The classic theatrical Tartuffe, written by Moliere in 1664 clearly labels out Tartuffe to be a hypocrite. The play talks about a man named Orgon, a wealthy family man that welcomes a stranger, Tartuffe into his home. He manages to convince Orgon and his mother, Madame Pernelle about being a humble and religious man. Tartuffe is eventually discovered to be a religious hypocrite that lacks morals or any religious values. However, once Tartuffe is unmasked, and his sanctimony detected, Orgon quickly turns into an individual that hates and persecutes all hypocritical men. The lustful nature of Tartuffe led to his unmasking and Moliere clearly shows how this behavior can easily expose a smart hypocrite in Tartuffe. Comparing the play to the 1729 juvenile satirical essay A Modest Proposal written by Jonathan Swift, the two pieces of work are good satires, but Tartuffe is the more effective one. This is why.
To begin with, the characters of Tartuffe are well-developed. Tartuffe’s prominence is well brought out. His name is the title of the play, and most of the characters in the game talk about him all the time. Orgon tries to explain to his brother in law Cleante about how Tartuffe is an admirable man, clearly trusting him over his family including his wife, Elmire. As Moliere explains, Tartuffe used religion as a disguised tool to manipulate other characters in the play and get away with his heinous acts(Baker). His actions and behaviors go against religious beliefs. In act 3 scene 2, Tartuffe tells Dorine, a family housemaid: “Cover your bust, the flesh is weak. Souls are forever damaged by such sights when sinful thoughts begin their evil flights.” This brings out the hypocrite in Tartuffe. He emphasizes the need for purity but goes against his statement in the following scene when he tries to pursue Elmire, Orgon’s wife. Elmire refuses to give in to Tartuffe’s advances and quickly comes up to expose him to her husband. How Moliere brings out Tartuffe’s behavior when comparing the two scenes allows the audience to conclude that his words do not match his actions immediately. The two different behaviors illustrated in the two stages are meant to satirize the religious hypocrisy ingrained in Tartuffe.
Moliere uses irony to satirize the whole situation and character of Tartuffe. In Orgon’s house, Tartuffe behaves like the owner despite being taken in at the mercy of Orgon. He seems to take advantage of every situation and gets away with it. Tartuffe’s hypocrisy is also clearly brought out when he develops an interest in Mariane, Orgon’s daughter. He wishes to take her as his wife despite being devoted to religion and knowing very well that Mariane is set to marry another man, Valere. Orgon surprisingly disowns his son, Damis when he tries to warn him about Tartuffe’s deceptive nature. He orders Damis out of the house and declares Tartuffe of all the people his sole heir and even suggests him to be his future son in law. He does this by drawing up a deed that acknowledges and consigns his property to Tartuffe. Dorine, the only servant in Orgon’s house, seems to go a little bit overboard when she does anything she pleases, bearing in mind that she is only but just a servant. This makes the entire situation ironical. This is seen when Orgon, her master asks his daughter about Mariane’s opinion of Tartuffe and the possibility of marrying him. Dorine quickly delves into the conversation and succeeds in getting read of Orgon’s conversation with his daughter by making him furious. She says: “You see him as a saint. I’m far less awed; In fact, I see right through him. He’s a fraud.”(1.1.23)
Satire can be described as a specific literary way to possibly improve individuals and society in general. In the play, Moliere ridicules hypocritical human, and in doing so, he aimed at developing the traits of characters rather than destroying them. We, in the end, hoped that Tartuffe would grow into a better man after his behavior is unmasked, but he instead ends up trying to seek revenge to the man who took him into his own house. The play itself is pretty much more comfortable to summarize. We observe a man, Orgon whom together with his mother have allowed themselves to be deceived by Tartuffe, a fraud posing as a religious and pious man that deep down wants to take advantage of the easily believing Orgon(Simonds). He even goes to the extent of willing to marry off his daughter Mariane to him even though she is betrothed to someone else. When Tartuffe’s hypocritical nature is revealed, Orgon throws him out of the house. Tartuffe tries to seek revenge by putting together a list of allegations to charge Orgon with but hopefully the king shows up and has him arrested. The play ends in a happy way as expected of comedies.
Baker, Lymann A. “Moliere’s Tartuffe as a satire on religious fanaticism.” English 287: Great Books (2002).
Ebewo, Patrick. “Reflections on dramatic satire as agents of change.” English Studies in Africa (1997): 31-41.
Interesting Literature. “A Short Analysis of Moliere’s Tartuffe.” (2017).
Nurse, Peter. “Moliere and Satire.” University of Toronto Quarterly (1967): 113-128.
Simonds, P Munoz. “Moliere’s satiric use of the “Deus Ex Machina in Tartuffe.” Educational Theatre Journal (1977).
“Satire in Tartuffe and Candide.” UKEssays.com. 11 2018. All Answers Ltd. 02 2019 <https://www.ukessays.com/essays/english-literature/satire-tartuffe-candide-9558.php?vref=1>.
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