In "Tartuffe" what elements of romance exist in the play? How would you characterize its prevailing tone?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The romantic subplot of Mariane and Valere in "Tartuffe" contains the traditional difficulties of the father in a patariarchal society who demands that his daughter marry another man, and a lovers' quarrel.  The scenes of Mariane and Valere having their quarrel are farcical as the lovers feign uncaring attitudes, yet after storming out, Valere returns time and time again to say that he is leaving.  This scene is one that Moliere lifted from his play Le Depit Amoreaux in order to lighten the tone of the more serious "Tartuffe" with its biting satire against religious hypocrisy and patariarchal authority.

The romantic subplot works itself into the main plot of Orgon's autocratic demands that everyone serve the imposter Tartuffe who has been made a permanent guest in Orgon's home.  In Act II, Scene 2 when Orgon speaks to his daughter and demands that she marry Tartuffe, the servant Dorine eavesdrops and offers her ironic humor to the conversation.  When Orgon states that he intends to help Tartuffe

get out of his present straits/And help him to recover his estates

Dorinee wrily retorts, 

Yes, so he tells us; and, Sir, it seems to me/Such pride goes very ill with piety...It's hard to be a faithful wife, in short,/To certain husbands of a certain sort,....

She continues telling Orgon outright that Mariane will make Tartuffe "a cuckold" if forced to marry him, for she cannot remain faithful to a man who repulses her.  When Orgon argues that Tartuffe is "a man of destiny" she ironically counters,

Oh, he's a man of destiny,/He's made for horns, and what the stars demand/Your daughter's virtue surely can't withstand.

Then, when the enraged Orgon orders Dorine to leave, she stays and makes her comments in asides, instead, until she has to intervene in the ridiculously funny lovers' quarrel of Valere and Mariane in Scene 4.

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