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Please discuss the reasons behind Moliere's satire, "Tartuffe", in its historical...

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tekab | Student, Undergraduate | Honors

Posted October 2, 2012 at 7:30 PM via web

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Please discuss the reasons behind Moliere's satire, "Tartuffe", in its historical context.

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 2) Distinguished Educator

Posted October 3, 2012 at 5:24 AM (Answer #1)

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Although he was always careful not to attack anything related to the monarchy since Louis XIV patronized him, Moliere's play Tartuffe, ou L'Imposteur certainly ridicules the ruling classes and attacks religious hypocrisy.  Originally, the character of Tartuffe was that of a Jesuit priest; however, the Catholic Church in the person of the Archbishop of Paris objected so strongly to the scandalous portrayal that Moliere changed Tartuffe to a Protestant, specifically a Calvinist/Puritan. The Jansenists, a radical group, who claimed to follow St. Augustine, but were more like Calvinists and were condemned by the Roman Catholic Church, castigated Moliere, contending that his play was blasphemy, based upon the portrayal of Orgon, whose character felt contempt for reason and the possibility of good will. Indeed, Orgon's character believes the reasoning that man has is depraved as a result of Original Sin and must be controlled by dictatorial rule of divine authority, as represented by the Calvinistic Tartuffe. In Act I, Scene 5, Orgon tells his brother-in-law Cleante that Tartuffe is a "lofty soul" who is an "excellent man." Keeping his precepts, Orgon contends, helps him "view this dunghill of a world with scorn."

These Calvinistic religious beliefs Moliere satirizes through the Puritanical character of Tartuffe.  However, eventually, the play, a parody of St. Augustine's authoritarian and misanthropic version of Christianity that Moliere perceived as ridiculous and insane, became so controversial that the king was forced to cancel production of it as there was such controversy among the Jesuits and the Jansenists. On the one hand, the Jesuits accused the "Jansenist Augustinianism" as a form of Puritanism, while the Jansenists portrayed the Jesuits as casuists, reconciling God's commandments with worldly interests.

 

 

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