Tartuffe

250

The Theme of Hypocrisy in Tartuffe

April 13, 2021 by Essay Writer

Because in the early history of the theater, people usually came to be seen than to see a play, which resulted in very rude and disturbing audiences. Therefore authors, like Moliere, had to create a dramatic opening in their plays to catch the attention of their audience. By doing so, he has the play start off in medias res, which is Latin for “in the midst of things,” where Madame Pernelle is ready to leave her son Orgon’s house, but first using the opportunity to criticize everyone in the house and praise the one and only Tartuffe because he is a man of holiness. In various versions, Moliere’s play, Tartuffe is called “The Imposter” or “The Hypocrite.” Tartuffe was produced in 1664 and later published in French in 1669 as “Le Tartuffe ou l’imposteur”. The entire play took place in the home of Orgon. The play starts off in medias res, which is Latin for “in the midst of things,” where Madame Pernelle is ready to leave her son Orgon’s house, but first using the opportunity to criticize everyone in the house and praise the one and only Tartuffe because he is a man of holiness. Although what happens in this play shows that he truly isn’t what he seems to be. Moliere’s play, “Tartuffe” is a well written play that develops the theme of hypocrisy by exposing the Tartuffe’s identity and demonstrating the dangers that he brings to the family.

The main character, Tartuffe, is the antagonist in this play and is later exposed of his true self. What was very pleasing to find out was that he was finally seen as the person he truly was. In the text, not only is it established that he is good at manipulating people, but he has already planned what he was going to do beforehand. His goal was to enter this family’s house and manipulate the master, Orgon. He masquerades as a religious fanatic and is, in fact, a poor con man who hopes one day to acquire extensive amount of financial resources. Tartuffe’s hypocrisy is quickly seen by everyone in the family except Orgon himself. Dorine knows that he is deceitful and is using Orgon for his money. We see that he has allowed himself into Orgon’s life although it was much displeasure to the rest of the family and household.

Not only does hypocrisy develop by exposing his identity, but by also demonstrating the dangers that he brought to the family because of how welcomed he was by Orgon and Madame Pernelle. In the play, Tartuffe is supposedly a religious and pious man, but his holy nature became irrelevant when he started to become lustful towards Orgon’s wife, Elmire. For example, Tartuffe states to Elmire, “A bit of licorice may be what you need…/ If you’re still troubled, think of things this way: No one shall know your joys, save us alone, And there’s no evil till the act is known; It’s scandal, Madam, which makes it an offense, And it’s no sin in confidence” (Act 4, Scene 5). It is interpreted that by offering her licorice, Tartuffe’s hypocrisy is shown by him blatantly admitting his hypocrisy. She knows just what his lustful identity is, and he thinks that by giving her some licorice, she will fall for his charms, just as Orgon and Madame Pernelle has done. His hypocrisy is very overwhelming for the family and the audience. He thinks that there’s nothing wrong with committing lustful actions if no one notices. He shows his dishonesty when he doesn’t have to pretend to be someone he is not, which is not right and fair to do.

Overall, Tartuffe’s theme of hypocrisy shows very clearly throughout this play by exposing the antagonist’s identity and demonstrating the dangers that they can bring to those around them. This play is truly a life lesson for it teaches the audience to always stay true to who you are and to always be careful around people you don’t know that well. There’s great humor in this play, especially when you approach it and understand it in a different perspective than focusing on only the background and setting.

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180

Tartuffe by Jean Baptiste Poquelin Moliere: Manipulation of Orgon

April 13, 2021 by Essay Writer

In the play, Tartuffe, Orgon is swindled by the villainous Tartuffe, who manipulates Orgon into giving him his estate, wealth, and almost his daughter’s hand in marriage. Written by Jean Baptiste Poquelin Moliere, the work is an important piece of comedic work and, like Shakespeare, borrows ideas from commedia de’ll arte.

In Tartuffe, Orgon invites whom he thinks is a lonesome beggar who only does right in God’s eyes. He soon comes to find that Tartuffe is no better than the ground he walks upon when he sees with his own eyes that Tartuffe tries to persuade his own wife, Elmire, that “it is no sin to sin in confidence”. The main idea of this play is that you can never be sure who to trust. Orgon gave Tartuffe a home, believing that he could do no wrong. Orgon exiled his own son for speaking badly of Tartuffe. Then, when he told Tartuffe to leave his home, Tartuffe had already taken the signed deed and the exile’s documents from Orgon to the King and had Orgon to be placed under arrest and the family exiled from the house at once. Tartuffe betrayed Orgon after he had continued to trust him even after all of the ill-spoken words from the rest of the house.

This work is comedic in a family sitcom type of way. For example, when Orgon is trying to persuade Mariane that she will marry Tartuffe, Dorine keeps talking aloud to herself after he tells her to remain silent while he talks to Mariane. And when Dorine says “I’d not wed such a monster, even in jest”, Orgon attempts to slap her and misses. So the source of comedy would be the bickering between Orgon and Dorine. Dorine tries to aggravate him on purpose because she doesn’t agree with his decision of Mariane marrying Tartuffe. Another example is when Orgon comes home and asks how things were while he was away. Dorine tells him of his wife’s illness and suffering and Orgon asks “And Tartuffe?”. She proceeds to tell him how great Tartuffe had been and every time, Orgon responds with “Poor fellow”.

Moliere also borrows some ideas from commedia de’ll arte. The stock characters (Magnifico, young lovers, zanni, etc.) can be found throughout the play. For example, Orgon is the head of the household and what he says, goes. He would be considered the Magnifico of this play. Zanni is usually very funny and is the trickster. Dorine, I think, would be considered the zanni because she likes to make Orgon angry to get a laugh. Young lovers in the work would obviously be Mariane and Valere. They’re only wish in life is to marry one another and they would rather die than be apart.

In conclusion, this work was a very funny and entertaining piece of art. It includes comedy, tragedy, almost adultery, and justice all in one play. I thought it was mostly easy to comprehend what the characters were saying, although some words seemed made up (pelf? cuckold?). There was a nice use of some of the stock characters of commedia de’ll arte. I thought Dorine was an amazing addition to this play. Lastly, this work teaches you that no matter how highly you think of a person, they aren’t always what you think behind closed doors.

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124

Concept of Love in Association with a Wide Diversity of Meanings in Moliere’s Tartuffe

April 13, 2021 by Essay Writer

Though love is regarded as a universal human emotion, it has a different meaning to various people. It is widely recognized as a variety of states, feelings, and attitudes that span from pleasure to interpersonal affection. In some instances, it is regarded as an intense personal attraction and strong attraction, while in others; it is a virtue that stands for a range of human virtues, such as compassion, human kindness, and affection. Throughout history, love has professed different meaning from one generation to another and one society to the next. For instance, in ancient Greek, there were four forms of love, including sexual/romantic, divine, kinship, and friendship. Further, some contemporary writers made further distinctions on the forms of love, such as different states of romantic love. Other non-western traditions have also distinguished the various symbols of these states (of love). Other credible theories, such as Judaism and Islamic interpretations, reveal that love has spiritual or religious meaning. All in all, the concept of love is associated with a wide diversity of meanings and uses that make the emotion unusually difficult to define and consistently interpret.

Different Depictions of Love

Love is a broad concept that does not readily present a meaning at its mention. The 18-th century poets traveled great distances to describe their beloveds, whereas notable authors have had to counter major obstacles in the wake of conveying their “wretched ordinariness” (Molière 29). Consequently, the language of love has featured differently in many eras through using some of the great generalizing symbols, such as the rose, the heart, the fixed stars, and others (Molière 191).

