Candide, the illegitimate relation of Baron Thunder-ten-Tronck, lives with his noble relations in Castle Thunder-ten-Tronck. He’s happy and hopeful – after all he, the Baron’s children Maximilian and Cunegonde, and the servant girl Paquette are taught daily by Dr Pangloss (the world’s greatest philosopher) that everything is for the best in this, the best of all possible castles in the best of all possible worlds.
Candide is in love with Cunegonde. One day, after observing Pangloss and Paquette in a private ‘physical experiment’, he and Cunegonde test their own attraction. A kiss leads to professions of love and dreams of a future together. The Baron and Maximilian, however, are incensed, and Candide is immediately exiled.
Candide wanders with only his optimism to cling to. He doesn’t make it far before he is pressganged into the Bulgar Army and beaten when he tries to escape. The army lays waste to Castle Thunder-ten-Tronck in their plan to ‘liberate’ Westphalia. During the full carnage of war, the Baron, the Baroness, Maximilian, Paquette, Pangloss, and Cunegonde are all killed.
Devastated, Candide leaves the wreckage and continues his wanderings. He gives his last coins to a beggar – who reveals himself as Pangloss, brought back to life by a surgeon but riddled with syphilis. James, an Anabaptist, employs Pangloss as a book-keeper and the trio set sail for Lisbon. The ship wrecks and only a sailor, Candide, and Pangloss survive...
As Candide and Pangloss wash ashore, a volcanic eruption and ensuing fire, earthquake, and tidal wave kill 30,000 people. The newcomers are arrested as heretics and blamed for bringing down the wrath of God. In an Auto-da-fé led by the Grand Inquisitor, Pangloss is hanged and Candide flogged. The young man sets off, once again alone, towards...
A mysterious beauty (Cunegonde, somehow revived) has captured the imagination of the city’s richest and most lecherous. She divides her time and body on mutually-agreed-upon weekdays between two powerful individuals: Don Issachar and the Cardinal Archbishop. As she laments her fate and celebrates her riches, Candide is amazed and overjoyed to find her alive. Despite the warnings of Cunegonde’s companion, the Old Lady, Candide is caught by Cunegonde’s lovers – and kills both of them. The trio go on the run, heading towards the port city of...
After the Old Lady’s spellbinding, flippantly humorous narration of her life of woe, Cunegonde notices her jewels have been stolen. The Old Lady tells the youthful pair that she can teach them to take care of themselves. Candide is spotted by a South American, Cacambo, and a ship captain in the harbour. They convince the three fugitives to sail across the ocean to defend a Jesuit colony from angry Protestants. Candide, Cunegonde, and the Old Lady climb aboard another ship. Happiness, freedom, and peace must surely be waiting for them in the New World?
- INTERVAL -
Governor Don Fernando d’Ibaraa y Figueora y Mascarenes y Lampourdos y Souza examines his new slave girls – one of whom is Paquette and another Maximilian (disguised in women’s clothes), both somehow alive again.
Candide, Cunegonde, and the Old Lady arrive. The Governor immediately declares love to Cunegonde and then the same to Maximilian. However, he sells the latter to a priest upon discovering he is a man.
Despite Candide’s wish to marry Cunegonde immediately, the Old Lady convinces Cunegonde that a match with Don Fernando would keep her alive. Cacambo, who has become Candide’s valet and confidante, warns Candide the police are still in pursuit for the murders of Don Issachar and the Cardinal Archbishop. Candide and Cacambo flee into the jungle.
Some three years later, Cunegonde remains the Governor’s mistress. She and the Old Lady discuss the specific miseries of a luxurious life.
Candide and Cacambo are welcomed into a Jesuit camp by the Father Provincial, actually Maximilian, and also Paquette. Thinking that changed circumstances have softened Maximilian’s heart, Candide shares his intentions to marry Cunegonde; Maximilian is enraged, and in the ensuing fight Candide once again kills his opponent. Horrified by a third murder, Candide and Cacambo take flight in disguise.
Starved and lost, Candide and Cacambo find an abandoned boat. Desperate, they climb in and float into a cavern. They emerge into a beautiful city entirely cut off from the world...
The mythical City of Gold seems utopian – science and religion live hand-in-hand, and the air and food are sweet and pure. However, Candide is unhappy without his beloved Cunegonde and resolves to leave. The locals are confused but give Candide some of the town’s famous sheep as a gift for his travels. They help him, Cacambo, and the sheep safely navigate over the sharp mountains. Unfortunately, the journey is perilous and the sheep die one by one; when only two remain, Candide gives Cacambo one to ransom Cunegonde, telling him to bring her to Venice and meet him there as he strikes out towards the coast alone...
At the port, Candide meets Martin – a pessimist as disillusioned with the world as Pangloss was enamoured of it. He shows Candide the effects of European greed on enslaved plantation workers. Captain Vanderdendur offers passage in exchange for the precious sheep. Candide is overjoyed the ship is bound straight for Venice. But the transport skiff sinks almost immediately, drowning Martin. Vanderdendur’s ship is destroyed. Candide finds his sheep floating in the wreckage. They are picked up by a merchant ship sailing to Constantinople.
Leaving Constantinople, Candide boards a slave-rowed galley towards Venice. Among the slaves is Pangloss, brought to life yet again. The galley passes five deposed kings floating in the sea. Pangloss leads the kings in a debate on the virtues of a simple life as they cross the sea to...
Carnival is in full swing. The kings and Pangloss immediately depart for gambling tables, but Candide is intent on his search for Cunegonde. Maximilian, once again brought back from death, is now the Prefect of Police, shaking down casino owners in a circle of corruption. Paquette, also back from South America, is working as a prostitute. Casino owner Ragotski employs Cunegonde and the Old Lady to fleece the gamblers of their remaining funds. Masked to move among the revellers, Candide is approached by two similarly masked women who set about with tales and tricks to swindle him. Candide panics and in the confusion all three masks come off: he is horrified to recognise Cunegonde and the Old Lady, who are similarly shocked to see him alive. Candide, his ideals finally shattered, falls silent.
Candide still refuses to speak, but he and Cunegonde purchase a small farm with their remaining money. Pangloss, Paquette, and the Old Lady eke out livings through their chosen vocations. As they realise life is neither good nor bad and paradise is a pointless goal, Candide asks Cunegonde to marry him and live as best they can.