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´╗┐Title: Socrate. English - Socrates
Author: Voltaire, 1694-1778
Language: English
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                     Translated and adapted by

                          Frank J. Morlock

                               C 2000

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
NONOTI, a pedant protected by Anitus
BERTIOS, another
CHOMOS, another


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.

Yes, without doubt, Milord, since you are going to make us earn yet

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.

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

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

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

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.

We are sure of that because you said it.

(Exit Terpandre and Acros)

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

The Devil! Now that's really serious.

While waiting to strangle him, I am going to speak with him under the
porticoes and conclude this business with him about my marriage.

Here he is: you do him too much honor. I am going to leave you and I
am going to speak about my young man to Xantippe.

The gods accompany you, my darling Drixa. Serve them always and beware
of believing in only one God, and don't forget my two beautiful
Persian rugs.

(Enter Socrates)

Eh! Hello, my dear Socrates, the favorite of the gods and the wisest
of mortals. I feel I am raised above myself every time I see you and
in you, I respect Human Nature.

I am a simple man destitute of sciences and full of weakness like the
rest. It's much if you support me.

Support you! I admire you; I would like to resemble you if it were
possible. And it is in order to be a more frequent witness to your
virtues, to hear your lessons more often, that I wish to marry your
beautiful pupil Aglaea whose destiny depends on you.

It's true that her father, Agathon, who was my friend, that is to say
much more than just a relative, confided to me by his will this
amiable and virtuous orphan.

With considerable riches? For they say it's the best part of Athens.

On that subject, I can give you no enlightenment; her father, that
kind friend whose wishes are sacred to me, forbade me by that same
will, to divulge the condition of his daughter's fortune.

That respect for the last wishes of a friend, and that discretion are
worthy of your beautiful soul. But people know well enough that
Agathon was a rich man.

He deserved to be, if riches are a favor of the Supreme Being.

They say that a little hare-brain named Sophronine, is paying court to
her on account of her fortune. But I am persuaded that you will show
the door to such a character, and that a man like me won't have a

I know what I must think of a man like you: but it's not for me to
obstruct Aglaea's feelings. I serve her as her father; I am not her
master. She must dispose of her heart. I regard constraint as a crime.
Speak to her: If she listens to your propositions, I will consent to
her will.

I've already got the consent of Xantippe, your wife; without doubt she
is informed of Aglaea's feelings; so I regard the thing as done.

I cannot regard things as done until they are.

(Aglaea enters)

Come beautiful Aglaea, come decide your fate. Here's a gentleman,
priest of high rank, the leading priest in Athens, who offers himself
to be your spouse. I leave you complete liberty to explain things with
him. That liberty will not be constrained by my presence. Whatever
choice you make I will approve. Xantippe will prepare everything for
your wedding.

(Socrates leaves)

Ah, generous Socrates it's with great regret I see you leave.

It seems, amiable Aglaea, that you have great confidence in the good

I owe it to him; he's serving as my father and he forms my soul.

Well! If he directs your feelings, could you tell me what you think of
Ceres, of Cybele, of Venus?

Alas! I will; whatever you wish.

That's well said: you will also do what I wish.

No. That's much different from the other.

You see that the wise Socrates consents to our union. Xantippe, his
wife, presses for this marriage. You know what feelings you have
inspired in me. You know my rank and my reputation. You see that my
happiness and perhaps yours depends on a word from your mouth.

I am going to respond to you with the truth which that great man who
just left here instructed me never to dissemble, and with the liberty
that he left me. I respect your dignity; I know little of your person
and I cannot give myself to you.

You cannot! You who are free! Ah, Aglaea, you don't wish it then?

It's true that I don't wish it.

Are you really aware of the affront you are giving me? I see very
clearly that Socrates has betrayed me. It's he who is dictating your
response. It's he who is giving preference to this young Sophronine,
to my unworthy rival, to that impious--

Sophronine is not impious; he's been attached to him since childhood.
Socrates serves as a father to him as to me. Sophronine is full of
grace and virtue. I love him and I am loved by him. He clings only to
me to be his wife. But I will no more have him than you.

All that you tell me astonishes me. What! You dare to admit to me that
you love Sophronine?

Yes, I dare confess to you because nothing is more true.

And when he demands that you be happy with him, you refuse his hand?

Again, nothing is more true.

Doubtless it's fear of displeasing me that delays your engagement to

Assuredly no. Never having sought to please you, I do not at all fear
displeasing you.

Then you fear to offend the gods by preferring a profane man like this
Sophronine to a minister of the altars?

Not at all; I am persuaded that the Supreme Being cares very little
whether I marry you or not.

The Supreme Being! My dear girl, that's not the way you must speak.
You must speak of gods and goddesses. Take care: I perceive in you
dangerous sentiments and I know very well who inspired them. Know that
Ceres, whose high priest I am, can punish you for having scorned her
cult and her minister.

