The Theme of Hypocrisy in Tartuffe
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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