In the text, Tartuffe, various forms of love can be identified from the relationship and associations of the different characters. Love is presented as a human emotion and can only be expressed in the course of interacting with fellow human beings. Also, since it is expressed through values and principles when human beings indulge in collaborative activities and/or find themselves in conflict with each other, then they can apply values, such as forgiveness, understanding, compassion, selflessness, sharing, respect for one another, and others. The novel begins on a high pitch instance where a storm is brewing in Orgon’s family. According to the opinion of his mother, Madame Pernelle, their family has become depraved and decadent as a consequence of division over the real identity of Tartuffe, a local beggar whom Orgon took in. While his family members think of him as a hypocrite, a con artist, and self-righteous individual, Orgon thinks otherwise. In fact, he is overly obsessed with him such that he does not want to hear anything from his wife. He even develops a sour relationship with his brother-in-law, Cleante, who thinks that he is insane because he is listening to an outsider more than those close to him. Cleante is surprised with the sudden change of attitude, especially because of the fact that he has postponed his (Orgon’s) daughter wedding. In addition to confirming the change of events, he does not offer any explanation but opts to say nothing further. It is an act of friendship love that Orgon has developed towards Tartuffe, such that he is blinded to see his bad, undesirable part. Tartuffe’s life tales, especially those related with divinity, have inspired him to the point that he develops a naïve belief in his advances.

Tartuffe is a French word that means hypocrite or the impostor, it was first performed in 1664, and features as one of the most celebrated literary works by Moliere (Molière 2). What is more, the main characters, Elmire and Orgon are considered as some of the most influential theatric personalities in history.

In the play, marriage is used to demonstrate and develop the theme of love further but is made more complicated. It is because the institution is not just used to express and exchange love, but is also used for political reasons, to gain mileage. Though love is perfected between couples in the text, its endeavors are hampered in all its packages. The audience is treated to the notion that marriage can only be decided by the bride’s father, and that any mistake that he makes could cost him great losses. The characters make us believe that the strength of the bonds of marriage reflect the match that has been mad, insinuating that the institution (of marriage) is critical to the wellbeing of the society. The author has used the intense drama between Mariane, Orgon, Tartuffe, and Valere to demonstrate how the institution of marriage is used to express romantic and friendship love between couples and other individuals respectively.

The most dominant form of love in the play is marriage and romantic love. The author introduces a kind of conflict that revolves around the institution of marriage. Though is overshadowed by political desires and manipulations, the union between a couple represents one of the most genuine manifestations of love. Moliere uses the marriage arrangement to her audience so that she can use it to explore a myriad of values, principles, vices, virtues, and sundry, which are either act of love or the opposite. For instance, she defines adultery as a wayward act that contradicts the principles of marriage but also ponders over some values of love, such as forgiveness of wrongs done, understanding, and others.

The third form of love expressed in the play is divine love. According to the words of Orgon: “He lost his fortune, as he says himself, because he cared for Heaven alone, and so, was careless of his interests here below. I mean to get him out of his present straits and help him to recover his estates (17). As such, he does not stop to ponder about the suspicious aspects of Tartuffe’s story. He is totally confused such that he does not listen to the members of his family when they try to show him that it is strange for a man of God to develop a sudden interest in earthly things. It is like he does not use his thinking sensory at times.

Role of Love

The relationship between love and literature is not minor, as discussions about love are not new (are timeless) and have survived humanity since time immemorial. Currently, there are many interpretations of love that cause confusion, especially with regards to the depth of love. The discussion of the central role that love plays is covered in many literary works, and in the novel, Tartuffe, it is equally significant. For instance, it deals with sufficient bargain of love, both human and divine forms (216). The author has used love to demonstrate the concepts of lust and as an obstacle to progress and other processes. One of the main characters, Tartuffe, is an impostor, who has found his way into Orgon’s family oriented household (230). His hypocritical nature makes it possible for him to convince a rather naïve and shallow Orgon with his fake qualities of humility and holiness. It makes him develop an unorthodox religious obsession with Tartuffe and even goes to the extent of compelling her daughter, Mariane, to marry him. The situation complicates things for Mariane, who already has a ready suitor that she has been dating. Consequently, Orgon acts like a bully and in Act 4, he prepares the marital contract and even declares Tartuffe his apparent heir. The audience is well aware of the affectionate attachment that Orgon has towards his family, but somehow his obsession (love) with Tartuffe signifies his downfall.

Institutions

In the play, Tartuffe, various institutions arise out of love, most importantly that of marriage. In Act 4, the audience is treated to a wedding ceremony that is to formalize the forced union between Tartuffe and Marriane. Tartuffe has managed to use deceit to get into Orgon’s family to the extent that he is named the heir to his wealth and the husband to be to his daughter. The role of marriage institution is also revealed in the conflict that is facing Orgon’s family. Imperatively, the novel was considered blasphemous during its first performance, before it was banned in 1664. All in all, the themes are still relevant in this contemporary world just like in the 16th and 17th centuries. The author has demonstrated how fathers/husbands are the heads of families, and how they could be abusive towards his fellow members. Orgon is used to represent the tyrannical father figures and cunning politicians and how they are finally foreshadowed in the end. In contrast, the underlying seriousness is never sufficient to dampen Orgon’s irrepressible gaiety, as talented wives and servants help to maintain the balance of a world that is faced with the threat of cunning wives and maniacal fathers.

Love, Bondage, Freedom

The novel has clearly revealed the themes of Love and Bondage and Love and Freedom. The subject of love and bondage is demonstrated in the relationship between Orgon and his daughter, Marriane. During the initial stages of the play, the audience is treated to the deep affection that Orgon has towards his family. in Scene 1, Orgon tests the loyalty of his daughter by asking if she will obey everything that he commands. Since Marriane is a pliable daughter, she is ready to demonstrate her love for his father by doing anything he asks of her. Consequently, she is captivated in a form of mental bondage because of her unshakable loyalty to her father.

The broader theme of love and bondage, thus, concerns the predicament that Orgon has forced his daughter, and the rest of his family. He meets a stranger who professes to be poor and is not interested in material things. His love and affection for humanity make him adopt the man and provides a family and necessary provisions alongside his family. It shows a form of emotional and mental bondage that blinds some people from the truth.

Conclusion

The analysis has demonstrated how the concept of love is associated with a wide diversity of meanings and uses that make the emotion unusually difficult to define and consistently interpret. In the novel, Tartuffe, Orgon is obsessed with Tartuffe, such that he turns against his family in his favor. He even names him heir to his wealth and promises to give him his daughter for marriage. The reason for his sudden liking for Tartuffe is that the latter is in love with divine things and does not care about material objects.

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136

Tartuffe’s Timeless Moods, Themes, and Characters

April 13, 2021 by Essay Writer

Production Book: Tartuffe Reimagined

I have recently read Tartuffe, by Moliere as part of Introduction to Theater at Wheaton College. This play, more than most of the others that we studied, struck me as a timeless. There are aspects of this play that apply to my life, as a college student, there are aspects that apply to the world of politicians; it can apply to any time period, from Ancient Greece, to the Tutor Era, to modern times. I believe this play needs to be revived, in any of these time periods, as a way to revive these wonderfully complex moods, themes, and characters that are so timeless in their honesty about the human psyche.

