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In Tartuffe, how does Moliere dramatize the relationship between convention and morality.

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saracyclegar | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted January 18, 2011 at 1:06 AM via web

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In Tartuffe, how does Moliere dramatize the relationship between convention and morality.

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Susan Hurn | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted February 1, 2011 at 10:02 PM (Answer #1)

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In the drama, Moliere draws a sharp contrast between conventional behavior and morality. This is seen most clearly through the character of Orgon. As the head of his household, Orgon wields complete power over his family, as is the social convention of his day. In this role he dissolves his daughter's engagement to the man she loves, an engagement he had previously approved. He breaks Mariane's heart by keeping her from Valere and further compounds her misery by deciding she will marry the odious Tartuffe. Additionally, when his son Damis attacks Tartuffe's character, Orgon drives his son from the family home and decides to disinherit him. As the father of Mariane and Damis, Organ acts within his conventional social role, but his actions are immoral; he abuses his power and betrays his children.

In the play's conclusion, Orgon realizes that Tartuffe is a devious fraud who has managed to take ownership of Orgon's property. Orgon's reaction is a conventional one. He wants revenge; he wants Tartuffe to suffer for his actions. The moral contrast to Orgon's desire for vengeance is then provided by Cleante who counsels Orgon to pray for Tartuffe rather than destroy him. Orgon has paid conventional lip service to Christian morality throughout the play, quite hypocritically. Cleante urges him to practice it.

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