I scorn neither the one nor the other. They tell me that Ceres
presides over wheat: I intend to believe it. But she doesn't meddle
with my marriage.

She meddles with everything. You know that very well; but still I hope
to convert you. Are you really determined not to marry Sophronine?

Yes, I am very determined, and I'm very annoyed about it.

I don't understand these contradictions at all. Listen: I love you. I
wanted to make you happy and place you in a high rank. Believe me,
don't offend me. Don't reject your fortune. Think that it is necessary
to sacrifice everything to an advantageous establishment; that youth
passes and that fortune remains. That riches and honors must be your
only goal and that I speak to you on behalf of the Gods and Goddesses.
I beg you to reflect on it. Goodbye, my dear girl. I am going to pray
to Ceres that she may inspire you. And I hope that she will touch your
heart. Goodbye, one more time. Remember you promised me not to marry

I promised that to myself not to you.

(Anitus leaves)

How that man increases my chagrin. I don't know why I never see that
priest without trembling. But here's Sophronine. Alas, while his rival
fills me with terror, this one increases my sorrows and my tenderness.

SOPHRONINE: (entering)
Darling Aglaea, I see Anitus, that priest of Ceres, that evil man,
that sworn enemy of Socrates, is leaving you, and your eyes seem damp
with tears.

Him! He's the enemy of our benefactor, Socrates? I am no longer
astonished by the aversion that he inspired me with even before he
spoke to me.

Alas, is it to him that I must impute the tears that darken your eyes?

He can only inspire me with disgust. No, Sophronine, only you can make
my tears flow.

Me, great gods! I who would pay for them with my blood! I, who adore
you, who flatter myself to be loved by you! I, who must reproach
myself for having cast a moment of bitterness into your life? You are
weeping and I am the cause of it? Then what have I done? What crime
have I committed?

You didn't commit any. I am crying because you deserve all my
tenderness; because you have it; and because I must renounce you.

What funereal words have you uttered? No, I cannot believe it; you
love me, you cannot change. You promised me to be mine; you don't wish
my death.

I want you to live happy, Sophronine, and I cannot make you happy. I
hoped, but my fate misled me. I swear that, not being able to be
yours, I will belong to no one. I declared it to that Anitus who is
pursuing me, and whom I scorn. I declare to you my heart is full of
the most acute sorrow and the most tender love.

Since you love me, I ought to live; but if you refuse me your hand, I
must die. Dearest Aglaea, in the name of so much love, in the name of
your charms and your virtues, explain this funereal mystery to me.

(Socrates enters)

O Socrates! my master! my father! I see myself here the most unlucky
of men: between two beings through whom I breathe; it's you who taught
me wisdom; it's Aglaea who taught me how to feel love. You've given
your consent to our marriage; the beautiful Aglaea who seems to desire
it refuses me and, as she tells me she loves me, plunges the dagger in
my heart. She breaks off our marriage without explaining to me the
reason for such a cruel caprice. Either prevent my pain, or teach me,
if it is possible, to bear it.

Aglaea is the mistress of her will; her father made me her tutor and
not her tyrant. I based my happiness on seeing you united together; if
she has changed her mind, I am surprised by it, but we must hear her
reasons. If they are just, we must submit to them.

They cannot be just.

They are, at least in my eyes. Condescend to listen to me, person to
person. When you had accepted the secret testament of my father, wise
and generous Socrates, you told me that it would leave me an honest
fortune with which I could establish myself. From that time, I formed
the plan of giving this fortune to your dear disciple, Sophronine, who
has only your support and for his entire wealth possessed only his
virtue. You entirely approved my resolution. You conceived that it was
my good fortune to make the fortune of an Athenian that I regard as
your son. Full of my happiness, carried away by a sweet joy, that my
heart could not contain, I confided this delirious state my soul was
in to your wife, Xantippe, and just as soon that condition
disappeared. She treated me as a dreamer. She showed me the will of my
father who died in poverty, who left me nothing, and who confided me
to the friendship which united you. At that moment, awakened from my
dream, I felt only sadness at being unable to make the fortune of
Sophronine; I don't wish to overwhelm him with the weight of my

Indeed, I told you Socrates that her reasons were valueless; if she
loves me am I not rich enough? I've subsisted, it's true through your
charity, but it's not a guilty employment that I embrace only to
support my dear Aglaea. I must, it's true, make her the sacrifice of
my love, to find for her, an advantageous role for myself. But I
confess, I don't have the strength, and in that respect I am unworthy
of her. But if she could be content with my conditions, if she could
lower herself to me! No, I don't dare ask it; I don't dare wish it and
I won't succumb to a misfortune that she suffers.

My children, Xantippe was really indiscreet to have shown you that
will. But believe me, beautiful Aglaea, that she deceived you.

