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Voltaire’s Candide as Vehicle to Discredit Optimism

Voltaire’s Candide as Vehicle to Discredit Optimism

Optimism was an attractive to many because it answered a profound philosophical question: if God is omnipotent and benevolent, then why is there so much evil in the world? Optimism provides an easy way out: God has made everything for the best, and even though one might experience personal misfortune, God (via your misfortune) is still helping the greater good.

Voltaire’s experiences led him to dismiss the idea that this is the best of all possible worlds. Examining the death and destruction, both man-made and natural (including the Lisbon earthquake) Voltaire concluded that everything was not for the best. Voltaire uses Candide as the vehicle to attack optimism. Pangloss is meant not to attack Leibnitz, but rather optimism as a philosophy. Thus the reader cannot forget that all of Pangloss’s ramblings are not Voltaire’s personal attacks on Leibnitz, but in some way represent a characterization of the “typical” optimist. Pangloss, writes Voltaire, “Proved admirably that there cannot possibly be an effect without a cause, and that in this best of all possible worlds the Baron’s castle was the most beautiful of all castles and his wife the best of all possible baronesses” (Voltaire 2). Thus we have established Pangloss as the champion of optimism.

Yet just as quickly, Voltaire points out the absurdity of this doctrine. “Observe,” says Pangloss, seeking to demonstrate that everything has a cause and effect, “noses were made to support spectacles, hence we have spectacles. Legs, as anyone can plainly see, were made to be breeched, and so we have breeches” (Voltaire 3). The sheer stupidity of these illogical conclusions will likely…

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… Candide respond, in closing, to his friend the Optimist?

“That is very well put, said Candide, but we must cultivate our garden” (Voltaire 75).

Works Cited and Consulted:

Bottiglia, William. “Candide’s Garden.” Voltaire: A Collection of Critical Essays. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1968.

Durant, Will, Ariel Durant. The Story of Civilization: Part IX: The Age of Voltaire. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1965.

Frautschi, R.L. Barron’s Simplified Approach to Voltaire: Candide. New York: Barron’s Educational Series, Inc., 1968.

Lowers, James K, ed. “Cliff Notes on Voltaire’s Candide”. Lincoln: Cliff Notes, Inc. 1995.

Richter, Peyton. Voltaire. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1980.

Voltaire’s Candide and the Critics. California: Wadsworth Publishing Company, Inc., 1996.

Voltaire. Candide. New York: Viking Publishers, 1998.

Much Ado About Nothing Essay: The Character of Don John

The Character of Don John in Much Ado About Nothing

William Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing is a comedy in which he uses one of his more peculiar villains. The antagonist in this play is Don John, the bastard brother of Don Pedro. In this paper I will discuss the role of Don John as well as his motives and the character himself. I will also delve into Shakespeare’s use of Don John as the antagonist. I will be comparing Don John to other characters in the play as well as to other villains in Shakespeare’s works. While Don John does not spend a great deal of time on the stage in Much Ado About Nothing, he still plays a vital role in the plot of the play. The plan that he sets in motion is one of the two main stories within the play (the battle of wit between Beatrice and Benedict being the other).

Don John, as I mentioned before, is the bastard brother of Don Pedro. His illegitimacy is one of the factors that makes him altogether vile and hateful. He is bitter because of his social standing and at the beginning of the play is directly bitter and jealous of Claudio. We might find some reasoning into why Don John hates Claudio by what he says when speaking to Barrachio and Conrade in the first act. When finding out about Don Pedro’s plot to help Claudio win the hand of Hero, Don John says:

“Come, come; let us thither: this may prove food to my displeasure. That young start up hath all the glory of my overthrow: if I can cross him any way, I bless myself every way.” (Shakespeare 16)

While Shakespeare never actually distinguishes specific motives for Don John’s hatred of Claudio, we can infer one of two possibilities from his use of the word “overthrow”. The overthrow he refers to could be a military overthr…

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… in the face to Don John.

The character Don John is not a very complicated character. He is not a character that gets very much time on the stage either. You cannot deny, however, that he is one of the most evil and twisted characters that Shakespeare has ever come up with. I think that Don John is the perfect villain in every aspect of the word.

Works Cited

Hunter, G.K. William Shakespeare: The Later Comedies. Great Brittian: Langman’s Green

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