This play’s themes and moods are very important. They are very dark, serious, and realistic underneath all of the humor. I think these moods are emphasized by the analyses of the human character, which are extremely truthful, and add a very dark quality to the play with this realism. This play can be taken very seriously, however, on the surface the play is completely ridiculous. We can see this exemplified, especially in performances, through the use of the play’s rhyming couplets, the edge of sarcasm, and the deus ex machina ending which lighten the heavy content and characters considerably.

Part of the relatability of the play has to do with these characters. They exemplify very human traits which are embellished by the plot, but at times, verge on becoming ridiculous. When I first read the play however, they come across as interesting depictions of characteristics I’ve seen in real people. I especially connected to the characters of Dorine and Tartuffe.

I really connect to Dorine, in the sense that I am not as gullible as some of the people in this play, or at least I like to imagine that I’m not as gullible, and am extremely passionate about hot button issues, or issues that concern my family or friends. I also admire and appreciate her blunt honesty. I think the world needs a little more of these characteristics, whatever the time period, and I think reviving the character of Dorine would help give the audience a little more courage to be honest and blunt in the face of obscenity.

I also connected to Tartuffe. Regrettably, I have been in the situation before where I have manipulated someone to get what I want, as I am sure most people have. I see this, and appreciate people who have the shrewd intelligence to be able to do this, in our society. While they are not morally sound, they can be very cunning and intelligent when they want to be. I don’t agree with these methods, but I can appreciate their ingenuity, which, in some scenes, is also how I feel about the character of Tartuffe. I think this is also a great character to revive for modern audiences. While the world could use some blunt honesty, that we can see in Dorine, they could also use some better judgment.

In order to do emphasize these fantastically absurd characters, and the wonderful themes of the play, I intend to change several aspects from its traditional performance. Unlike the Royal Shakespeare Company’s production, or a traditional performance, I would have the actors play it straight. I would emphasize the power dynamic between Tartuffe and the family through the use of dramatic scenery, lighting, and music. I would use the translation we read, with the rhyming couplets, to slightly offset the intense, dramatic feel of the play.

Modern society can be very quick to jump to conclusions or to see what they want to see and ignore what is really happening, which is what happens in the play with Orgon. Critical thinking and analytical judgment are a much needed presence, and hopefully, when faced with the absurdity that is the character Tartuffe, they will see that this reflection—upon life in our society—is sorely needed. I would like the audiences to see this absurdity in Tartuffe, and reflect upon themselves.

Production Notes

Performance Space/ Scenic Design

I would have my production of Tartuffe set in a large, old, Tudor style manner. The play is originally French, but in my mind I imagine the backdrop with more of a subdued, serious atmosphere, like we would see in the dark wooden panels and rich tapestries of Tudor England, as opposed to the ridiculousness of the Late Baroque and early Rococo periods that we see in the backdrop of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s production, and Moliere’s 17th century bourgeois France.

I would play with where each scene is set slightly. The scenes that have to be in a specific room for the orchestration of the scene, for example when Orgon hides under the table, would be set in the necessary rooms. However, the other scenes would be in various rooms around the manner, or even outside. The audience would follow the cast from room to room, as explained in the playbill. The stragglers would be encouraged to move to the next location by the ushers, and talking between scenes would be extremely discouraged, so as to not break the atmosphere of the play.

The exterior of the manner would be a dramatic backdrop with the large expanse of the estate visible. The audience would go back and forth between feeling claustrophobic in the smaller interior rooms and, when outside, feeling overwhelmed by the grandeur of the grounds and building. The interior rooms would be smaller, or would feel smaller due to the large amount of people occupying them.

The interior would be very richly furnished. Extravagant Tudor interiors involved wood paneling, brightly colored tapestries, detailed cloth covered furniture, and oil paintings involving extremely saturated colors. I would try to recreate the interior rooms as they would have been in the 16th century, with all of these rich colors, as opposed to using pieces actually from that era, which are now extremely faded and wouldn’t provide the right mood.

Exterior scenes would have a background of this architecture, including some of the gardens, (a smaller, interior garden is shown here) and the audience would see some of the detailing as they walked between scenes. A classic example is the molding, which features the rose, a representation of the Tudor family. This one here is on the ceiling of an archway in between two courtyards.

The interiors are dark, giving the appearance of a smaller, enclosed space. The furniture above has the original faded fabric, which I would not use. Tapestries were prominent, if the household had enough money, as they would insulate the rooms. This one here shows the detail and extravagance, however the tapestries I would use, like with the furniture above, would be fully restored in their brilliant colors.

This painting is an excellent example of the rich colors and details that were so prominent in the time period. I would furnish the manor with similarly exciting objects.

Lighting Design

I would have the most of the play only slightly lit, using shadows and a dark ambiance to emphasize the dramatic characters and themes. I would really play with the lighting and use different colors depending on the theme/emotion emphasized in the scene, almost to the point where the effect is too much, but without distracting from the audience. I think this would add to the ridiculousness and humor that the play typically has, which would be mostly absent in my production.

This would vary depending on the scene and its location. If it was outside, I would strategically time the scene so as to work with the natural lighting. If the scene was inside, I would play with artificial lighting without making the physical lights too distracting from the interior decorations. The effect would be similar to that of an intricate stained glass window.

Costume Design

Costuming and props would not be excessive, but would be appropriate to match the time period. Women of the upper class in the 16th century would have fairly elaborate clothing. Their dresses consisted of four layers, at the least. The first layer was the smock, a simple white linen fabric that would have some embroidery and/or frill around the neckline and sleeve cuffs. These details on the smock can sometimes be seen in the final ensemble.

The next layer is the petticoat, a type of under-skirt which was usually a fine red wool. The petticoat would be used to give the garment structure and weight, as well as to keep the person wearing the dress warm. In the second half of the 16th century, they would also wear a farthingale, which is a type of hoop skirt that originated in Spain.

The next layer is the kirtle, which, in this time period, almost functions as a loose corset. It is rigidly constructed, either through the material or through the use of light boning, and constricts the bodice. Sometimes it is connected to another light layer of skirt. Occasionally, a little bit of the kirtle can be seen in the final ensemble, usually poking out near the neckline.

Next we see the forepart, which pokes out from under the outer gown’s skirt, and the sleeves. The forepart and the under layer of sleeves match. There are two additional layers of sleeves beyond the smock and the short sleeves of the kirtle.

The final layer is the gown. For the upper class, they were always very extravagant, as depicted in the portrait of Catherine Parr on the left.

Head wear was also important. There were two major styles at the time: the English or Gable Hood (pictured above on the right), and the French Hood (pictured above in the middle).

Music/Sound Design

I would use dramatic classical music featuring string instruments. The more dramatic scenes would use a deep cello and two violins to bring out the tension and drama. I would start with the cello to build tension in the lower range. Then I would have the two violins sharply come in and harmonize, so as to emphasize the big reveal moments and the points of tension.

The instrumentalists would be dressed according to the time period, but as musicians of the era would dress. Their clothing would reflect their lower class status: it would be duller, it would use simpler fabrics, and it would be much simpler than the rest of the family’s garb. They would sit off to the side of the scene, but apart from the audience. As they are dressed in the period clothing, they will appear to be almost a part of the scene, but not entirely, as the actors will not acknowledge their existence.

Casting

For me, the most obvious casting choice is the character Elmire. I would love to see Lena Heady play this character. I think it would be really interesting to see Lena in this role after playing a similar character on Game of Thrones. I think she could bring some really great additions to the character.

Another obvious casting choice for me would be Imelda Staunton as Dorine. I imagine her bringing some of the ferociousness that she used to play Umbridge in Harry Potter again in this character. She could bring that necessary strong willed moral compass that this show depends on. I can see her playing the strong role very persuasively.