She didn't deceive me. I saw my misery with my own eyes. My father's
handwriting is well known to me. Be sure, Socrates, that I know how to
bear poverty; I know how to work with my hands. It's enough to live.
That's all I need. But it's not enough for Sophronine.

It's a thousand times too much for me, tender, sublime soul, worthy of
having been raised by Socrates. A noble and laborious poverty is the
natural state of man. I would have wanted to offer you a throne. But
if you deign to live with me, our respectable poverty is higher than
the throne of Croesus,

Your feelings please me more than they soften me. With ecstacy, I see
blooming in your hearts the virtue that I sowed there. Never have my
cares been better rewarded; never have my hopes been better fulfilled.
But, yet once more, Aglaea, believe me, my wife has ill informed you.
You are richer than you can imagine. It was not in her but in me that
your father confided. Can you not have wealth that Xantippe is
ignorant of?

No, Socrates. It says exactly in his will that he is leaving me poor.

And as for me, I tell you that you are mistaken; that he left you
wherewithal to live happily with the virtuous Sophronine, and that it
is necessary that you both come to sign the contract now.

XANTIPPE (entering)
Come on, come on, my daughter. Don't amuse yourself with the dreams of
my husband. Philosophy is all very fine when one is in easy
circumstances, but you have nothing. One has to live. You will
philosophize later. I have concluded your marriage with Anitus, a
worthy priest, a man of credit, a powerful man. Come follow me. There
must be neither delay nor contradiction; I like to be obeyed. And
quickly, it's for your good. Don't argue and follow me.

Ah, heaven, ha! dearest Aglaea!

Let her talk and trust in me for your happiness.

What do you mean, let me talk? Really, I mean to do so, and they'd
better let me do it. It's really for you, with your wisdom, and your
familiar demon, and your irony, and all your nonsense which is good
for nothing, for you to meddle in the marriage of young girls! You are
a good sort, but you don't understand anything about worldly affairs.
And you are very lucky that I govern you. Come on, Aglaea, come so I
can establish you. And you, who remain bewildered, I've got just the
thing for you, too. Drixa is your thing. You will thank me, both of
you. Everything will be concluded in no time; I am expeditious. Let's
not waste time. All this should have been concluded already.

Don't offend her, my children. Show her all sorts of deference. It's
necessary to humor her since one cannot correct her, It's the triumph
of superior reason to live with folks who don't have any.



Divine Socrates, I cannot believe my luck: how can it be that Aglaea
whose father died in extreme poverty has such a considerable dowry?

I already told you; she had more than she knew. I knew her father's
resources better than she. May it suffice you both to enjoy a fortune
you deserve; as for myself, I owe the dead a secret as well as the

I have only one fear; it's that that priest of Ceres, over whom you've
preferred me will avenge Aglaea's refusals on you. He's a man really
to be feared.

Eh! What can be feared when one is doing one's duty? I know the rage
of my enemies. I know all their slanders; but when one only tries to
do good to men and when one does not offend heaven, one can fear
nothing, neither during life, nor after death.

Nothing is more true; but I would die of sorrow if the happiness I owe
you allowed your enemies to force you to put your heroic constancy to

AGLAEA: (entering)
My benefactor, my father, man above all men, I embrace your knees.
Second me, Sophronine, it's he, it's Socrates who is marrying us at
the expense of his fortune, who is paying my dowry, who is depriving
himself of the greatest share of his wealth for us. No. We won't
suffer it; we won't be rich at this price. The more grateful our
heart, the more we must imitate the nobility of his.

Like Aglaea, I am throwing myself at your feet. I am seized as she is.
We feel your benefactions equally. We love you too much, Socrates, to
abuse it. Look at us as your children. But don't let your children be
an expense to such a degree. Your friendship is the greatest of
treasures; it's the only one that we want. What! You are not rich and
you are doing what the powerful on earth don't do! If we were to
accept your benefits we would be unworthy of them.

Rise, children. You are making me too weak. Listen, mustn't we respect
the will of the dead? Aglaea, your father whom I regarded as the
better part of myself, didn't he order me to treat you as my own
daughter? I am obeying him. I would be betraying his friendship and
confidence if I did less. I accepted his testament, and I will execute
it. The little that I am giving you is useless to my old age which is
without needs. Finally, as I have a duty to obey my friend, you must
obey your father. It is I who in his sacred name order you not to
overwhelm me with sorrow by refusing me. But retire; I observe
Xantippe. I have my reasons for begging you to avoid her at this time.

Ah. What cruel orders you give us.

