Family and Loyalty in 17th Century Plays Essay

Family and Loyalty in 17th Century Plays Essay

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Family and loyalty are popular themes in literature and are often the focus of plays. While at first glance, Moliere’s Tartuffe and Racine’s Phèdre seem different, considering that the first one is a comedy and the second is a tragedy, at its heart, the two plays have very similar family structures and their stories are driven by loyalty or the absence of it. Even though the plays introduce two families that are centuries apart, Phèdre takes place in the Antiquity, while Tartuffe is set in the 17th century, yet both of these families are patriarchal and immense loyalty surrounds the two fathers. However, the absence of loyalty of Orgon and Thésée causes the crisis in these stories as both of them abandon their families in favor of an outsider. While at the end, both Orgon and Thésée realize their mistakes, unfortunately, only one story has a happy ending.
Moliere presents a noble family in Tartuffe, where the head of the house is Orgon. He has a son, Damis, and a daughter, Mariane, from his first marriage and is now married to his second wife, Elmire. Orgon is the face of the family and is responsible for all the major decisions of the household. Similarly, in Phèdre, Racine presents a noble family, in this case the royal family of Athens. Thésée is the king and the head of the family. He has a son from an Amazon woman, Hippolyte, and is now married to Phèdre, his second wife. The close-knit family unit in both plays is threatened as Orgon and Thésée, the most important people of the families, are blinded by lies and neglect their responsibilities to their families. However, as Orgon’s family survives the crises and ends their story with a happy ending, Thésée is punished greatly by his ignorance, which causes the tragic demise o...


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... small thing can cause the family to fall apart, which is why it is always vital to remain faithful and true to one another. In a patriarchal family, just like in Tartuffe and Phèdre, the loyalty of the head of the family is the most significant and can cause the greatest suffering, when it is placed in people outside of the family. Both Orgon and Thésée learned that believing in the words of outsiders like Tartuffe, whose only loyalty was to himself, and Oenone, whose loyalty lay with only one person instead of the whole family unit, can cause the family to fall apart and result in tragic deaths. Hence the message of these plays is one’s loyalty to family that ensures the happiness of all like in the case of Orgon, who realized his mistake in time and was saved by the king. Unfortunately for Thésée, his realization came too late and paid a very heavy prize for it.

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