I would cast Daniele Radcliffe as Valère. It’s a small role for him, but I think he could bring substance and depth to an underappreciated part. I think he is easy to sympathize with, and I think that would be beneficial for the character.

I would cast a young Julie Andrews as Mariane. I don’t see the character of Mariane having a lot of substance in the play, but if Julie Andrews brought the passionate spark she had in The Sound of Music to the character I can imagine it would be lovely.

I would cast Kenneth Branagh as Tartuffe. I think he would be a strong actor to bring into the mix of all of these characters. I would love to see his interpretation of Tartuffe, and all of the little things he would bring to the character. I can imagine him bringing some of the physical comedy from his performance in Much Ado to this new role, but in a slightly more subdued and serious tone.

I think a younger Mel Brooks could play the role of Orgon well. He understands comedy very well, and I think he could bring some really funny and interesting insight to the role of Orgon that most people wouldn’t necessarily see. His experience in the industry would also be extremely helpful to bring to both his role and the production as a whole.

I would cast Eddie Redmayne as Damis. He is a very passionate actor and he brings a lot of depth and genuine emotion to his characters, which is exactly what this part requires. He is newer to the acting scene than the others cast in this play, however he is a very powerful actor when he wants to be and could easily hold his own.

I would cast Dame Maggie Smith as Madame Pernelle. I think she can balance the ironic bite of her intense character with serious content of the play very well. I think she can be extremely funny when she pretends to be oblivious to her surroundings. She has done a similar type of acting with her sassy character in Downton Abbey.

I would cast Christopher Walken as Cleante. I think he could play one of the voices of (exasperated) reason very well in the play. I imagine him bringing some of the realism to Cleante that he brought to his character in Hairspray.

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193

Mannerist Comedy Portrayed Through Orgon’s Character

October 23, 2020 by Essay Writer

Comedy of Manners was a theatrical genre that flourished during the time of the British Restoration of the 17th century. These plays sought to deride the upper social classes by exaggerating their manners and customs. Comedy of Manners used stock characters who were representative of their social class in order to satirize their behavior. Many times, the people watching these plays were the same people being satirized (Cash); furthermore, these performances were known for their sophisticated intellectual wit and heavy use of dialogue. One of the most famous of these plays to appear in France, Tartuffe, poked fun at the upper French aristocrats and their willingness to submit themselves to the Roman Catholic Church. The comedy in the play comes from the character Orgon’s complete and total obliviousness to the scheming yet pious-seeming Tartuffe’s plans to steal all of his wealth (Baker). The play Tartuffe is one of the greatest examples of Comedy of Manners in theatrical history, and when the character Orgon’s actions and role in the play are examined, a brilliant and satirical representation of the aristocracy’s religious hypocrisy and blind trust in the Roman Catholic church is revealed.

In Tartuffe, Orgon plays the role of the oblivious yet extremely wealthy patron to the obviously and hilariously corrupt Tartuffe. Orgon’s endless gullibility in the face of shameless corruption is the main comedic point of the play. Orgon foolishly allows the wicked Tartuffe to stay in his family’s home, seduce his wife, and appropriate his fortunes while hopelessly deceiving himself as to the righteousness of his own actions. The characters around Orgon find this behavior to be quite at odds with his past self. The character Dorine describes Orgon as having “Served his king with wise and loyal heart, But he’s quite lost his senses since he fell Beneath Tartuffe’s infatuating spell” (Tartuffe Act 1 Scene II Verse 4). Orgon only falls under Tartuffe’s spell after reaching middle age, in the hope that he can gain some kind of divine favor (Baker).

This need to find redemption at such a late point in his life leads Orgon to become a crazed religious fanatic overnight. He says about his family, “My mother, children, brother, and wife could die, And I’d not feel a single moment’s pain” (Tartuffe Act 1 Scene VI v. 21-22). This irrational behavior causes Orgon to overlook the crimes of Tartuffe in order to gain merit in the afterlife. When Dorine tells Orgon of the sickness of his wife, Orgon Responds, “Ah. And Tartuffe?”. Dorine replies, “Tartuffe? Why, he’s round and red, bursting with health, and excellently fed” (Tartuffe Scene 1 Act V v. 12-15). Orgon responds by saying, “Poor fellow.” This exchange is supposed to shock the audience, as Orgon is so under Tartuffe’s spell that the sickness of his own wife is meaningless to him.

Tartuffe takes advantage of Orgon’s willful blindness by both attempting to seduce his wife and attempting to seize all of his possessions upon his death. Orgon is vaguely aware that Tartuffe lusts after his wife, as he says, “He (Tartuffe) even takes great interest in my wife; He lets me know who ogles her, and seems six times as jealous as I am myself” (Tartuffe Act 1 Scene VI v. 46-48). Even when Orgon catches Tartuffe red handed trying to seduce his wife, and Tartuffe confesses, “Yes Brother, I’m a wicked man, I fear: a wretched sinner, all depraved and twisted, the greatest villain that has ever existed,” (Tartuffe Act III Scene VI v. 97) he still does not believe him. Instead he blames his son Damis for the transgression, not willing to believe his very eyes and Tartuffe’s own confession about what occurred. Instead he says to his son, “Well go quickly then. I disinherit you; an empty purse is all you’ll get from me – except my curse” (Tartuffe Act III Scene VI v. 102). It is not until Orgon sees with his own two eyes Tartuffe violating his wife that he is able to say, “ “That man’s a perfect monster, I must admit! I’m simply stunned. I can’t get over it” (Tartuffe Act IV Scene VI v. 1-2). Yet to the audience this is hardly surprising, as Tartuffe has been corrupt since his introduction.

Of course, Comedy of Manners takes common customs and behaviors of a social class and amplify and exaggerate them to the point of ridiculousness. The character of Orgon in the play pokes fun at two common behaviors within the French aristocracy, the miraculous conversion to faith in middle age and the brazen corruption of the Roman Catholic Church (Taibi). During the playwright Moliere’s time it was common (as it is today) for those reaching middle age to finally open their eyes and find religion. After serving the King for many years and retiring to his estate, the character Orgon feels the weight of middle age, which leads him to finding “true faith.” The comedy comes in that he hasn’t truly converted, but merely pretends to in order to get into heaven. The unscrupulous Tartuffe represents the corrupt Catholic Church that is more than willing to prey on the gullible convert’s need to find redemption. Thus, the play can be seen as critical of the French aristocracy and Roman Catholic Church’s religious hypocrisy.

Orgon’s religious hypocrisy in following the obviously corrupt Tartuffe is what makes the play a brilliant Comedy of Manners. No matter how corrupt or evil Tartuffe appears, Orgon is willing to explain everything away in order to assure his access to the afterlife. The play poked fun at the aristocracy for trying to find religion late in life after having lived a completely irreligious life, and also poked fun at the Roman Catholic Church’s readiness to take advantage of such individuals. The people who watched Tartuffe be performed in the 17th century were well aware of the common occurrence of such religious hypocrisy, and this is what made the play both loved by the aristocracy and hated by the clergy.

Sources:

Baker, Lyman. “Moliere’s TARTUFFE as a Satire on Religious Fanaticism.” Kansas State University. 7 Dec. 1996. Web. 6 Oct. 2014. <http://www-personal.ksu.edu/~lyman/english233/Tartuffe- religion.htm>.

Cash, Justin. “Comedy of Manners.” The Drama Teacher. 19 July 2006. Web. 6 Oct. 2014. <http://www.thedramateacher.com/comedy-of-manners/>.