(Aglaea and Sophronine exit)

XANTIPPE (entering)
Truly, you've just made a fine masterpiece! My word, my dear husband,
it's necessary to prevent you. See, if you please, these stupidities.
I promised Aglaea to the priest Anitus who has much credit among the
great. I promised Sophronine to that big business woman, Drixa who has
great credit among the people, and you marry the two dummies to each
other to make me break my word. It's not enough you are endowering
them with the greatest share of your wealth. Twenty thousand drachmas,
just gods! Twenty thousand drachmas! Aren't you ashamed? With what
will you live at the age of seventy? Who will pay for your doctors
when you become ill; your lawyers when you have a law suit? Finally,
what will I do when this trickster, this hypocrite, Anitus and his
party that you could have won over to yourself conspire to persecute
you, as they've done so many times? Heaven confound philosophers and
philosophy, and my stupid friendship for you! You meddle to direct
others when you need to be led about. You argue endlessly and you have
no common sense. If you weren't the best man in the world, you would
be the most ridiculous and unbearable. Listen: Only one word will
work. Instantly break off this impertinent bargain and do what your
wife wishes.

My dear Xantippe, it's quite well to speak and with moderation; but
listen to me in your turn. I didn't propose this marriage. Sophronine
and Aglaea love each other and are worthy of each other. I've already
given you all the wealth that I could grant you under the laws. I am
giving almost all which remains to me to the daughter of my friend.
The little I am keeping will suffice for me. I have neither doctors to
pay, because I am sober, nor lawyers, because I have no debts. With
regard to the philosophy for which you reproach me it teaches me how
to suffer the indignities of Anitus and your reproaches. To love you
despite your temper. (he leaves)

The old fool! I have to respect him despite himself, for after all,
there's I don't know what of grandeur in his folly. The calm of his
extravagances enrages me. It's useless for me to scold him; I waste my
efforts. I've been screaming at him for thirty years, and when I've
really screamed he overawes me and I am really confounded. Could he
have something in his soul superior to mine?

DRIXA: (entering)
Well, Madam Xantippe! See how you are mistress in your own house! Fie!
How cowardly to allow oneself to be governed by one's husband! This
cursed Socrates has carried off this handsome boy whose fortune I
wanted to make! The traitor! He will pay me for that!

My poor Madame Drixa, don't be angry with my husband. I am
sufficiently angry with him. He's an imbecile, I know that very well.
But at bottom, he's got the best heart in the world. There's no malice
in him. He commits every possible stupidity without intending any
trickery and with so much integrity that it's disarming. Anyway, he's
headstrong like a mule. I've spent my life torturing him; I've even
beaten him sometimes. Not only have I been unable to correct him, I
haven't even been able to anger him. What do you expect me to do?

I will avenge myself, I tell you. I notice under the porticoes his
good friend Anitus and some of ours. Let me alone.

My God! I fear that all these folks may play my husband some trick.
Let's go quickly to warn him. for after all, one cannot help loving

(Exit Xantippe)

Our insults are alike, respected Anitus. You are betrayed like me.
This dishonest man, Socrates, is giving almost all his wealth to
Aglaea only to drive you to despair. You must exact an exemplary

That's indeed my intention; heaven is concerned in it. Since he
disdains me, this man doubtless scorns the gods. Accusations have
already been brought against him; you must help me to renew them.
We'll put him in danger of his life. Then I will offer him my
protection on the condition that he gives me Aglaea and surrenders
your handsome Sophronine to you. That way we will fulfill all our
duties. He will be punished by the fright we have given him. I will
obtain my mistress and you shall have your lover.

You speak like wisdom itself. Some divinity must inspire you. Instruct
us: what must be done?

The judges will soon pass here to go to the Tribunal; Melitus is at
their head.

But that Melitus is a little pedant; an evil man who is your enemy.

Yes, but he's even more an enemy of Socrates. He's a hypocritical
rogue who maintains the rights of the Areopagus against me. But we
will join together when it's a question of ruining those false wise
men who are capable of enlightening the people about our conduct.
Listen, my dear Drixa, you are devout.

Yes, assuredly, my lord. I love money and pleasure with all my heart,
but as regards devotion, I will give place to no one.

Go take some devout people with you and when the judges pass by,
scream out against impiety.

Will there be something to gain by it? We are ready.

Yes. But what kind of impiety?

All types. You have only to accuse him boldly of not believing in the
gods. That's the quickest way.

Oh! Let me do it.

You will be perfectly seconded. Go under these porticoes; stir up your
friends. Meanwhile, I am going to instruct some newsmongers of the
controversy, some hack scribblers who often come to dine with me. They
are very despicable people, I admit. But, when they are carefully
directed, on occasion, they can do harm. All means must be used to
make the good cause triumph. Go, my dear friends. Commend yourselves
to Ceres. You will shout on my given signal. It's the sure way of
gaining hearers, and especially to live happily on earth.

(They leave; Nonoti, Chomos and Bertios enter)

Tireless, Nonoti, deep Chomos, fastidious Bertios; have you prepared
against this evil Socrates the little works I ordered?

