How important is the character of Cleante in Act I, Scene V of Tartuffe? What is one important point that he makes in his conversation with Orgon in Act I, Scene V? How is the hypocrisy of...

How important is the character of Cleante in Act I, Scene V of Tartuffe? What is one important point that he makes in his conversation with Orgon in Act I, Scene V?

How is the hypocrisy of Tartuffe discovered by Orgon in Act 4 of the Moliere drama?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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1. Cleante is the voice of reason. When he returns from two days in the country, Dorine, waiting maid to Marianne, informs Orgon's brother-in-law that Elmire has been ill, but Orgon has paid absolutely no attention to her, instead talking about how Tartuffe ate a good meal and is in fine health. Further, Dorine informs Orgon that Tartuffe is taking advantage of Orgon. So, Cleante talks to Orgon and asks him,

"Is it possible that a man can be so bewitching at this time of day as to make you forget everything for him?"

Orgon replies that he has been made into another man for having known Tartuffe: 

He teaches me to set my heart upon nothing; he disengages my mind from friendship or relations' and I could see my brother, children, mother, wife, all expire, and not regard it more than this.

Cleante argues that Tartuffe and his kind are "pretenders to devotion as well as to courage." His brother-in-law tries to explain to Orgon that Tartuffe is making a pretense of religious devotion in order to further his own social promotion and material gain. Hel tells Orgon, "...but I believe you are imposed on by a very false gloss."

2. In Act IV, Scene 4 the hypocrisy of Tartuffe is discovered as Elmire finally convinces Orgon to hide under a table and listen to the licentious Tartuffe who wants her to engage in licentious behavior with him. Elmire explains to her husband that she will have to say some things to convince her husband of Tartuffe's "impudent desires" and "give full scope to his boldness." Then, in Scene 5 when Elmire resists Tartuffe's proposal, Tartuffe tells her "...the scandal of the world is what makes the offence, and sinning in private is no sinning at all." Further, he tells her,

What need you take so much care about him? Betwixt us two, he's a man to be led by the nose. He will take a pride in all our conversations, and I have wrought him up to the point of seeing everything without believing anything.

At this point, Orgon comes out from under the table, exclaiming, "An abominable fellow, I vow! I can't recover myself, this perfectly stuns me." He realizes that he has been cuckolded and exploited by the hypocrite Tartuffe.

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