Taibi, Julian. “Orgon’s Obsession in Moliere’s Tartuffe: Infatuation versus Reason.” East Stroudsburg University. East Stroudsburg University, 1 Jan. 2010. Web. 6 Oct. 2014. <http://www.esu.edu/~jhotz/viewpoints/f10papers/F10-4-Taibi.pdf>.

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Ideals and Rationality During the Age of Enlightenment in Moliere’s Tartuffe and Chikamatsu Monzaemon’s The Love Suicides at Amijima

October 23, 2020 by Essay Writer

The Age of Enlightenment

The spirit of the Age of Enlightenment is embodied in our texts with examples of reason, equality for all, and rationality. Moliere’s Tartuffe and The Love Suicides at Amijima by Chikamatsu Mon’ Zaemon both show these characteristics through the characters and the plot each story takes. Straying away from the ideals and irrational thoughts that come with solely focusing on an organized and constructed order is shown in a negative light through the texts we read.

In the play Tartuffe, equality is shown despite social class. Former ideologies weren’t as open to fairness and equal rights, yet, we see the Age of Enlightenment touching on the value of each individual. An example of this is shown through the character of Dorine. Dorine is of the working class and clearly shows the values associated with the Age of Enlightenment. She is Mariane’s lady maid within the play and is somewhat on low standing in ranking. Despite Dorine not being as higher up in class as the other individuals, she has a mentality of reason and is extremely knowledgeable. In fact, Dorine was one of the very first people who saw right through Tartuffe and his false persona. As she is speaking to Madame Pernelle, she voices her opinion on him by saying, “You see him as a saint. I’m far less awed; In fact, I see right through him. He’s a fraud”. Although Orgon personally didn’t believe her at first, we know it wasn’t due to her social standing but his own unnecessary ideals. We can all appreciate the equal rights that Dorine has within the play. Dorine is a character treated equally amongst the family as if she were a part of it.

Touching a bit more on rationality, Orgon seems to be the least rational and the one who gets taken advantage of the most. Like the Age of Enlightenment showed, rational thinking was the key to moving further and progressing. There was to be no more spiritual mentalities and thinking without logic. If Orgon had only listened to the rational characters within the play, the whole mess of a situation wouldn’t have happened. With logic, reasoning, and rationalization, humans can ensure that what they believe is true. I believe that Moliere wrote Tartuffe so we could see what happens when reasoning isn’t applied and the downfalls of it.

The Love Suicides is a tragic love story that also shows the pitfalls that come with irrational thinking. Jihei, falls victim to being in love with a prostitute and therefore gets in a tangled web. Jihei is not someone who thinks through with his actions, much like Orgon in Tartuffe. Both Jihei and his lover, Koharu, decide that the only way for them to be together is through a lover’s suicide. Their irrational philosophy is something that the Age of Enlightenment wanted to stray away from. Just like in Tartuffe, if Jihei had listened to the rational thoughts of his family and others within the story, the disastrous events may not have happened.

As mentioned, equality was a main point within the Age of Enlightenment. This is shown within The Love Suicides through the characters’ roles. Jihei is a paper merchant while Koharu is a prostitute. In the story, we see that their love isn’t as forbidden as we may think. During that era, equality is shown amongst people. It wasn’t unacceptable for the two different classes to have a relationship. The only downside with the relationship was that it interfered with Jihei’s family that he currently had. Had Jihei been single, the fact that Koharu was a prostitute in the relationship would not have bothered people. Even though Jihei wasn’t of the highest class, he still had money and could afford to take care of himself.

Lastly, to touch on an important theme within the Age of Enlightenment, in both Tartuffe and The Love Suicides we see religion and spirituality but in a negative aspect. It’s evident that the characters from both stories go in blindly with their religion. Orgon refuses to think logically and instead focuses on the piety of Tartuffe. He only opens his mind to what he has been taught to know is right. If he clearly thought through everything and noticed the fake persona Tartuffe was showing, he would not solely focus on irrational religious views. The same goes for Jihei and Koharu in The Love Suicides. Had they had put everything into perspective and not based their relationship off of their religious fantasies, they could rationally think of a way out of their situation. We see an example towards the end of the story when Jihei ends Koharu’s life and falls to his death. He shouts, “May we be reborn on one lotus! Hail Amida Buddha!” (94). They truly both believed that they would be together in the afterlife.

As you can see, reasoning is put into play and the events that happen in both stories touch on the importance of rationalization. The Age of Enlightenment ideals were valid and we saw the negative aspects to believing in the ideas opposite of the philosophies. If characters solely chose to look at their religious ideas without rationalization, things would spiral out of control and ensue chaos. Therefore, equality, rationalization, and reasoning were philosophies during the Age of Enlightenment that opened people’s minds and allowed them to further look into things. Our texts showed the desire for maintaining an equal stance amongst people and that human rights are a basic necessity for all. Challenging former philosophies and methods of life was something to be accepted with open arms and shown to have a positive effect. Otherwise, going blindly into things without reasoning and thought would create an endless array of problems.

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344

The Role of Reason in Religion: A Reading of Tartuffe

August 6, 2019 by Essay Writer

What happens when hypocrisy invades religion in the absence of reason? This is the very question that Moliere addresses as he establishes the characters in his work of political and social satire Tartuffe. In satire, characters are usually one-dimensional and unchanging; they are simply there to represent an idea. Therefore, rather than using character development, Moliere uses character establishment to shape his story and theme. This is most notably seen in the last two scenes of act one in Tartuffe as he establishes the characters of Orgon, Cleante and Tartuffe. In the establishment of these three characters Moliere forms a strong point about reason’s role in religion and the rightful way to pursue genuine belief.

In the last scenes of act one in Tartuffe, Orgon’s character is established by his attitude towards his family, his misplaced respect for Tartuffe, and his blindness towards Tartuffe’s hypocrisy. As Orgon makes his entrance into the story, he inquires of his brother-in-law that state of his house. Dorine reveals that the lady of the house has been very sick, even going as far to say that a bleeding “has saved her from the grave.” Orgon takes the information without acknowledging it. His only concern is for Tartuffe, the religious man he has taken in and aspires to be like. This nonchalant attitude toward his family reveals disconnect that is only made up for in his relationship to Tartuffe. This replacement of a practical stranger for one’s family immediately brings Organ’s character into question. In the next scene Orgon cements his character by arguing with Cleante. Orgon tries to justify Tartuffe’s character to Cleante, but falls short with this remark: “This is a man…who…ha!…well, such a man.” This inability to come up with words to describe the man he venerates so highly reveals Orgon’s faith to be empty. The reason for this emptiness is his lack of personal reasoning. He believes in Tartuffe, but doesn’t know why or what he believes, as evidenced by his inability to describe the man. He is allowing someone else to do his thinking for him. All of these factors work together to establish Orgon as an oblivious character that is devoid of reason.

In his argument with Orgon, Cleante establishes his personality and comes out as superior to his brother-in-law’s character. Cleante claims, “Religious passion worn as a façade abuses what’s sacred and mocks God.” He accuses Tartuffe of this very sin by stating, “what I see is loud lip service merely.” He does not believe Tartuffe’s shows of service to God are sincere in the simple fact that he makes a loud show of them. Orgon deems him an atheist for his disbelief in Tartuffe. Orgon is calling for blind belief in a religious man rather than studying the religion and coming to one’s own definition of true religious belief. Cleante reacts by saying this accusation is only rooted in the belief that one cannot find “reason and the sacred intertwined.” In this statement, Cleante establishes his character as both a religious man and the voice of reason in the story while hinting at an underlying philosophy by which to pursue true religious belief. This establishment places Cleante’s character above Orgon’s because of the employment of reason. This makes the audience more receptive to Cleante’s philosophy and assessments.

