Satire And Comedy In Voltaire And Moliere

Essay, Research Paper

Satire and Comedy in Boccaccio, Moliere and VoltaireThe novel Candide by Voltaire is a great piece of literary satire that makes fun of the way people in medieval times thought. The book is about a man, Candide, and his misfortunes. Throughout the book, Candide has countless things go wrong to show that this is not the best of all possible worlds. In Candide, Voltaire tries to stress a point through the exaggeration of the inhumanities of man in a humorous way.The story begins in a castle in Westphalia. Candide is convinced by Cunegonde to take a lesson in “experimental physics”. The two are caught and Candide is kicked out of the castle. While Candide is suffering from hunger and cold two men who trick him into service in the Bulgarian army meet him. Candide has a terrible time in the army, he tries to escape, and he is punished severely. During the confusion of war Candide manages to escape. Time passes and Candide meets some other interesting individuals and has one bad experience after the next. One day Candide meets a woman who takes care of him and this is none other than Cunegonde. They amuse each other with stories of misfortune and travel around the world. At every place Candide goes something unthinkable seems to happen to him. Candide meets several people along the way who all have their own interesting story of misfortune and the inhumanities of mankind. Candide ends up on a small farm, married to Cunegonde and living with two philosophers. He argues with others at the end of the book if this really is the best of all possible worlds and they conclude that we must “work without reason” and “must cultivate our garden”. In this novel Voltaire is extremely influenced by his frame of reference and mindset. He finds room to include almost all of his political views. He takes Candide on a journey through all of the wrongs he believes in the world in order to prove that it was not the best of all possible worlds. He shows us the inhumanities of man through war and social interaction. He basically paints an exaggerated picture of the wrongs of medieval people. Voltaire is just as biased as any other capable person of the time. Everybody has a certain element of prejudice that they hold within. His thoughts are taken into exaggeration but that is the basis of satire. The conclusions arrived at by Voltaire are valid. He does not have excessive prejudice and his conclusions cannot be invalid because they are thoughts of personal opinion. Voltaire’s ideas do not completely follow others’. He is one of the only writers that stepped out and confronted major philosophical issues even if they were hidden within humor. Voltaire’s novel Candide is a book about all of people problems during the time period in which it was written. Voltaire wrote the book in order to confront these problems in a humorous way so to allow the public to ingest the reading easier. Voltaire accomplished his theme very well because of the creative uses of humor in the book. Voltaire is right in what he is saying. When looking at satire it must not be evaluated too closely. If it is picked apart and some of the things are taken too seriously then the general idea trying to be presented is not recognized. Voltaire uses many of great humorous fillings inside of a few major ideas and attacks the areas needed to be attacked in a witty and humorous matter. The religious attacks made by Moliere rocked the 17th century French world with his comedic play, Tartuffe in 1664. Although religious factions kept the play banned from the theatres from 1664-1669, Tartuffe emerged from the controversy as one of the all-time great comedies. Tartuffe is a convincing religious hypocrite. He is a parasite who is sucking Orgon, the rich trusting father for all he is worth. Orgon does not realize that Tartuffe is a phony, and caters to his every whim. For instance, he reneges on his promise to let his daughter Mariane, marry Valere. Instead he demands that she wed Tartuffe, whom she despises. He also banishes his own son, Damis, from his house for speaking out against Tartuffe and all of his son’s inheritance is promised to Tartuffe. Tartuffe is nothing more than a traveling confidence man who veils his true wickedness with a mask of piety. Orgon and his mother Madame Pernelle are completely taken in by this charade. On the other hand, Cleante, Elmire, and Dorine see Tartuffe for the fake that he really is. Cleante is Orgon’s wise brother who speaks elegantly about Tartuffe’s hypocrisy. Through Cleante, Moliere most plainly reveals his theme.

The play successfully conveys the message that Tartuffe is a first-class villain. He is as manipulative as Lady Macbeth, as greedy as Prince John, as underhanded as Modred, and as clever as Darth Vader. Through his every word and deed it becomes more apparent that he is thoroughly bad. More specifically, he not only wants to marry Orgon’s daughter, but wants to defile his wife as well. He is not satisfied with living off of Orgon’s wealth but wants to possess it. At no time in the play does Tartuffe resemble a truly pious man. The play never mocks God, but only those who use his name to prey on unsuspecting fools. The part of the fool is played to the hilt by Orgon. Throughout the first three acts he is such a domineering idiot that he is not even worth pitying. He, along with his mother, play the part of the blind zealot. What he chooses to call Christian love leads him to punish his family and himself because he takes away their freedom of choice and integrity and his own property. Yet Orgon is not content to follow Tartuffe alone. He demands that his family also follow. He becomes a threat to their happiness when the comedic scheming by the family begins. Dorine, Mariane’s maid, uses her earthy wit to convince Mariane and Valere not to docilely accept Orgon’s judgement. Damis, Orgon’s son, testifies against Tartuffe’s scandalous behavior with Elmire. Cleante continues to offer Orgon sage advice and Elmire conspires to set a trap for Tartuffe where Orgon can witness firsthand the ungrateful hypocrite’s actions. Dorine and Orgon almost come to blows, Damis is banished, and Cleante is ignored. Only Elmire succeeds. She hides Orgon under a table while pretending to play along with Tartuffe’s advances. Even when Orgon witnesses Tartuffe’s treachery firsthand it takes him a while to accept it. Elmire, by this time, has so little faith in her husband that she begins to think he is going to stay under the table and let Tartuffe ravish her. The turning point in the play is when Orgon comes out and confronts Tartuffe. Tartuffe, rather than accept that he has been caught, vows that he will have Orgon’s property yet. Since he now controls Orgon’s property, he arranges to have Orgon’s family evicted. Only the king’s benevolent intervention saves Orgon’s family and Tartuffe is arrested. With this tidy conclusion, Moliere not only conforms to the standard for comedies of his day, but also shows that religious hypocrisy will lose in the end. When Tartuffe was seen for what he really was, he was despised by one and all. Religious leaders saw the scrutiny that this play would cause them to be subjected to and caused it to be banned for that reason. But, as in the play, justice won out in the end and the play was exhibited freely after five years of bondage. The fact that religious leaders could keep “Tartuffe” banned for so long shows that they had power in realms not normally delegated to religious officials.


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