I have labored, Milord; he won't recover from it.

I have demonstrated the truth against him. He is confounded.

I said only one word in my paper: he is ruined.

Take care, Nonoti. I forbade you to be prolix. You are naturally
boring; you could try the patience of the court.

Milord, I've written only a page. There I prove that the soul is an
infused quintessence; that tails are given to animals to shoo flies;
that love works miracles, and that consequently Socrates is an enemy
of the state who must be exterminated.

You couldn't draw a better conclusion. Go bring your accusation to the
second judge, who is an excellent philosopher. I will answer for it.
You will soon defeat your enemy Socrates.

Milord, I am not his enemy. I am only annoyed that he's got too great
a reputation, and all that I am doing is for the glory of Ceres, and
the good of the country.

Go, I tell you. Hurry up. Well, wise Chomos, what have you done?

Milord, not having found anything to reprove in Socrates' writings,
I've adroitly accused him of thinking contrary to what he says. I
point out the venom in what he says.

Marvelous. Take that piece to the fourth judge. He's a man who lacks
common sense and will understand you perfectly. And you, Bertios?

Milord, here's my last paper on chaos. I show, cleverly passing from
chaos to the Olympic games, that Socrates is perverting the youth.

Admirable! Go on my behalf to the seventh judge and tell him that I
commend Socrates to him. Fine, here's Melitus already, the Chief of
the Eleven coming forward. There's no beating around the bush to be
done with him. We know each other, too well.

(Exit Bertios and Chomos, enter Melitus.)

Your honor, the judge, a word. Socrates must be destroyed.

Your Reverence, the Priest, I've been pondering it for a long while.
Let's unite on this point and we will be less embroiled on the rest.

I know quite well we hate each other. But while detesting each other,
we must unite to govern the republic.

Agreed. No one can hear us here. I know that you are a fraud. You
don't look on me as an honest man. I cannot injure you because you are
a high priest. You cannot ruin me because I am the leading judge, But
Socrates could hurt either of us by unmasking us. You and I must begin
by compassing his death and then we will see how we can exterminate
each other at the first opportunity.

No one could say it better.

Hum! How I'd like to hold this rascal from the Areopagus on an altar,
arms hanging on one side, legs over the other, so as to open his
stomach with my golden knife and consult his liver at my ease.

MELITUS: (aside)
Will I ever get this gallows bird of a High Priest in jail and make him
drink a pint of Hemlock at my pleasure?

There now, my dear chap, there are your comrades who are coming
forward. I've prepared the mood of the people.

Very fine, my dear ally. Count on me as yourself at this moment. But
the grudge still remains.

(Some judges pass through the porticoes. Anitus whispers in Melitus'

Justice! Justice! Scandal, impiety! Justice, justice! Irreligion,
impiety! Justice!

What's all this, my friends? Of what are you complaining?

Justice! In the name of the people.

Against whom?

Against Socrates.

Ah! ah! Against Socrates? It's not the first time he's been complained
of. What's he done?

I don't know anything about it.

They say that he gives money to girls to get married.

Yes. He's corrupting the youth.

He's impious. He never offers gifts to Ceres. He says there's too much
gold and too much useless money in the temples. That the poor are
dying of hunger and that they must be helped.

Yes, he says that the priests of Ceres sometimes get drunk. It's true,
he's impious.

He's a heretic. He denies the plurality of the gods. He's a deist. He
believes only in one God. He's an atheist.

Now these are very grave accusations and very credible. They've
already informed me of all that you are telling us.

If such horrors are allowed to go unpunished, the state is in danger.
Minerva will withhold her aid from us.

Yes, Minerva without doubt. I heard him make jokes about the owl of

About the owl of Minerva! Oh! Heavens! Aren't you of the opinion he
should be put in prison immediately?

JUDGES: (together)
Yes, in prison. Right away. In prison!

Ushers! Take Socrates to prison immediately.

And there let him be burned without having been heard.

Ah! He must at least be heard! We cannot infringe the law.

What this fine, pious man means is--he must be heard, but one cannot
be surprised by what he says. For you know these philosophers are
diabolically clever. Where we bring harmony, they disturb all the

To prison! to prison!

(Xantippe, Sophronine, Aglaea enter. Then Socrates, enchained.)

Ah, mercy! They are dragging my husband to prison. Honorable judges,
aren't you ashamed to treat a man of his age thus? What evil could he
do? He is incapable of it. Alas, he's more stupid than bad. Gentlemen,
take pity on him. Indeed, I told you, my husband, that you would get
yourself into some bad business. That's what comes of dowering girls.
How unhappy I am!

Ah, gentlemen. Respect his age and his virtue. Put me in irons. I am
ready to give my liberty and my life for his.

Yes. We will go to prison in place of him. We will die for him if need
be. Don't seek the life of the greatest of men. Take us for your

You see how he corrupts the youth!