By the end of act one Tartuffe has yet to appear. However, Orgon and Cleante have already mostly established his character. Orgon paints Tartuffe as a saint and praises his religious piety with little to support his faith in the man. Due to the unreliable nature of his character that has been previously established, Cleante’s view of Tartuffe is taken to be more genuine. Orgon speaks of Tartuffe’s religious nature by stating, “The way he humbly bowed and kissed the floor? And when they tried to turn away their eyes, his fervent prayers to heaven and deep sighs made them witness his deep spiritual pain.” He is a man who makes a show with his worship and intends his own worship to bring praise for himself from others. Cleante condemns this form of worship by saying that true believers “are not the ones who groan and lay prostrate.” He therefore infers true religious devotion is something within and is not something to be outwardly shown or praised. Due to his reliability that has been established, the audience is more open to his interpretation of Tartuffe’s actions. This allows Tartuffe’s character to be cemented as fortune-seeking hypocrite that only gives the appearance of religious devotion. Due to the fact he has constructed this clever plan in order to live lavishly, he can be seen as a man with much reason and devoid of religion. In this sense, he is the opposite of Orgon and as such, he becomes the symbol of religious hypocrisy that should be condemned because of its empty worship that is simply for show and self praise. Cleante condemns this kind of religious belief by telling Orgon, “I believe you praise him quite sincerely, I also think you’ll pay for this quite dearly.” This is both a warning for this kind of belief system and also foreshadows Orgon’s unfortunate belated revelation towards the end of the story.

These characters come together to form the theme of the story. Tartuffe embodies religious hypocrisy and reason without religion. Orgon is the embodiment of religion or belief without reason or self-assessment. In the character of Cleante, a medium or balance between religion and reason is shown. Orgon’s predicament at the end of the story reveals blind belief to be unwise while Tartuffe’s treachery that is revealed at the end shows the evil in religious hypocrisy. Cleante’s philosophy is left as the only good path to true religious worship and belief. The point of the story can be gleaned from these establishments. Moliere’s theme in the story is that true religious belief is found only with genuine worship and the use of reason to discern for one’s self the way by which to achieve the faith outlined in the religion itself while warning of the dangers of religious hypocrisy or religion without substance.

Despite the one-dimensionality of these characters, Moliere uses their presence to develop a theme that makes an important point about religion. He establishes the reliability of each character and that causes the reader not only to question the genuine nature of each character’s claim, but in turn encourages the reader to question all things and to employ reason. More specially, he calls for this use of reason in religion in order to eliminate the problem of religious hypocrisy. This call for reason is at the heart of the story. The extremes of reason and religion are both illustrated and a balance between the two is deemed the correct way to true religion. This theme is a strong one and is as applicable today as it was in Moliere’s time due to the fact that religious hypocrisy still exists and the danger of allowing reason to disappear is ever-present.

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The Character of Orgon as a Personification of Mannerist Comedy

June 26, 2019 by Essay Writer

Comedy of Manners was a theatrical genre that flourished during the time of the British Restoration of the 17th century. These plays sought to deride the upper social classes by exaggerating their manners and customs. Comedy of Manners used stock characters who were representative of their social class in order to satirize their behavior. Many times, the people watching these plays were the same people being satirized (Cash); furthermore, these performances were known for their sophisticated intellectual wit and heavy use of dialogue. One of the most famous of these plays to appear in France, Tartuffe, poked fun at the upper French aristocrats and their willingness to submit themselves to the Roman Catholic Church. The comedy in the play comes from the character Orgon’s complete and total obliviousness to the scheming yet pious-seeming Tartuffe’s plans to steal all of his wealth (Baker). The play Tartuffe is one of the greatest examples of Comedy of Manners in theatrical history, and when the character Orgon’s actions and role in the play are examined, a brilliant and satirical representation of the aristocracy’s religious hypocrisy and blind trust in the Roman Catholic church is revealed.

In Tartuffe, Orgon plays the role of the oblivious yet extremely wealthy patron to the obviously and hilariously corrupt Tartuffe. Orgon’s endless gullibility in the face of shameless corruption is the main comedic point of the play. Orgon foolishly allows the wicked Tartuffe to stay in his family’s home, seduce his wife, and appropriate his fortunes while hopelessly deceiving himself as to the righteousness of his own actions. The characters around Orgon find this behavior to be quite at odds with his past self. The character Dorine describes Orgon as having “Served his king with wise and loyal heart, But he’s quite lost his senses since he fell Beneath Tartuffe’s infatuating spell” (Tartuffe Act 1 Scene II Verse 4). Orgon only falls under Tartuffe’s spell after reaching middle age, in the hope that he can gain some kind of divine favor (Baker).

This need to find redemption at such a late point in his life leads Orgon to become a crazed religious fanatic overnight. He says about his family, “My mother, children, brother, and wife could die, And I’d not feel a single moment’s pain” (Tartuffe Act 1 Scene VI v. 21-22). This irrational behavior causes Orgon to overlook the crimes of Tartuffe in order to gain merit in the afterlife. When Dorine tells Orgon of the sickness of his wife, Orgon Responds, “Ah. And Tartuffe?”. Dorine replies, “Tartuffe? Why, he’s round and red, bursting with health, and excellently fed” (Tartuffe Scene 1 Act V v. 12-15). Orgon responds by saying, “Poor fellow.” This exchange is supposed to shock the audience, as Orgon is so under Tartuffe’s spell that the sickness of his own wife is meaningless to him.

Tartuffe takes advantage of Orgon’s willful blindness by both attempting to seduce his wife and attempting to seize all of his possessions upon his death. Orgon is vaguely aware that Tartuffe lusts after his wife, as he says, “He (Tartuffe) even takes great interest in my wife; He lets me know who ogles her, and seems six times as jealous as I am myself” (Tartuffe Act 1 Scene VI v. 46-48). Even when Orgon catches Tartuffe red handed trying to seduce his wife, and Tartuffe confesses, “Yes Brother, I’m a wicked man, I fear: a wretched sinner, all depraved and twisted, the greatest villain that has ever existed,” (Tartuffe Act III Scene VI v. 97) he still does not believe him. Instead he blames his son Damis for the transgression, not willing to believe his very eyes and Tartuffe’s own confession about what occurred. Instead he says to his son, “Well go quickly then. I disinherit you; an empty purse is all you’ll get from me – except my curse” (Tartuffe Act III Scene VI v. 102). It is not until Orgon sees with his own two eyes Tartuffe violating his wife that he is able to say, “ “That man’s a perfect monster, I must admit! I’m simply stunned. I can’t get over it” (Tartuffe Act IV Scene VI v. 1-2). Yet to the audience this is hardly surprising, as Tartuffe has been corrupt since his introduction.

Of course, Comedy of Manners takes common customs and behaviors of a social class and amplify and exaggerate them to the point of ridiculousness. The character of Orgon in the play pokes fun at two common behaviors within the French aristocracy, the miraculous conversion to faith in middle age and the brazen corruption of the Roman Catholic Church (Taibi). During the playwright Moliere’s time it was common (as it is today) for those reaching middle age to finally open their eyes and find religion. After serving the King for many years and retiring to his estate, the character Orgon feels the weight of middle age, which leads him to finding “true faith.” The comedy comes in that he hasn’t truly converted, but merely pretends to in order to get into heaven. The unscrupulous Tartuffe represents the corrupt Catholic Church that is more than willing to prey on the gullible convert’s need to find redemption. Thus, the play can be seen as critical of the French aristocracy and Roman Catholic Church’s religious hypocrisy.

