Chapter 6 Summary

“How an auto-de-fé was held in order to hinder future earthquakes, and how Candide’s buttocks were flogged”

The earthquakes destroyed three fourths of Lisbon, and the wise men of the city determine that the only effective way to prevent total ruin is to give the people an auto-de-fé. The University of Coimbra, after studying the situation, concludes that burning a few people over a slow fire in a public ceremony is exactly what is needed to infallibly prevent more quaking of the earth.

To that end, authorities seize a Biscayan prisoner who had been convicted of marrying his godchild’s mother and two Portuguese men being held because they refused to eat bacon and thus were probably Jews. After the dinner, Candide and Pangloss are put in chains: one for speaking and one for listening with apparent approval. They are all lead to separate cells which are quite cold and devoid of sunlight.

A week later all the prisoners are clothed in sanbenitos (made of sackcloth) and given paper miters to don on their heads. On Candide’s clothing are painted flames, all pointing downward, and devils without tails or talons. Pangloss’s devils have both tails and talons, and his flames all point upward. The men march in procession and then listen to a moving sermon followed by some glorious chants. During the singing, Candide’s buttocks are flogged to the beat of the music. Then, the Biscayan and the two who refused to eat bacon are burned, and Pangloss is hung, though hanging is quite against the custom. That day, the earth shook once again with a terrifying rumble.

Candide is shocked, amazed, and hysterical; he is also bleeding everywhere and shivering. He wonders what other worlds must be like if this is the best of all possible worlds. Candide thinks being flogged might be acceptable; after all, he had been flogged before by the Bulgars. But what happened to Pangloss, the greatest of all philosophers, is beyond enduring. He wonders why he had to see his beloved tutor hung without knowing why, and he mourns again the loss of the kind Anabaptist, Jacques. Finally he grieves the loss of his beloved Cunégonde, wondering if her stomach really had to be slashed open before she died.

As Candide leaves the scene, he is barely able to stand upright after having been “sermonized, flogged, absolved, and blessed.” An old woman stops him and tells him to take courage and follow her.