Mahomet: Act V

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Mahomet (Le Fanatisme, ou Mahomet)
By: Voltaire
Act I
Act II
Act IV
Act V


Mahomet, Omar, Guards at a distance.


Zopir's approaching death alarms the people,

We have endeavored to appease their clamors,

And disavowed all knowledge of the deed;

To some, we called it the avenging hand

Of heaven that favors thus its prophet's cause:

With others, we lament his fall, and boast

Thy awful justice that will soon avenge it.

The crowd attentive listen to thy praise,

And all the danger of the storm is o'er;

If aught remains of busy faction's rage

It is but as the tossing of the waves

After the tempest, when the vault of heaven

Is placid and serene.


Be it our care

To keep it so: where are my valiant bands?


All ready; Osman in the dead of night

By secret paths conducted them to Mecca.


'Tis strange that men either deceived

or forced into obedience: Seid knows not

it is a father's blood that he has shed?


Who could inform him of it? He alone

Who knew the secret is no more; Hercides

Is gone, and Seid soon shall follow him;

For know, he has already drunk the poison;

His crime was punished ere it was committed:

Even whilst he dragged his father to the altar

Death lurked within his veins; he cannot live:

Palmira too, is safe, she may be useful:

I've given her hopes of Seid's pardon: that

May win her to our cause; she dare not murmur,

Besides, her heart is flexible and soft,

Formed to obey, to worship Mahomet,

And make him soon the happiest of mankind:

Trembling and pale, behold! They bring her to thee.


Collect my forced, Omar and return.


Mahomet, Palmira, Guards.


O heaven! Where am I? Gracious God?



Be not alarmed; already I have fixed

Thy fate and Mecca's: know, the great event

That fills thy soul with horror is a mystery

'twixt heaven and me that's not to be revealed:

But thou art free, and happy: think no more

Of Seid, nor lament him; leave to me

The fate of men; be thankful for thy own:

Thou knowest that Mahomet hath loved thee long,

That I have ever been a father to thee;

Perhaps a nobler fate and fairer title

May grace thee still, if thou deserve it; therefore

Blot from thy memory the name of Seid,

And let thy soul aspire to greater blessings

That it could dare to hope for; let thy heart

Be my last noblest victory, and join

The conquered world to own me for its master.


What joys, what blessings, or what happiness

Can I expect from thee, thou vile impostor?

Thou bloody 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, and the hand of vengeance

Upraised to scourge thy guilt: dost thou not hear

The maddening multitude already armed

In the defense of injured innocence?

From the death's dark shades my murdered father comes

To lead them on: O that these feeble hands

Could tear thee piece-meal, thee and all thy train!

Would I cold see them weltering in their blood;

See Mecca, and Medina, Asia, all

Combined against thee! That the credulous world

Would shake off thy vile chains and thy religion

Become the jest and scorn of all mankind

To after ages! May that hell, whose threats

Thou hast so often denounced 'gainst all who dared

To doubt thy false divinity, now open

Her fiery gates, and be thy just reward!

These are the thanks I owe thee for thy bounties,

And these the prayers I made for Mahomet.


I see I am betrayed; but be it so:

Whe'er thou art, learn henceforth to obey you;

For know, my heart—


Mahomet, Palmira, Omar, Ali, Attendants.


The secret is revealed;

Hercides told it in his dying moments:

The people all enraged have forced the prison:

They're up in arms, and bearing on their shoulders

The bloody corpse of their unhappy chief,

Lament his fate, and cry aloud for vengeance:

All is confusion: Seid at their head

Excited them to rebellion, and cries out,

“I am a parricide;” with rage and grief

He seems distracted; with one voice the crowd

United to curse the prophet and his God:

Even those who promised to admit our forces

Within the walls of Mecca, have conspired

With them to raise their desperate arms against thee;

And naught is heard but cries of death and vengeance.


Just heaven pursue him, and defend the cause

Of innocence!

MAHOMET. (to Omar.)

Well, what have we to fear?


Omar, my lord, with your few faithful friends,

Despising danger, are prepared to brave

The furious storm, and perish at your feet.


Alone I will defend you all; come near:

Behold and say I act like Mahomet.


Mahomet, Omar, Ali, and his party one side, Seid and the People on the other. Palmira in the middle.


Avenge my father, seize the traitor.



Born to obey me, listen to your master.


Hear not the monster; follow me:

(he comes forward a little, and then staggers.)

O heaven!

What sudden darkness spread o'er my dim eyes?

Now strike, my friends—O I am dying.



Then all is well.


My brother, canst thou shed

No blood but Zopir's?


Yes: come on—I cannot;

Some god unnerves me.

(he faints).


Hence let every foe

Of Mahomet be taught to fear and tremble:

Know, ye proud infidels, this hand alone

Hath power to crush you all, to me the God

Of nature delegates his sovereign power:

Acknowledge then his prophet, and his laws,

'Twixt Mahomet and Seid let that God

decide the contest, which of us forever

is guilty, now, this moment let him perish!


My brother—Seid—can this monster boast

Such power? The people stand astonished at him,

And tremble at his voice; and wilt thou yield

To Mahomet?


(supported by his attendant.).

Alas! The hand of heaven

Is on me, and the involuntary crime

Is too severely punished: O Palmira,

In vain was Seid virtuous: O if heaven

Chastises this our errors, what must crimes

Like think expect, detested Mahomet?

What cause hast thou to tremble—O I die;

Receive me, gracious heaven, and spare Palmira.



'Tis not, ye people, 'tis not angry heaven

Pursues my Seid. No: he's poisoned—


(interrupting her, and addressing himself to the people.)


From Seid's fate, ye unbelievers, how

To reverence Mahomet whom heaven defends;

And this pale corpse hath witnessed their obedience;

The sword of fate hangs o'er your heads, beware

It fall not on you: thus will I reward

All impious rebels, all vile infidels,

And punish every word and thought against me.

If I withhold my rage, and let you live,

Remember, traitors, that you owe your beings

To my indulgence; hasten to the temple,

Prostrate yourselves before the throne of grace,

And deprecate the wrath of Mahomet.

(the people retire.)


O stay, and hear me, people—the barbarian

Poisoned my brother—monster, raised by crimes

To empire thus, and deified by guilt,

Thou murderer of Palmira's hapless race,

Complete thy work, and take my wretched life:

O my dear brother, let me follow thee!

(she seizes her brother's sword and stabs herself.)


Seize, and prevent her—


'Tis too late; I die:

and dying hope a God more just than thine

has yet in store a state of happiness

for injured innocence: let Mahomet

reign here in peace: this world was made for tyrants.



She's gone; she's lost; the only dear reward

I wished to keep of all my crimes: in vain

I fought and conquered; Mahomet is wretched

Without Palmira: Conscience, now I feel thee,

And feel that thou canst rive the guilty heart.

O thou eternal God, whom I have wronged

Braved and blasphemed; O thou whom yet I fear,

Behold me self-condemned, behold me wretched,

Even whilst the world adores me: vain was all

My boasted power: I have deceived mankind;

But how shall I impose on my own heart?

A murdered father, and two guiltless children

Must be avenged: come, ye unhappy victims,

And end me quickly!—Omar, we must strive

To hide this shameful weakness, save my glory,

And let me reign o'er a deluded world:

For Mahomet depends on fraud alone,

And to be worshipped never must be know.

End of the Fifth and Last Act.

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