Orgon’s religious hypocrisy in following the obviously corrupt Tartuffe is what makes the play a brilliant Comedy of Manners. No matter how corrupt or evil Tartuffe appears, Orgon is willing to explain everything away in order to assure his access to the afterlife. The play poked fun at the aristocracy for trying to find religion late in life after having lived a completely irreligious life, and also poked fun at the Roman Catholic Church’s readiness to take advantage of such individuals. The people who watched Tartuffe be performed in the 17th century were well aware of the common occurrence of such religious hypocrisy, and this is what made the play both loved by the aristocracy and hated by the clergy.

Sources:

Baker, Lyman. “Moliere’s TARTUFFE as a Satire on Religious Fanaticism.” Kansas State University. 7 Dec. 1996. Web. 6 Oct. 2014. .

Cash, Justin. “Comedy of Manners.” The Drama Teacher. 19 July 2006. Web. 6 Oct. 2014. .

Taibi, Julian. “Orgon’s Obsession in Moliere’s Tartuffe: Infatuation versus Reason.” East Stroudsburg University. East Stroudsburg University, 1 Jan. 2010. Web. 6 Oct. 2014. .

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Molière’s comedies impose social norms with the ferocious help of laughter

May 23, 2019 by Essay Writer

Between 1664 and 1670 Molière wrote the three comedies Le Misanthrope, Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme and Le Tartuffe, all of which were written and performed in Paris, receiving a varied reception contemporaneously. The latter saw the playwright embroiled in an ongoing debate, due to its apparently egregious treatment of the ecclesiastical orders. Molière would subsequently be required to redact this play meticulously before it could be performed again in 1669. Whilst scholars have generally agreed that to bracket these plays as ‘comedies’ is a reasonable conclusion, the extent to which, and manner wherein they are satirical, and consequently what the implications of this are in Molière’s treatment of social and moral stereotypes is a far more contentious issue.

Ostensibly, there could be said to be some synthetic social and moral types in each play- this essay will focus on Alceste and Célimène in Le Misanthrope, the titular character in Le Tartuffe, and likewise the titular character in Le Bourgois Gentilhomme. All these personalities contain many elements of caricatures which were satirized and mocked regularly in 17th century France- be they a coquette, a hypocrite, a faux dévot, or a social climber. Molière tantalizes us with aspects of social stereotypes, although the characters which Molière has created are in fact nuanced, complex, and it is often rather difficult to condense their essence into a few recognizable traits. Ambiguity resides at the heart of them all, and as such whether or not they are laughed at or with is not a decision which Molière forces his audience to make, due to their multi-faceted characters, and the often morally and socially ambiguous situations they find themselves in. As a result, it is rather difficult to assert that Molière’s comedies help impose social norms through laughter, as the audience often question what and who exactly it is that they are laughing at.

First, Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme, which on a superficial level tells the story of a hapless social climber, so blinded by his desperation to further his social eminence that he frequently encounters comic domestic complications. Whilst Molière satirizes this man and his desperation, due to his ineffectual and bumbling demeanor, Monsieur Jourdain is not merely a puppet, and although we do laugh at this social stereotype, the audience might well also find themselves pitying him occasionally. The Bergsonian idea that “laughter has no greater foe than emotion”[1] might well be borne in mind whilst ascertaining the extent to which we laugh at Monseiur Jourdain. The denouement of the play, with Monsieur Jourdain’s daughter’s wedding to whom he erroneously believes to be a Turkish prince, in act 5, for instance combines slapstick comedy at the expense of Monsieur Jourdain, juxtaposed with the calculating and evil character of Dorante, which keeps the reader in limbo concerning their feelings towards the title character. Robed in Turkish garments and intoning nonsensically “hou la ba ba la chou…” accompanied by the stage direction “danse et chante,” to which his bewildered wife exclaims “Hélas! Mon Dieu! Mon mari est devenu fou,” one would be hard pressed to miss the comic value of the situation, especially given that Monsieur Jourdain would not allow his daughter to marry for love due to his own self-interested motivations concerning her fiancé’s social status.

Yet this apparently poetic justice, rendered all the more forceful through the farcical behavior of Jourdain, is offset by the dialogue between Dorante, an impecunious nobleman who is attempting to seduce Dorimene shortly afterwards. Dorante proudly introduces Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme gloating that « [il] ne [croit] pas dans tout le monde il soit possible de trouver encore un homme aussi fou que celui-là. » Molière here sets up a dramatic tension- whilst the implicit inferiority of the lower-class title character is displayed through his being duped into thinking that his behavior legitimately befits a Turkish wedding ceremony, a point made through the ferocious laughter and compounded by his wife’s reaction, the nobility in question are such inherently repugnant characters that it would not be reasonable to assert that Molière is using laughter and satire to mock a bourgeois social stereotype. Nor, however, does this reflect the subversion of the established social hierarchy, as Monsieur Jourdain is portrayed in an objectively unflattering light. What the denouement of this play does is encapsulate the tension and ambiguity which prevail- the object of satire is unclear and above all the audience must come to an informed decision themselves, as we feel both pity and a sense of ridicule towards the bourgeois main character.

In a similar vein, Tartuffe is a satirical play and undoubtedly a comic one, yet there are ambiguities and tensions which abound, the implications thereof being that the audience can never fully deride a well-recognised moral or social stereotype. There is, however, an essential distinction that must be made when putting Tartuffe and Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme in dialogue with one another. Whereas during Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme, the tension arises from the sentiment that one never feels quite certain of the legitimacy of their derision for the title character, in Tartuffe it is clearer that the title character is a villain, yet the manner in which this is the case is not altogether clear. The stereotype of the faux dévot is one which would have been familiar to many a contemporary of Molière’s, and indeed this would be not be an unreasonable characterization of Tartuffe. Yet, the type of religious hypocrite which he is remains translucent at best- he may be a Jesuit priest, but this is by no means a fixed certainty. Much of the terminology used to describe Tartuffe encompasses a Jesuit semantic field.[2] One notes for instance that the term “cabale” is used of him on two instances throughout the play- this being a term which was frequently employed when referring to Jesuit activities. R. Allier’s tract “Cabale des devots” was a polemic mostly focusing on the Company of the Blessed Sacrament- a Catholic secret society containing many Jesuit members, for instance the confessor to Louis XIII. In addition, the bailiff, a close associate of Tartuffe is known as “ Monsieur Loyal,” perhaps a play on words given that St. Ignatius of Loyola was the founding father of the Jesuits, and that “Loyoliste” was a term frequently applied to Jesuits of the era.

