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Moliere's neoclassic comedy, Tartuffe, is a prime example of his expertise in the comedic technique. The plot is one that keeps the reader or viewer interested and aware. It begins with Madame Pernell visiting her son's house and reprimanding all of them but their boarder, Tartuffe. She believes Tartuffe is a man of astounding character. The members of the house, however, disagree and say that Tartuffe is deceitful and a fraud. After Madam Pernell leaves, Dorine and Cleante, the maid and the brother-in-law of the main character, Orgon, discuss Tartuffe and both agree that he has captivated Orgon. Damis, Orgon's son, wonders whether his father will allow Mariane, Orgon's daughter, to marry Valere, who she is in love with, because Damis is in love with Valere's sister.
Orgon comes and tells Mariane that he wants her to marry Tartuffe instead of Valere because he wants to ally Tartuffe to his house. She is so shocked that she does not say anything. Cleante tries to tell Orgon about Tartuffe's misleading personality, but Orgon does not want to hear it. Valere finds out about this proposed marriage, and Dorine promises to help Mariane and Cleante expose Tartuffe for the hypocrite he is. Meanwhile, Damis has a plan to hide in a closet to try to expose Tartuffe's hypocrisy. He hears Tartuffe profess love to Elmire, Orgon's wife, and suggests that they become lovers. Damis comes from the closet and threatens to tell Orgon what he has said. Damis then tells Orgon, and Orgon is so blind to the truth, that he believes his own son is evil and disinherits him. Later, when Orgon and Tartuffe are alone, Orgon tells Tartuffe of his plans to make him his sole inheritor and his son-in-law. After this, Cleante tries to talk to Orgon about Tartuffe and he confronts Tartuffe in front of Orgon. Tartuffe just dodges the questions, though, and leaves as soon as possible. Elmire then convinces Orgon to hide and find out for himself about Tartuffe, so he does so. Tartuffe comes to see Elmire and once again professes his love. Orgon hears it all, comes from the closet, and bans Tartuffe from his house. Orgon, however, has already signed over his house to Tartuffe and Tartuffe threatens him with this. Orgon is afraid because he has given Tartuffe some secret papers that could ruin his position in the court.
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Tartuffe is a man of deceit and lust. He lusts for money and this is what becomes his final downfall. He is the villain of the play, which is obvious to both the audience and those in the story, except for Orgon and Madam Pernell. He is a master of disguising his true self. As a religious devotee, he convinces Orgon and Madam Pernell that he is a pious and humble man. He is a superior in the fact that he can recognize his victims weaknesses and play on them. He exploits these flaws for his own advantages. Tartuffe is far from a simple man. He is very alert and uses all methods possible to reach his goal.
Works Cited and Consulted
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.