What is Moliere's Tartuffe all about?
Tartuffe by Moliere
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Sometimes referred to as France's version of Shakespeare, Moliere[ne Jean-Baptiste Poquelin] was a master comedic writer. His farce Tartuffe or The Impostor, like several of his other satiric works, brought Moliere trouble; for instance, he was made to change the main character Tartuffe from being a member of the Catholic clergy to a layman.
Tartuffe, who is the consummate religious hypocrite, dupes a Parisian aristocratic religious fanatic named Orgon who brings Tartuffe into his home, providing not only lodging, but whatever Tartuffe wants in the hope of attaining eternal salvation by being charitable to Tartuffe. In his religious fervor, Orgon disowns his son because he has accused Tartuffe of indecent proposals to his mother, Elmire.
Orgon's character is so ridiculous that his religious fervor prevents him from believing his son; in fact, he extends his charity to agreeing to allow Tartuffe to marry his daughter Marianne even though he has given his consent for Marianne to marry Valere, a Parisian aristocrat. Even Orgon's mother, Madame Pernelle, is deceived by Tartuffe; for, she is outraged that others in the family criticize Tartuffe. Before she leaves, she advises the others to take Tartuffe's advice and reform their lives, but they protest that there is nothing immoral about their behavior.
It is only the lady's maid, Dorine, who is a match for the deceitful Tartuffe as she mends the conflict between Marianne and her fiance Valere and she advises Damis to not confront his father. She also exposes his hypocrisy as they are in one scene together in which his lechery is exposed. Later, he tries to seduce Elmire, Orgon's wife. But, Elmire convinces her husband to hide under a table in the room where she will meet Tartuffe. While Orgon hides, Elmore tells Tartuffe that she is willing to have an affair with him; Tartuffe insists that she prove herself, and as he attempts to engage her in physical passion, Orgon emerges and orders him of of his house, but not before he has turned over his property to Tartuffe. However, while Orgon is humiliated at his having been cuckolded, he is fortunate enough to retain his property in the end. And, although Moliere altered the casting of Tartuffe, the parallels between this personage's hypocrisy and that of the hierarchy of the Catholic Church is apparent as so many aristocrats were duped into providing generous gifts to the Church in hopes of attaining indulgences, grace, and eternal salvation.
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