I have included Voltaire’s dedication to Frederick the Great and his correspondence with Pope Benedict XIV, who was prepared to believe that the play was not actually a disguised criticism of Christian fanaticism and hypocrisy. As a result, the ban on performance was lifted.
"Mahomet (Le fanatisme, ou Mahomet) aka “Fanaticism, or Mahomet” is a play in five acts written in 1736 by French playwright and philosopher Voltaire with its debut performance at Lille on 25 April 1741.
The play is a study of religious fanaticism and self-serving manipulation based on the traditional biography of Muhammad in which he orders the murder of his critics and which Voltaire described 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.”
Some writers have argued that the play uses the Islamic figure of Muhammad to indict not only Islam but all monotheistic religions.
In 2005, a production of the play in Saint-Genis-Pouilly, Ain, France, resulted in Islamic demands for cancellation and street disturbances outside the performance itself.
François Busnel indicated that the play was not to be interpreted historically but rather as a tragedy and satire. Rebecca Joubin, has stated that the play’s focus functions as a surrogate for Jesus."
Publication and Copyright information:
Extracted from Voltaire, The Works of Voltaire: A Contemporary Version.
Translated by William F. Fleming et al.
Publisher: E. R. DuMont. Place of Publication: Paris.
Publication Year: 1901
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