Mahomet (play)  

From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia

Jump to: navigation, search

Related e

Wiki Commons

Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Mahomet (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.

Plot summary

The story of "Mahomet" unfolds during Muhammad's post exile siege of Mecca in 629 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 the audience is introduced to a fictional leader of the Meccans, Zopir, an ardent and defiant advocate of free will and liberty who rejects Mahomet. 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. 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 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, Palmira renounces Mahomet's god and commits suicide rather than fall into the clutches of Mahomet.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Mahomet (play)" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

Personal tools