Interestingly, in satirizing Tartuffe, Molière above all condemns his disloyalty to the family of Orgon- an accusation frequently leveled against Jesuit priests was one of disloyalty- as it was thought that their preaching had undertones of regicide- contributing to the assassination of Henry IV in 1610. Their ties with Spain were likewise a source of popular misgiving, especially since 1640 when this was in conjunction with the Jansenist’s fiercely anti-Jesuit rhetoric. In 1643 for instance, during a Malthusian crisis in France, the Jesuits were accused of sending grain to Spain. In act 1 scene 5, his religious hypocrisy becomes manifest through the description of Orgon. Orgon, when describing Tartuffe, exclaims that he is “un homme… qui… ha!…. un homme… un homme enfin.” The anacoluthic syntax with frequent use of ellipsis reveals Orgon stumbling to find an epithet, thus at this early stage Tartuffe is already presented somewhat unfavourably, as even a sycophant cannot elucidate his support for him. Moreover, this description fixes Tartuffe as a human being, complete with all the baggage this entails such as being a sinner. In addition, this scene is rife with dramatic irony. One notes for instance that Orgon “lui [faisait] des dons” but that Tartuffe replies that these are “trop” each time, despite later going on to covet his wife. Cléante is scornful, stating “point de cabale en eux,” and at the denouement is proved right. Thus, although in this instance through his heavy deployment of dramatic irony, Molière pours scorn upon the religious hypocrite, a distinct moral type, the exact social type of Tartuffe is left hazy, with the playwright refusing to identify Tartuffe as belonging to any order, although hinting at it, which keeps a certain dramatic ambiguity and tension.

When examining Le Minsanthrope, one is conscious again of social stereotypes, such as an archetypal coquette like Célimène, and a cantankerous and pessimistic character who still yields to her like Alceste. Although satire again abounds in this play, here the ambiguities and tension in terms of who or what are the object of this are twofold. Molière encourages us to level a degree of derision at both of these characters, yet especially in Célimène there exist likable and interesting traits once one examines beyond the synthetic. Act 2 provides an insight into her multi-faceted personality- as she appears in quick succession a tasteless and cruelly flirtatious character, yet equally an intellectual and witty one. Céimène behaves in a deceptive and flirtatious fashion towards the lovestruck Alceste in this act that “c’est vrai, votre ardeur pour moi est sans seconde,” which seems a mocking retort in contrast with his heartfelt and genuine expression of love, when he declares “Ah! Que si de vos mains je rattrape mon cœur/ je bénirai le ciel de ce rare bonheur… Thus, the juxtaposition of her taunting and coquettish response with his leads us to condemn Célimène for he cruelty, yet likewise admire her irony, as she punctures his sense of self-pity. As a result, despite the fact that Célimène appears to be a cold and heartlessly flirtatious character, for whom love is a game, she is in fact a very minor character within this play, speaking roughly 320 lines out of 1800.[3] Moreover, the calamitous ending of the play for her essentially leaves an abiding sense of scorn surrounding her. This leads to the audience being left unsure once again as to what conclusion to draw about a character- as although Molière seems to be pouring scorn upon this flirtatious woman- a recognized social stereotype, he also adorns her with witty and attractive character facets.

Molière as we have seen takes the reader through a kaleidoscopic range of emotions and situations when presenting these different characters to us. In each play examined, the audience have been given various quasi- stereotypical characters, at which we are encouraged and sometimes forced to laugh. Yet Molière very often leaves ambiguity and tension surrounding these characters, and it is this refusal to continually mock a caricature in his plays that Molière does not allow us to deride social stereotypes continually. Concurrently, there are too many episodes of an ostensibly hackneyed character who finds themselves in a ridiculous predicament to conclude that subversion is the result of these comedies. What resounds instead is a series of tensions, both between the characters and within themselves which represent neither a reinforcement of the existing social order through satire, nor a subversion of it through the same means.

Works Cited

[1]Bergson, Henri. Key Writings (Bloomsbury Publishing: 2014), p.465.

[2] Calder, Andrew. Molière, Le Tartuffe and Anti-Jesuit Propaganda. (Zeitschrift für Religions- und Geistesgeschichte, Vol. 28, No. 4 (1976), p.310.

[3] Whitton, David, Molière : Le Misanthrope. (University of Glasgow French and German Publications: 1993), p.40

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Reason and Foolishness in “Tartuffe”

February 20, 2019 by Essay Writer

The play Tartuffe has many aspects of reason and foolishness. It was written during the Age of Reason, so Moliere writes this play to teach us about morality and the importance of developing a good character. Throughout the play we see that reason brings order, peace, and forgiveness while foolishness brings chaos, hatred, and suffering. In the play, Tartuffe is a fake holy man. He goes around pretending to be holy and good, but really he is evil and does the opposite of what he preaches. He is a hypocrite. Madame Pernelle and Organ fall for all his lies and act really foolish, causing suffering for everyone including themselves. Dorine and Cleante are however, the opposite. They are reasonable and see through everything Tartuffe does. They try to advise Organ and Madame Pernelle on what to do, but they won’t listen because they are blind to reason. All their foolishness only leads to violence and the breakdown of family, while reason leads to happiness, order, and marriage.

There is much foolishness in the play. Organ and Madame Pernelle are blind to reason. Organ cannot see all the lies that Tartuffe directs his way. He grows to care more for Tartuffe than his own family, leading to distrust and the breakdown of family. An example of this is, “Dorine: ‘My lady… had a fever all day’ Organ: ‘And Tartuffe?’ Dorine: ‘Extremely well, fat, fair, and fresh-coloured’ Organ: ‘Poor man!’ ” Here, through Organ’s conversation with Dorine about his wife, we see that he is more concerned for Tartuffe’s well being than his own wife’s. While she is sick and in bed, Tartuffe is in complete health, yet Organ only cares that Tartuffe is okay. Another example is on page 44 when Damis says, “Let me alone, I’ll slice both his ears off…” Damis is foolish because though he knows Tartuffe is a fake, he wants to go about the wrong way of fixing it. He becomes angry and violent, wanting to chop off Tartuffe’s ears and maybe kill him entirely. This is foolish because it wouldn’t help, it will only bring more problems. A final example is, “I can never believe, son, he could commit so black and action… his soul burns with too pure a flame.” Here, Madame Pernelle is speaking. She thinks Tartuffe is so holy and good. But she is, just like Organ, blind to Tartuffe’s true motivation. She has bad judgement. All these irrational actions do nothing to help, they only create problems. Madame Pernelle, Organ, and Damis all deny reason and act foolishly.

Unity, harmony, and order are achieved with reason. Dorine and Cleante are wise people. They both can see Tartuffe’s true motivation. An example is, “He passes for a saint in your imagination; but, believe me, all he does is nothing but hypocrisy.” Dorine is talking to Madame Pernelle, trying to advise her to not fall for Tartuffe. She knows that Tartuffe does not do what he preaches. Another example is, “Right reason and yours are very different, and you are always throwing yourself out of one extreme into another… distinguish between virtue and the appearance of it… Guard, if possible against doing honor to imposture; but… don’t injure true zeal.” Organ has gone from worshipping Tartuffe to not trusting anyone pious, so Cleante gives Organ some advice. He tells Organ that he needs to find the balance and be able to recognize the difference between lies and the truth. He is sensible and has good judgement. A last example is, “We’ll set them every way to work… employ your friends… excite his brother’s endeavors, and engage the mother-in-law in our party.” Dorine is helping Marianne and Valere. She has a plan to help them get married rather than for Marianne to marry Tartuffe. She stays calm and doesn’t panic. She uses logic and reasoning to sort everything out. The voices of reason in the play help bring order, unity, and marriage.

The play revolves around reason and foolishness. They both compete. Will logic and sense win? Or will the silly and ridiculous side win? Reason will bring order, happiness, and peace. Foolishness will bring chaos, hatred, and violence. So Dorine and Cleante, the two wise people, try to advise the foolish people and help them see that they are being tricked. With logic and reasoning, the foolish people can see they are wrong. So though there is anger, resentment, and chaos in the family while there is foolishness, reason brings happiness, order, and marriage in the end. With this play we learn the importance of morality and values and having a good character.

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