Moliere rocked the 17th century French world with his comedy "Tartuffe" in 1664. Although, religious factions kept the play banned from 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.
Spare me your warnings, Brother; I have no fear
Of speaking out, for you and Heaven to hear,
Against affected zeal and pious knavery.
There's true and false in piety, as in bravery,
And just as those whose courage shines the most
In battle, are least inclined to boast,
So those whose hearts are truly pure and lowly
Don't make a flashy show of being holy (Meyer 1466).
In speeches such as these, Moliere wanted to get across the fact that it was false piety he was condemni...
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...rtuffe" historically it becomes clear the courage it took for Moliere to perform this play, knowing that he would be ostracized by the church for the rest of his life. At Moliere's death, Bishop Bossuet said, "God is showing his anger against Moliere" (Bishop X). However, by using the historical viewpoint, we can see that Moliere actually died a hero, knowing that he had always fought for what he believed.
Bishop, Morris. Eight Plays By Moliere. New York: The Modern Library, 1957.
Fernandez, Ramon. Moliere: The Man Seen Through the Plays. New York: Hill and Wang, 1958.
Gassner, John. Comedies of Moliere. New York: The Book League of America, 1946.
Meyer, Michael. The Bedford Introduction to Literature. Boston: Bedford Books of St. Martin's Press, 1989.
Walker, Hallam. Moliere. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1990.
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