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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