Tartuffe is a 17th-century play written by Jean-Baptiste Poquelin, typically referenced by his stage name, Molière. Molière utilizes comedy in his work to prove the hypocrisy at times found within religion. During the 17th century, anyone believed righteous was viewed as a role model and it was common for people to believe the words and follow the rules of these leaders without questioning. Due to religion being a major focus of 17th-century society, Tartuffe was originally banned from public viewing as a result of objections by leaders of the Catholic Church, who felt the play was an attack on religion and people of faith. Molière uses Tartuffe, one of his main characters, to play the role of a man who manipulates others for personal gain by acting righteously; he is a symbol of religious hypocrisy. Orgon, the other main character, represents a man blinded by his devotion to his religious faith, who welcomes Tartuffe into his home and family. Except for Orgon’s mother, his entire household realizes Tartuffe is a religious imposter, and they try to warn Orgon of Tartuffe’s false pretenses; however, he is so duped by Tartuffe that he refuses to listen to their reasoning. Even though several people believe Tartuffe is an attack on religion, it is Orgon’s brother-in-law, Cléante, that Molière employs to clarify he is not condemning religion but religious exploitation for personal gain. Although Cléante is not the main character, he is the most important character in the play due to the way Molière uses him as the voice of reason to those with no reasoning.
Molière introduces Cléante in the first act of the play to show the audience the distinction between piety and hypocrisy. Cléante calmly speaks to Orgon about h...
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...just watch for imposters in our midst, / With this in mind, try not to be unjust / To true believers, sin on the side of trust” (5.1.61-64). Molière is explaining that there are truly spiritual men in this world and people should use common sense to discern who to trust.
In conclusion, Cléante is the most important character in Tartuffe due to his reasoning and logic used throughout his speeches about religious hypocrisy. His last speech is important to proving to the audience that Molière’s intent was not to denounce religious people, but to reprimand hypocrisy and to teach his audience how important moderation, logical thinking, and common sense are in life. Cléante is the character used by Molière as the voice of reason and the representative of true religious understanding. We need to remember the words of Cléante when choosing our leaders and role models today.
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