The play Nikifóros Fokás, written in first draft in 1915, shows Kazantzakis assimilating Christian materials to a basically aesthetic philosophy in order to develop a "metachristian" world-view that treats our futile presence on earth. This metachristian view replaces the Christian assurance that happiness comes from the observance of certain precepts of behavior that lead to the reward of heavenly bliss; it holds, instead, that one may achieve happiness—indeed "salvation"—by contemplating the spectacle of life's unfolding phenomena. Theologically, the spectacle of life and death reveals a Christ who, now wholly inherent in matter, thrusts matter into the struggle to undo itself and thereby to produce spirit. The play accomplishes this transformation by twisting and stretching the well-known legend of Nikifóros and his notorious wife, Theofanó. The major theological change is the denial of an afterlife. Kazantzakis's Nikifóros gains a sense that death is final. What he must avoid is the panic that such a realization causes in weaker souls. The key scene in which the transformation of the legend occurs is a dream-vision in which Fokás is visited by Christ and, in dialogue with him, begins to formulate his new world-view. The final act shows how one applies the new metaphysic in the real world—namely, by dying well. This Fokás does up to a point, the play's final message being that imperfect metachristians pave the way for more perfect ones such as Tsimiskís and (as is shown in Kazantzakis's play Hristós) quintessentially Christ himself.


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pp. 265-284
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