Socrates
Voltaire
Novels
1:04 h
Level 9
Socrates (French: Socrate) is a 1759 French play in three acts written by Voltaire. It is set in Ancient Greece during the events just before the trial and death of Greek philosopher Socrates. It is heavy with satire specifically at government authority and organized religion. The main characters besides the titular role is that of the priest Anitus, his entourage, Socrates' wife Xantippe, several judges, and some children Socrates has adopted as his own. Like more historical accounts by Herodotus, Plato, and Xenophon, the playwright shows Socrates as a moral individual charged with baseless accusations by a conspiracy of corrupt Athenians or Athenian officials although Voltaire implies that the wrongdoers are a select few.

Socrates

by
Voltaire


CHARACTERS:
SOCRATES
ANITUS, High Priest
MELITUS, Athenian Judge
XANTIPPE, Wife of Socrates
AGLAEA, a young Athenian girl raised by Socrates
SOPHRONINE, a young Athenian boy raised by Socrates
DRIXA, a merchant woman attached to Anitus
TERPANDRE, attached to Anitus
ACROS, attached to Anitus
JUDGES
DISCIPLES OF SOCRATES
NONOTI, a pedant protected by Anitus
BERTIOS, another
CHOMOS, another

                                       Act I     

ANITUS: My dear confidants, my dear agents, you know how much money I made you during the last festival of Ceres. I’m getting married and I hope you will do your duty on this grand occasion.

DRIXA: Yes, without doubt, Milord, since you are going to make us earn yet more.

ANITUS: Madame Drixa, I must have two beautiful Persian rugs. You, Terpandre, of you I only ask two large silver candelabra. And of you, Acros, a half dozen dresses of silk embroidered with gold.

TERPANDRE: That’s a bit much; but Milord there’s nothing I won’t do to deserve your holy protection.

ANITUS: You will regain all that a hundred fold. It’s the best way to deserve the favors of the gods and goddesses. Give much and you will receive much; and especially don’t fail to arouse the people against all the people of quality who do not vow enough, and who do not present offerings.

ACROS: We will never fail in that; it’s too sacred a duty not to be faithful to it.

ANITUS: Go, my dear friends. May the gods keep you in these sentiments, so pious and just! And count on prospering, yourselves, your children and your grandchildren.

TERPANDRE: We are sure of that because you said it.

(Exit Terpandre and Acros)

ANITUS: Well, my dear Madame Drixa, I think you don’t find it ill that I am espousing Aglaea; but I don’t love you any less. We will live together as usual.

DRIXA: Oh! Milord, I am not jealous; and since business is going so well I am very satisfied. Since I have the honor of being one of your mistresses, I have enjoyed great consideration in Athens. If you love Aglaea, I love the young Sophronine. And Xantippe, the wife of Socrates has promised to give him to me in marriage. You will still have the same rights over me. I am only annoyed that this young man may be raised by that villainous Socrates, and that Aglaea may yet be in his clutches. They must be gotten out of them as quickly as possible. Xantippe will be enchanted to be rid of them. The handsome Sophronine and the beautiful Aglaea are very ill in Socrates hands.

ANITUS: I really flatter myself, my dear Madame Drixa, that Melitus and I will ruin that dangerous man, who preaches nothing but virtue and divinity and who has dared to mock certain intrigues that happened at the Mysteries of Ceres. But Socrates is the tutor of Aglaea. Agathon, Aglaea’s father, they say has left her great wealth. Aglaea is adorable. I idolize Aglaea. I must marry Aglaea and I must deal tactfully with Socrates while waiting to hang him.

DRIXA: Deal tactfully with Socrates in order that I may have my young man. But why did Agathon allow his daughter into the clutches of that old, flat nosed Socrates, that insufferable fault-finder who corrupts the young and prevents them from frequenting courtesans and the holy mysteries?

ANITUS: Agathon was infatuated with the same principles. He was one of those sober and serious types who have different morals from ours; who are from another country, and who are our sworn enemies, who think they’ve fulfilled all their duties when they’ve adored divinity, helped humanity, cultivated friendship and studied philosophy; one of those folks who insolently pretend that the gods have not inscribed the future in the liver of an ox; one of those pitiless dialecticians who find fault with priests for sacrificing their daughters or spending the night with them, as needs be. You feel they are monsters fit only to be choked. If there were only five or six sages in Athens who had as much credit as he, that would be enough to deprive me of most of my income and honors.