Voltaire

Discussion in 'Interfaith Dialogues' started by Admin Singh, Aug 26, 2009.

  1. Admin Singh

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    Mahomet (French: Le fanatisme, ou Mahomet le Prophete, literally Fanaticism, or Mahomet the Prophet) is a five-act tragedy written in 1736 by French playwright and philosopher Voltaire. It received its debut performance in Lille on 25 April 1741.

    The play is a study of religious fanaticism and self-serving manipulation based on an episode in the traditional biography of Muhammad in which he orders the murder of his critics.[1] Voltaire described the play as "written in opposition to the founder of a false and barbarous sect to whom could I with more propriety inscribe a satire on the cruelty and errors of a false prophet".[2]

    Plot summary

    The story of "Mahomet" unfolds during Muhammad's post exile siege of Mecca in 630 AD, when the opposing forces are under a short term truce called to discuss the terms and course of the war.

    In the first act we are introduced to the leader of the Meccans, Zopir, an ardent and defiant advocate of free will and liberty who rejects the tyranny that Mahomet is seeking to impose. Mahomet is presented through his conversations with his second in command Omar and with his opponent Zopir and with two of Zopir's long lost children (Seid and Palmira) whom, unbeknownst to Zopir, Mahomet had abducted and enslaved in their infancy, fifteen years earlier.

    The now young and beautiful captive Palmira has become the object of Mahomet's desires and jealousy. Having observed a growing affection between Palmira and Seid, Mahomet devises a plan to steer Seid away from her heart by indoctrinating young Seid in religious fanaticism and sending him on a suicide attack to assassinate Zopir in Mecca, an event which he hopes will rid him of both Zopir and Seid and free Palmira's affections for his own conquest.[3] Mahomet invokes divine authority to justify his conduct.

    Seid, still respectful of Zopir's nobility of character, hesitates at first about carrying out his assignment, but eventually his fanatical loyalty to Mahomet overtakes him[4] and he slays Zopir. Phanor arrives and reveals to Seid and Palmira to their disbelief that Zopir was their father. Omar arrives and deceptively orders Seid arrested for Zopir's murder despite knowing that it was Mahomet who had ordered the assassination. Mahomet decides to cover up the whole event so as to not be seen as the deceitful impostor and tyrant that he is.

    Having now uncovered Mahomet's "vile" deception[5] Palmira renounces Mahomet's god[6] and commits suicide rather than to fall into the clutches of the murderous Mahomet.

    Analysis and reception

    Voltaire indicated that the play was not historical, but rather a representation of fanaticism.Rebecca Joubin has opined that the play's focus functions as a surrogate for Jesus.[7]

    References

    1. ^ Voltaire, Mahomet the Prophet or Fanaticism: A Tragedy in Five Acts, trans. Robert L. Myers, ( New York: Frederick Ungar, 1964).
    2. ^ Voltaire Letter to Benedict XIV written in Paris on August 17, 1745 AD: "Your holiness will pardon the liberty taken by one of the lowest of the faithful, though a zealous admirer of virtue, of submitting to the head of the true religion this performance, written in opposition to the founder of a false and barbarous sect. To whom could I with more propriety inscribe a satire on the cruelty and errors of a false prophet, than to the vicar and representative of a God of truth and mercy? Your holiness will therefore give me leave to lay at your feet both the piece and the author of it, and humbly to request your protection of the one, and your benediction upon the other; in hopes of which, with the profoundest reverence, I kiss your sacred feet."
    3. ^ Mahomet Act IV Scene I Mahomet speaking We must work in secret, the dark shades of death must hide our purpose—while we shed old Zopir's blood, be sure you keep Palmira in deepest ignorance; she must not know the secret of her birth: her bliss and mine depend upon it
    4. ^ Mahomet Act IV scene IV Seid speaking To serve my God, to please and merit thee, This sword, devoted to the cause of heaven, Is drawn, and shall destroy its deadliest foe
    5. ^ Mahomet Act V scene II: Palmira speaking to Mahomet "What joys, what blessings, or what happiness can I expect from thee, thou vile impostor? thou ****** savage! This alone was wanting this cruel insult to complete my woes: eternal father, look upon this king,this "holy prophet", this all-powerful god whom i adored: thou monster, to betray two guiltless hearts into the crying sin of parricide; thou infamous seducer of my unguarded youth, how darest thou think,stained as thou art with my dear father's blood, to gain palmira's heart? But know, proud tyrant, thou are not yet invincible: the veil is off that hid thee."
    6. ^ Mahomet Act V scene V: Palmira speaking to Mahomet "I die: and dying hope a God more just than thine has yet in store a state of happiness for injured innocence "
    7. ^ Rebecca Joubin, "Islam and Arabs through the Eyes of the Encyclopedie: The "Other" as a Case of French Cultural Self-Criticism," International Journal of Middle East Studies, Vol. 32, No. 2. (May, 2000). 198
     
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  2. spnadmin

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    Amazing - Even in the 18th Century it was so clear. And I did not know that Voltaire had written such a play.
     
  3. Sinister

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    he was fascinated by islam and its fundamentalism

    look up the word

    Islamisme
     
  4. spnadmin

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    What I am truly impressed by is this. SPN in the past 2 or 3 days has mentioned and/or discussed Voltaire on 4 different threads, and Voltaire was brought up independently by different forum members. How many forums of this kind do that? I think our membership is intelligent, informed and sophisticated without being puffed up and snobbish. It is an amazing thing.
     
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  5. Sinister

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    'You do realize that noses are shaped the way they are so as to better accommodate eyeglasses.'
     
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