Tartuffe Essay, Research Paper
True identity is often masked by the personality one wants to portray. This is
especially true of Tartuffe, a character in Moliere?s controversial comedy,
Tartuffe(1664). In the five-act play, Moliere uses the characters to convey the idea of
discernment between religion and false piety.
The setting of the play is in Orgon?s house. Orgon is a man who leads a life of
wealth and happiness. His family consist of Elmire, his wife, daughter Mariane, and son
Damis. Also presiding in the house are Madame Pernelle, Organ?s mother, and
Mariane?s witty maid, Dorine. Tartuffe, the antagonist of the play, appears to be a man
of piety on the surface. However, buried underneath this falsehood lies a religious
hypocrite. With the exception of Madame Pernelle and Orgon, all of the characters see
through Tartuffe?s sham.
In Act I Moliere utilizes Dorine to paint a verbal picture of Orgon?s infatuation
with Tartuffe. In line 9 Dorine states how Orgon is the ?worse deceived? by Tartuffe.
Moliere opens the play by revealing to the audience how gullible Orgon is, He has
become so infatuated with Tartuffe that he ?loves him as his life, [p]referring him to
mother, child or wife(I.ii.14-15).? When Orgon finally arrives on the scene, Moliere uses
his actions to support our preconceived opinion. When Elmire becomes ill, Orgon
neglects her well being. Instead he is overly concerned with Tartuffe?s health. A short
time later, Orgon is further deceived by Tartuffe to withdraw his blessing from Mariane?s
plans to marry Valere. To the family?s dismay, Mariane is promised to be wed Tartuffe.
In Act III, Tartuffe?s true intentions are revealed; His desires are to be with
Elmire, not Mariane. During a conversation with Elmire, Tartuffe professes his lustful
emotions for her. Unknown to Tartuffe, Damis has been listening to the entire
conversation. Upset by what he has heard, Damis goes to inform his father. Tartuffe
deceives Orgon once again by begging for forgiveness. Orgon is blinded by Tartuffe?s
plea for repentance and immediately disowns Damis. More shockingly, Orgon employs
Tartuffe as owner of his estate.
Outraged, Elmire declares that Tartuffe?s sinister behavior must be stopped. In an
effort to prove that Damis spoke the truth, she devises a plan to trap Tartuffe. Organ is to
hide under a table, while Tartuffe reveals his true feelings of lasciviousness for Elmire.
At last Orgon?s eyes are opened and Tartuffe is seen for the hypocrite he really is. The
play ends with the imposture being arrested.
Moliere?s purpose was to satirize a religious hypocrite in such a manner that the
society of his time could be enlightened to their own obsession with religion. Moliere
clearly distinguished between Tartuffe?s hypocrisy and true religious piety. In the play, it
is stated that one person pretending to be truly religious does not make all religious
believers false. What ever the intentions of Moliere were, his use of characterization
clearly speak about the discernment between religion and false piety.
Moliere, Jean-Baptiste Poquelin. Tartuffe. The Norton Anthology of World
Masterpieces. Vol.2. 7th ed. Eds. Sara Lawall, et al. New York: Norton, 1999. 13-68.