Chapter VI

How the Portuguese Made a Beautiful Auto-Da-Fé to Prevent any Further Earthquakes; and how Candide was Publicly Whipped

AFTER THE EARTHQUAKE had destroyed three-fourths of Lisbon, the sages of that country could think of no means more effectual to prevent utter ruin than to give the people a beautiful auto-da-fé; for it had been decided by the University of Coimbra, that the burning of a few people alive by a slow fire, and with great ceremony, is an infallible secret to hinder the earth from quaking.

In consequence hereof, they had seized on a Biscayner, convicted of having married his godmother, and on two Portuguese, for rejecting the bacon which larded a chicken they were eating; after dinner, they came and secured Dr. Pangloss, and his disciple Candide, the one for speaking his mind, the other for having listened with an air of approbation. They were conducted to separate apartments, extremely cold, as they were never incommoded by the sun. Eight days after they were dressed in san-benitos and their heads ornamented with paper mitres. The mitre and san-benito belonging to Candide were painted with reversed flames and with devils that had neither tails nor claws; but Pangloss's devils had claws and tails and the flames were upright. They marched in procession thus habited and heard a very pathetic sermon, followed by fine church music. Candide was whipped in cadence while they were singing; the Biscayner, and the two men who had refused to eat bacon, were burnt; and Pangloss was hanged, though that was not the custom. The same day the earth sustained a most violent concussion.

Candide, terrified, amazed, desperate, all bloody, all palpitating, said to himself:

“If this is the best of possible worlds, what then are the others? Well, if I had been only whipped I could put up with it, for I experienced that among the Bulgarians; but oh, my dear Pangloss! thou greatest of philosophers, that I should have seen you hanged, without knowing for what! Oh, my dear Anabaptist, thou best of men, that thou should'st have been drowned in the very harbor! Oh, Miss Cunegonde, thou pearl of girls! that thou should'st have had thy belly ripped open!”

Thus he was musing, scarce able to stand, preached at, whipped, absolved, and blessed, when an old woman accosted him saying:

“My son, take courage and follow me.”

Footnotes

  1. In all likelihood, Pangloss understood that he was being persecuted by the Inquisition for his beliefs. Candide, however, as a young man unfamiliar with the Inquisition, doesn't understand anything that has happened. It should also be noted that this wasn't the usual format of the Inquisition, and that one's crimes or heretical beliefs were almost always made public so that one could be made an example of by the Church. Voltaire sidesteps this to enhance the absurdity of the situation.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  2. To "palpitate" means to quiver, throb, or pulse. In this case, Candide's palpitations are caused by the pain of his wounds, which throb with the beating of his heart as blood is pumped into them. Notice how often Candide has suffered physically in this novel: he's been whipped, survived a shipwreck, run the gauntlet, and fainted many times. His resilience is astounding and, as Voltaire suggests, somewhat deranged.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  3. Notice that Candide's garments are different than Pangloss', indicating that they've been accused of different crimes. Candide's downward flames indicate that he has repented (or, in this case, only been an accessory to Pangloss' heretical claims). Pangloss' upward flames indicate that he will receive the harsher punishment of the two.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  4. The san-benito was a kind of loose garment painted with flames and figures of devils that was worn by persons condemned to death by the Inquisition when they went to be burned at the stake during an auto-da-fé. Those who expressed repentance wore a garment of the same kind covered with flames directed downward, while those worn by Jews, sorcerers, and renegades bore a St. Andrew's cross on the front and back. A mitre was a kind of headdress worn by priests of the Jewish faith.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  5. Candide and Pangloss have been imprisoned in chambers that have no windows and are thus never touched by the light. "Incommoded" means inconvenienced or annoyed and should be taken in this context to mean that the sun has never affected the natural state of these prison cells, which is to be cold and damp.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  6. Approbation meaning approval or praise, in this case of Pangloss' theories. Under the Spanish Inquisition, one could be persecuted for one's thoughts as well as one's actions, and one need not actually have sinned to be accused of and punished for that sin. Thus, many innocent people such as Candide were killed without any apologies from the Roman Catholic Church.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  7. Jewish people are prohibited from eating pork. As believers in a faith other than Christianity, the Jewish people were subject to the torture of the Inquisition, where they either denounced their religion or faced execution. The Inquisition also targeted Muslims, protestants, homosexuals, and certain ethnic groups, such as gypsies. This is yet another example of religious extremism in the book.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  8. From the Portuguese meaning act of faith, an auto-da-fe was a ritual of public penance ordered by the Inquisition to purify heretics before they were executed. After the Lisbon earthquake, a large auto-da-fé was held in a fruitless attempt to ward off further earthquakes. By calling this auto-da-fe "beautiful," Voltaire lampoons the Familiars of the Inquisition, who were believed to enjoy the torture they ordered.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor