In Tartuffe by Molière, the actual character Tartuffe does not enter the scene until the third act of the play. However, Molière is able to establish Tartuffe's hypocrisy beforehand through what other characters say about him. In the first scene, we see Cléante speaking with Dorine. Cléante says, “My, what a scene she made, and what a din! And how this man Tartuffe has taken her in!”
We therefore learn almost immediately that Tartuffe has deceived someone. Dorine responds “Yes, but her son is even worse deceived…” In fact, we learn quite a lot about Tartuffe and his relationships from Dorine’s speech. He refers to Tartuffe as having cast an “infatuating spell.” Further on in this same scene, we learn that the son:
Gives him the place of honor when they dine,
Delights to see him gorging like a swine,
Stuffs him with dainties till his guts distend...
We can infer that Tartuffe is pleased to have the honor that the son bestows on him. In addition, Molière paints Tartuffe as a pig here, gorging himself on the rich food that others pay for and stuffing himself with “dainties” that they provide.
Tartuffe is not only a hypocrite, but a charlatan and deceiver. Dorine continues to say that “Tartuffe, [is] much pleased to find so easy a victim.” Tartuffe is victimizing the son and tricking him “in a hundred ways.” We get the picture of Tartuffe as a scoundrel and probably a thief. We learn that Tartuffe is unfeeling in the scene between Dorine and Orgon, who are discussing the mistress’s distress at her painful headaches. Yet, unfeelingly, Tartuffe continues to gorge himself. Orgon later says that Tartuffe used to be humble and spiritual, the implication being that he is no longer.
Thus, Molière is able to use the device of other characters’ speeches to define Tartuffe’s character well before he makes his appearance on the stage.