Cease, my wife; cease, my children to set yourselves up in opposition
to the will of heaven. It is manifesting itself through the organ of
the laws. Whoever resists the law is unworthy of being a citizen. God
wished that I be put in irons; I submit to his decrees without a
murmur. In my house, in Athens, in a prison cell, I am equally free.
And in you I see so much sincere gratitude, so much friendship that I
am still happy. What does it matter whether Socrates sleeps in his
room or in an Athenian prison? Everything is in the eternal order of
things and my will must be there.

Let them take away this dialectician. That's how they all are. They
press you with arguments right under the gallows.

Gentlemen, what has just been said touches me. This man shows good
disposition. I flatter myself I am able to convert him. Let me speak
to him a moment in private. And order his wife and these young people
to retire.

We indeed wish it, venerable Anitus. You can speak to him before he
appears before our tribunal.

(They exit leaving Socrates alone with Anitus.)

Virtuous Socrates, my heart bleeds to see you in this condition.

You actually have a heart?

Yes, and I am ready to do everything for you.

Really? I'm convinced you've done much already.

Listen. Your situation is more dangerous than you think. It goes to
your life.

Then it's a question of a little thing.

It's little to your intrepid and sublime soul. To the eyes of those
who cherish, as I do, your virtue, it's everything. Believe me, with
whatever philosophy your souls may be armed, it is hard to perish by
execution. That's not all: your reputation which must be dear to you
will be tarnished throughout the centuries. Not only will all the
bigots laugh over your death, they will insult you, light the pyre on
which you will burn if they burn you, tighten the rope if they
strangle you, grind the Hemlock if they poison you. But they will
render your memory execrable to the entire future. You can easily
avoid such a funereal end. I will answer for saving your life, and
even will have you declared by the judges to be the wisest of men, as
you were by the oracle of Apollo. It's only a question of giving me
your pupil Aglaea. With the dowry you are giving her, understood. We
can easily break off her marriage with Sophronine. You will enjoy a
peaceable and honorable old age and the gods and goddesses will bless

Guards! Take me to prison without further delay.

(They lead him away.)

This man is incorrigible. It's not my fault. I have nothing to
reproach myself with. He must be abandoned to his reprobate opinions
and allowed to die unrepentant.



(The Judges are seated on a tribunal. Socrates is standing.)

A JUDGE: (to Anitus)
You mustn't sit here. You are a priest of Ceres.

I am only here for edification.

Silence. Listen, Socrates, you are accused of being a bad citizen; of
corrupting the youth; of denying the plurality of the gods; of being a
heretic, deist, atheist. Answer.

Athenian Judges, I exhort you always to be good citizens as I have
always tried to be. To shed your blood for the country as I have done
in more than one battle. Regarding the youth of which you speak, do
not cease to guide them through your admonitions, and especially by
your examples; teach them to love true virtue, and to flee the
wretched philosophy of the school; the article of the plurality of the
gods is a bit difficult to discuss, but you will easily understand me.
Athenian Judges, there is only one God.

Oh, the knave.

There is only one God, I tell you. His nature is to be infinite. No
being can share his infinity with him. Raise your eyes toward the
celestial globes, turn them towards earth and the sea. All
corresponds, all is made for each other. Each being is intimately
linked to other beings. Everything is of the same design. There is
only a single architect, a single master, a single guardian. Perhaps
he's deigned to form some genies, some demons, more powerful and more
enlightened than men. And if they exist they are creatures like you;
they are his first subjects and not gods at all. But nothing in nature
advertises to us that they exist, while all nature announces to us one
God and one Father. This God has no need of Mercury and Iris to
signify his orders. He has only to will it and that's enough. If by
Minerva, you understand only the wisdom of God, if by Neptune you
intend only his immutable laws which raise and lower the seas, I would
say to you: He allows you to revere Neptune and Minerva, since under
these emblems you are still adoring only the eternal Being, and so
long as you are not giving occasion to people to misunderstand it.

What impious balderdash.

Always beware of turning religion into metaphysics: Morality is its
essence. Adore and stop disputing. If our ancestors had said that the
Supreme God had descended into the arms of Alcmene, of Danae, of
Semele, and that he had children with them, our ancestors were
imagining dangerous fables. It's insulting to the Divinity to pretend
that he had committed with a woman in whatever manner it might be what
we would call amongst men an adultery. That's discouraging to the rest
of men to say that to be a great man, one must be born from the
mysterious coupling with one of your wives or daughters. Miltiades,
Cimon, Themistocles, Arisitides, that you persecuted were perhaps
worth more than Perseus, Herakles and Bacchus. There being no other
way to be the children of this God than by trying to please him, and
by being just. Deserve that title by never rendering iniquitous

What blasphemies and insolence!

