Tartuffe By Moliere Essay, Research Paper
Moliere speaks through his characters in Tartuffe to advocate specific values and behaviors that are the moral norms in the play. There are situations in the play where Moliere created a situation, which illustrated the absurdities of the person s actions and how they were totally in opposition to the generally accepted behavior of the society at large.
The comedy of the first scene is partly based on the overbearing and flustery Madame Pernelle who is dominating all conversation and forcing her own egotistical opinions on the others. The comedy is also based upon seeing this woman proven wrong. Moliere s technique in Tartuffe is to set up a character or characters that are deviations from the norm of behavior and gradually reveal their absurdity.
I had to ask myself How does Moliere do this? He does this first by subtitling his play The Hypocrite. From the subtitle alone, I know that Madame Pernelle is praising a man unworthy of praise.
Second, since there was only one person in Act I, Scene 1 who is holding the opinion that Tartuffe is a holy and pious man, people tend to side with the many and not the one. Third, the manner in which Madame Pernelle defends Tartuffe instantly makes me doubt her honesty and credibility. She is overbearing, talkative, and so superficial that I immediately defined her opinions as absurd.
Finally, when each person in Scene 1 is criticized for the minutest aspect of his behavior and when I know that Madame Pernelle s advice to the people is absurd, then I tend to doubt the validity of advice. She tells her grandson that he is a fool; she accuses her granddaughter of being secretive; she reprimands Elmire for dressing elaborately; she dislikes Cleante because he is filled with worldly counsel; the maid Dorine is too impudent. In other words, the entire world is wrong and only she and Tartuffe are right. To conclude, everyone in Act I, Scene I who seems normal and rational is against Tartuffe and the only person who worships him is a blustery and talkative old woman. I got a true sense of Tartuffe s true character.
The maid Dorine tries to reason with Madame Pernelle but it falls on deaf ears. Dorine says that if there is gossip, it comes from someone named Daphne who gossips about others in order to hide her own flaws. Dorine points out that Daphne was once a great flirt until she began to lose her beauty. She also reminds Madame Pernelle that as long as Daphne could attract people she was a great flirt, but now that she is not ravishing, she condemns others for the same vice she practiced.
As I previously stated, Madame Pernelle has no part of this. She insists the people should be proud to have such a virtuous man as Tartuffe living with them. Later, of course, she eats these words, and she will have to acknowledge that she has been deluded. It is clearly visible now that she is deceived. She has talked about the virtues of Tartuffe, but at the same time she has not demonstrated a single virtue of her own. This is seen especially in the crude manner in which she orders around her own servant.
In Act I, Scenes 2-3, the establishment of the influence that Tartuffe has over Organ is the main point. Cleante cannot understand how Tartuffe has totally deceived Madame Pernelle. Dorine points out that Orgon is even more deceived. She explains the many ways in which Tartuffe has already duped Orgon and the many tedious sermons that they all have to listen to constantly. Dorine explains that Orgon already loves Tartuffe more than mother, child, or wife. This statement characterizes the religious man who will give up all earthly ties in order to follow a saintly life. This idea at the time is not fully developed but it will be later on. In Act I, Scenes 2-3 though, the idea surely applies to Orgon because he shows no concern for the wishes of his own daughter in the next scenes.
Act I, Scene 4 leaves no doubt that Orgon is completely duped and is also blinded in his devotion to Tartuffe. Orgon shows no interest in his wife s condition; instead he inquires about Tartuffe. Dorine tells Orgon how content and well off Tartuffe is. Orgon then feels sympathetic for Tartuffe and ignores his wife s condition still. This indicates the extent of his folly. The lack of concern that Orgon shows verifies Dorine s earlier statement that Orgon does not care for his wife or children and could easily dispose of them in his attention to Tartuffe.
In Scene 5, Orgon s first attempted defense of Tartuffe reveals a great deal. He tries to explain exactly what virtues Tartuffe has. He can only stutter, He s a man a man who an excellent man. Obviously, Orgon is so influenced by Tartuffe that he has lost all ability to evaluate anything rational.
Orgon now begins to show cardinal principles of being a saint. He says that Tartuffe, has taught me to view this dunghill of a world with scorn. Many of his other expressions are also those which are admired in the saints of the church. The behavior of Orgon is revered when that same behavior is evinced by one of the church s saints. For example, a saint is a person who would despise the world and spend all of his time learning to reject the things of this world. Orgon also says that his soul has been freed from all earthly ties or loves. If someone in his family were to die, it would not matter to him. Again, the saint puts aside his earthly matters in favor of more spiritual matters.
Near the end of Scene 5, it is blatantly obvious of how bad Tartuffe duped Orgon. Tartuffe is using the outward acts of religion to appear religious. Cleante is trying to expose this to Orgon. Cleante suggests that the truly religious person has no desire to parade his holiness before the world. He also points out that a religious man does not spend his time chiding and criticizing others.
Orgon has been so deluded though, that he cannot listen to any of this criticism. The high degree of his absurd deviation from the norm of behavior is rapidly becoming obvious.
