Synopsis: Commissioned in honor of Frederick II’s 300th birthday, Voltaire and Frederick: A Life in Letters is an overview of the pen-pal friendship between these two great thinkers that spanned almost half a century. The play is made up of selected letter exchanges between the great French-European Philosopher and the Royal Prince (and later King) of Prussia, beginning when the latter was a mere 24 years old (and the former 42) and ending with the eulogy Frederick II wrote in memoriam of Voltaire’s death in 1778.
Their intensive correspondence on everything from questions of torture and human rights to good and bad governance, from handling a global financial crisis to judging whether a war is justified or unjustified, all in the context of a newly enlightened Europe, is surprisingly modern. Much of it rings true in our own politicized times including the ongoing German-French wrangling at the center of Europe. Voltaire and Frederick’s tempestuous and unfolding love-hate relationship gives insight not only into the history of the 18th century but also into more general ideas about love, desire, desperation, death and God.
Photo: Erkan Barin