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In Moliere's Tartuffe, there are many dramatic characters—how do these characters...

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souks07 | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted April 10, 2012 at 8:44 PM via web

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In Moliere's Tartuffe, there are many dramatic characters—how do these characters contribute to the comic points the author makes?

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booboosmoosh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

Posted May 9, 2012 at 6:12 AM (Answer #1)

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In Moliere's Tartuffe, certain characters contribute more to the author's comic points than others. The characters that stand out for me are Orgon and Tartuffe. Orgon is an idiot. He too easily believes all that he sees in Tartuffe and everything he says. It is hard to take someone seriously—who is not only overnight willing to marry his daughter off to some stranger, but to make the man his heir as well. His wife tells him that a man tried to seduce her and her son witnesses it, and Orgon still doesn't listen.

Tartuffe is comic in the manner in which he carries and expresses himself. Having seen the play, perhaps I am influenced by that actor's portrayal of the part, but it was meant to be a comedy and satire. Tartuffe is much too puffed up and full of himself. His humility is obviously empty and his hypocrisy entertaining most especially because even as obvious as it is, Tartuffe has discovered the "goose that laid the golden egg." Orgon is blind to his faults and Tartuffe enjoys every second of this foolish man's hospitality.

I personally find comic entertainment in seeing Dorine (Mariane's house-maid) scold Orgon. It amazes me that she gets away with it, but has the opportunity to say what so many of the others are feeling. Here is a house-maid, not terribly sophisticated one might think, but intelligent enough to see what Tartuffe really is, and call him on it.

And it cannot be forgotten that one of the best scenes is Tartuffe chasing Elmire around the table, trying to seduce her, while Orgon hides beneath the same table, listening. Tartuffe displays the lengths to which the hypocritically pious are willing to go to when they believe no one is watching.

The point that Moliere makes in this play deals with people like Tartuffe who walk around as if they are holy and without sin, while beneath the surface, they are common and hypocritical. He met with great resistance at the time—many felt the stage was no place for comedy about religion. The playwright pointed out that exposing this kind of behavior to the public was a fine way to "correct immoral behavior."

It is a great blow to vice to expose it to everybody's laughter...We do not mind being wicked, but no one wants to be ridiculed. 

While Orgon and Tartuffe are the most entertaining in my opinion, some of the minor character support them to make this a truly comic and entertaining play, while making fun of those who act "holier-than-thou" and superior, but are actually anything but moral and admirable.

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