Scene 5 closes with Cleante asking about Orgon s promise that his daughter could marry Valere. Orgon begins to retract his previously given word. Usually a word of honor is binding, but not for Orgon.
Act II opens with Orgon putting into action his plans to marry his daughter off to Tartuffe. Even without having met or heard from Tartuffe, I recognize this is an absurd act. I wonder how much more ridiculous Orgon will become before regaining his sanity. Again, Moliere illustrates his technique of exposing a character s deviation from the norm of behavior until one is ready to condemn his absurd behavior.
Orgon takes advantage of his dutiful daughter, who would do anything to obey him. Orgon would actually have his daughter lie about her feelings, merely because he was determined to have the wedding take place.
In Act II, Scenes 3-4, Mariane is understood as the pliable daughter who finds it impossible to defy her father. She does not have the common sense Dorine has, so she cannot see her father as an unreasonable tyrant. Therefore she views her situation as hopeless. Dorine then begins to depict the horrors of being married to Tartuffe. This enables Mariane to become more firmly resolute in opposing Orgon.
In Act III, Scenes 1-2, Dorine is setting her plan into motion. As the wise maid, she has noted that in the past, Tartuffe seemed smitten with Elmire, and she now feels that Elmire might be able to persuade Tartuffe to reject the proposed marriage. Dorine sets the plan in motion without realizing that Tartuffe will later trap himself by his infatuation with Elmire.
In Act III, Scenes 3-4, Tartuffe expresses his great admiration to Elmire. The manner in which he cannot control his passion and the way he pursues Elmire reveals the absurd manner in which he uses reverse logic to suggest that a woman is safe having an affair with a pious man because the pious man himself must be careful to protect his name. Tartuffe does not realize that Elmire finds him repulsive because his passion is so strong.
Elmire is trying to use her influence on Tartuffe to cancel the marriage between himself and Mariane. She is not going to make a scene or tell her husband. First and foremost she wants the wedding to be cancelled. However, Damis, who is watching the whole time, ruins Elmire s plan because he wants to reveal Tartuffe s treachery.
At the close of the Third Act, Scenes 5-7, Orgon s total absurdity is revealed. Tartuffe tries to tell Orgon that he is wicked, depraved, and deserving of being driven from the house. Orgon then turns on Damis and chastises him for trying to ruin a good man s name. Tartuffe even begs Orgon to believe Damis and that he deserves all the abuse in the world. Instead he turns on Damis, calling him a villain and an ingrate. Orgon disinherits Damis and throws him out of the house.
Alone with Orgon, Tartuffe offers to leave but Orgon will not hear of it. Instead, Orgon is determined to make his family jealous by making Tartuffe his heir and son-in-law. As they leave to get the proper documents, Orgon tells Tartuffe he is worth more than any of his relatives. This is the turning point of the story. The last two acts are devoted to forcing Orgon to see his own mistakes.
In Act IV, Scenes 1-3, Elmire, Mariane, Dorine, and Cleante try to convince Orgon that he is making a mistake by having Mariane marry Tartuffe. No one has an effect on Orgon, so Elmire decides to try by herself. She tells Orgon to hide under the table and interrupt the interview between her and Tartuffe at the point where he realizes Tartuffe isn t the man he pretends to be.
In Act IV, Scenes 4-8, with Orgon under the table, Tartuffe is constantly hitting on Elmire. She rebukes all of his advances. Finally she says loudly that she will yield to his desires. She delays Tartuffe though, by asking him to go outside to see if anyone was around, especially her husband. Tartuffe says that Orgon is so stupid he would doubt his sight if he saw it. Nevertheless, he goes out to look.
After he is gone, Orgon emerges and is completely astounded. As Tartuffe returns, Orgon hides behind Elmire and immediately grabs Tartuffe and orders him from the house. Tartuffe then reminds Orgon the house belongs to him now and that Orgon is the one that must leave. Orgon confesses that he is frightened about the deed he signed and also about a strongbox that is in Tartuffe s room upstairs.
Act V, Scenes 1-2, are devoted to explaining the difficulty Orgon has gotten into as a result of his devotion to Tartuffe. The strongbox contained papers that if made public would put Orgon in serious trouble. It is ironic that earlier Orgon was not concerned with money, but having now been enlightened, he is suddenly concerned about worldly things. And, as before, Orgon was true in his devotion to Tartuffe, now he is equally true in his hatred towards pious men.
Cleante points out to Orgon that since he went to absurd extremes, he was to be ridiculed. This is a point of Moliere s comedies. Cleante advises him to learn to distinguish between the true worth of man and the charlatan.
The comedy in Act V, Scenes 3-5 relies upon a reversal. Earlier, Orgon refused to believe anything evil about Tartuffe. Now he cannot convince his own mother of Tartuffe s hypocrisy. Madame Pernelle recites clich s about Tartuffe all of which Orgon had previously used in describing Tartuffe. The entire play is summed up when Dorine says, You wouldn t trust us earlier, now it s your turn not to be trusted.