What absurdities! No one knows what he means.

Socrates, if you always continue to argue, this is not what we need.
Answer briefly and precisely. Did you make fun of the owl of Minerva?

Athenian judges, take care of your owls! When you propose ridiculous
things to believe, too many men will choose to believe nothing at all.
They have enough wit to see that your doctrine is impertinent, But
they don't have enough to raise themselves to the true law. They know
how to laugh at your little gods. They don't know how to adore the God
of all beings, unique, incomprehensible, incommunicable, eternal, and
all just as well as all powerful.

Ah! The blasphemer! ah, the monster! He's said more than enough. I
conclude for death.

And we, too.

Several of us are not of that opinion. We think that Socrates spoke
very well. We believe that men would be more just and more wise if
they thought like him. And as for me, far from condemning him, I am of
the opinion he ought to be rewarded.

We think the same.

The opinions seems to be divided.

Gentlemen of the Areopagus, let me question Socrates. Do you think
that the Sun turns and that the Areopagus is of Divine Right?

You have no right to ask me questions. But I have the right to show
you what you are ignorant of. It matters little to society whether the
earth may turn, but it matters greatly that men who turn with it be
just. Virtue alone is of Divine Right. And you, the Areopagus have no
other rights but those the nation has given you.

Illustrious and equitable judges make Socrates leave.

(Melitus gives a sign. They lead Socrates out. Anitus continues.)

August Areopagus, instituted by heaven, you have heard him. This
dangerous man denies that the Sun turns, and that you are filled with
Divine Right. If these horrible opinions spread, no more magistrates,
no more Sun; you will no longer be those judges established by the
fundamental laws of Minerva; you are no longer masters of the state,
you must no longer judge except by following the laws. And if you
depend on the laws, you are ruined. Punish the rebellion, avenge
heaven and earth. I am leaving: Fear the anger of the gods if Socrates
remains alive.

(Anitus leaves and the judges opine.)

I don't wish a quarrel with Anitus; he's a man much to be feared. If
it were only a question of the gods it would still be overlooked.

A JUDGE: (to whom he just spoke)
Between ourselves, Socrates is right. But he's wrong to be right so
publicly. I don't make more of the case of Ceres or Neptune than he
does. But he ought not to say before the whole Areopagus what should
only be whispered in the ear. Where, after all, is the evil in
poisoning a philosopher, especially when he's old and ugly?

If there is injustice in condemning Socrates, That's Anitus' affair.
It's not mine. I put it all on his conscience. Anyway, it's late,
we're wasting his time! To death, to death and no more discussion
about it.

They say he's a heretic and an atheist. To death. To death.

Let them call Socrates.

(Socrates is brought in)

The gods be blessed; the plurality is for death. Socrates, the gods
condemn you through our mouth to drink Hemlock so that death will

We are all mortal. Nature condemns you all to die in a short time. And
probably you will all have an end sadder than mine. Diseases which
lead to death are worse than a goblet of Hemlock. As to the rest, I
owe praise to the judges who opined in favor of innocence. To the
others, I owe only my pity.

ONE JUDGE: (leaving)
Certainly this man deserves a state pension rather than a bowl of

That's true; but at the same time what's the point of getting
embroiled with a priest of Ceres?

I'm really quite comfortable in putting a philosopher to death. Those
folk have a certain pride in wit which it's good to humble a little.

Gentlemen, one thing. While our shoulder is at the wheel, wouldn't we
do better to put to death all the geometers who pretend that the three
angles of a triangle add up to two right angles? They strangely
scandalize the populace that reads their books.

Yes, yes, we'll hang them at the next session. Let's go to dinner.

(Exit the judges.)

(There should be a scene change here to Socrates cell. But there is no
indication in the text.)

I've been prepared for death for a long while. All that worries me now
is that my wife, Xantippe may come trouble my last moments and
interrupt the sweet composure of my soul: I mustn't be occupied except
with the Supreme Being before whom I must soon appear. But here she
is: I've got to be resigned to everything.

XANTIPPE: (entering)
Well! Poor man! What have these law folk concluded? Are you condemned
to a fine? are you banished? Are you absolved? My God! How you've
upset me! Try, I beg you, not to let this happen again.

No, my wife. I'll answer for that. It won't happen again. You won't be
troubled by anything.

(Enter Disciples)

Be welcome, my dear disciples, my friends.

CRITO: (at the head of Socrates' Disciples)
You sees us as alarmed at your fate as your wife, Xantippe. We have
obtained from the judges, permission to see you. Just heaven! Must we
see Socrates burdened with chains? Allow us to kiss these irons that
honor you and are the shame of Athens. Is it possible that Anitus and
his accomplices have been able to put you in this condition?

