On November 21, 1694, Francois-Marie Arouet, otherwise known as Voltaire, was born in Paris. The youngest of five, son to Francois and Marie Arouet, Voltaire grew
up in a household that had come to know the pleasantries of upper class french society.
Marie, his mother, had gained the family access to Louis XIV court through her realtives. Because of Voltaire’s priviledged lineage he was able to study under the Abbe de Chateaneuf, at the Louis-le-Grand Jesuit College in Paris. Voltaire spoke very highly of his Abbe in later years. After ten years at school, he was sent to study law in Paris under his fathers orders.
Early the following year, 1715, Frances most famous absolutist monarch died and
five year old great-grandson inherited the throne. Phillippe d’Orleans was named the
regent to the underaged king. D’Orleans, considered philosophically liberal by some,
caused many problems for Voltaire, including his imprisonments in the Bastille. The first was from May 16, 1717 to April 11, 1718, the second was in 1726. After his first confinment Francois Marie Arouet adopter the name Voltaire, which later became synonymous for horatian sarcasm towards the aristocracy of France, whether it was truly
his work or not. This is how Voltaire once again found himself in the Bastille. Falsely
accused of the authorship of a politically abrasive poem, he was imprisoned. Once released Voltaire was forced to travel to England, but returned to France three years later, in 1729, and began his prolific career.
One of Voltaire’s most notable pieces is Candide, published in 1759. It is a satire of many things, especially war, religion and those who hold optimism through a life of tereble hardships. Voltaire used his life experiences to promote a change in societies view of themselves by attacking the optimism that left so many blind to the real world and what he thought to be the path to contentedness.
Between 1750 and 1753 Voltaire stayed with Frederick II of Prussia, also known
as Frederick the Great. Fredericks reign had been that of a warrior king. He had started
conflicts in Europe that led to the war of the Austrian Succession and the Seven Years
War. ( ) In Candide, Voltaire first satarizes war by saying, “ men were only made to help each other.” (pg 19) This is a direct jab at Frederick and war, because the man saying this line is wearing blue, the color of the Prussian army. If men truly were made to help people, then obviously they wouldn’t be going to war. The man in blue, later takes Candide and fits him with a Bulgar army uniform. His companions find him to be a prodigy because the lashes he recieves decrease rapidly each day. Once Candide is facing battle he says, “ Nothing could have been more splendid, brilliant, smart or orderly then the two armies. The trumpets, fifes, oboes, drums and cannons produced a harmony whose equal was never heard in hell.” (pg 22)