My dear friends, let's not think of these trivia and let's continue
the discussion we were having yesterday about the immortality of the
soul. It seems to me we were saying that nothing is more probable than
that idea. Indeed, matter changes and never perishes; why should the
soul perish? Could it be made so that we, being elevated to
consciousness of a God through the veil of the mortal body, would
cease to know Him when the veil falls. No. Since we think, we will
think forever; thought is the being of man. That being will appear
before a just God who rewards virtue, who punishes crime and who
excuses weakness.

That's well said: I didn't understand any of it. To always think
because one has thought! Does one always wipe one's nose because one
has wiped it before. But who's this villainous man with his bowl?

JAILOR OR SERVANT OF THE ELEVEN: (bringing the cup of Hemlock)
Here! Socrates: this is what the Senate sends you.

What! Cursed poisoner of the republic, you come here to kill my
husband in my presence! I will disfigure you, monster!

My dear friend, I ask your pardon for my wife. She's always scolded
her husband. She's treating you the same way. I beg you to excuse this
little excitement. Give it to me. (taking the bowl)

Let it be permitted for us to take this poison, divine Socrates. By
what horrible injustice are you ravished from us? Why? The criminals
have condemned the just. The fanatics have proscribed the wise man!
You are going to die.

No, I am going to live. Here's the brew of immortality. It's not the
perishable body that you loved, that instructed you, it's my soul
alone that lived with you. And it will love you forever. (wants to

First, I must remove your chains. That's the rule.

If it's the rule, remove them. (he scratches his leg a bit)

What! You are smiling?

I am smiling. Reflecting that pleasure comes from pain. It's in this
manner that Eternal Happiness will be born from the miseries of life.
(Socrates drinks)

Alas, what have you done?

Alas, it's for I don't know how many ridiculous speeches of this sort
that they are making this poor man die. Truly, my husband, you break
my heart and I will strangle all the judges with my own hands. I
scolded you, but I loved you: and these are the polite folk who've
poisoned you. Ah! ah! My dear husband, ah!

Calm yourself, my good Xantippe. Don't cry any more my friends. It
doesn't become disciples of Socrates to shed tears.

And can one not pour them out after this frightful sentence, after
this judicial poisoning ordered by perverse ignorance, who've bought
with fifty thousand drachmas the right to murder their fellow citizens
with impunity?

That's the way they often treat the worshippers of a single God, and
the enemies of superstition.

Alas! Must you be one of those victims?

It's beautiful to be the victim of Divinity. I am dying satisfied.
It's true I would have liked to join to the consolation of seeing you
that of Sophronine and Aglaea as well. I am astonished not to see
them. They would have rendered my last moments even sweeter than they

Alas, they are unaware that you have consummated the iniquity of your
judges. They are speaking to the people. They are encouraging the
magistrates who took your part. Aglaea is revealing the crime of
Anitus. His shame is going to be public. Aglaea and Sophronine perhaps
would have saved your life. Ah! Dear Socrates, why did you hurry your
last moments.

AGLAEA: (entering with Sophronine)
Divine Socrates, fear nothing. Xantippe console yourself. Worthy
disciples don't weep.

Your enemies are confounded; all the people are coming to your

We've spoken out. We've revealed the jealousy and intrigue of the
impious Anitus. It was up to me to demand justice for his crime since
I was the cause of it.

Anitus escaped by flight before the fury of the people. They are
pursuing him and his accomplices. They are giving solemn thanks to the
judges who opined in your favor. The people are at the gate of the
prison, waiting for you to appear, to escort you home in triumph. All
the judges have recanted.

Alas, such pains wasted.

O heaven! O Socrates! Why did you obey?

Live, dear Socrates, benefactor of your country, model of men. Live
for the happiness of the world.

Virtuous couple, worthy friends, there's no longer time.

You are too late.

What? There's no time? Just heaven!

What! Socrates has already drunk the poisoned cup?

Loveable Aglaea, tender Sophronine, the law ordained that I take the
poison. I've obeyed the law, all unjust that it is--because it
oppressed only me. If this injustice were directed toward another I
would have fought it. I am going to die, but the example of friendship
and greatness of soul that you are giving to the world will never
perish. Your virtue prevails over the crime of those who accused me. I
bless what they call my misfortune. It has given birth to the strength
of your beautiful soul. My dear Xantippe, be happy and think that to
be so one must subdue one's temper. My beloved disciples harken always
to the voice of philosophy which scorns persecutors and which takes
pity on human weakness. And you, my daughter, Aglaea, my son,
Sophronine, be always that way yourselves.

How we are to be pitied not to be able to die for you!

Your life is precious, mine is useless, Receive my tender and last
farewells. The doors of eternity are opening for me.

Come to think of it, he was a great man. Ah, I am going to rouse the
nation and eat Anitus' heart!

We could raise temples to Socrates as a man deserving of it.

At least may his wisdom teach men that it is to God alone that we owe


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