To paraphrase Samuel Johnson, substituting false piety for patriotism, hypocrisy “is the last refuge of scoundrels.” In Tartuffe, master of the house Orgon is overawed by all-around holy man Tartuffe. The plot is set in motion when Orgon rescinds his support for the love match of his daughter, Marianne, and her sweetheart, in favor of Tartuffe. As Orgon instructs Marianne, “Say of him that he’s the worthiest of men, and that you’re fond of him, and would rejoice in being his wife, if that should be my choice.”
As with all true believers, Orgon is using circular, or self-reinforcing, logic, insulating himself from evidence to the contrary, in his confusion of emotion for intellect. Throughout the play, family alliances and defiances shuffle about, rippling outward from Orgon’s intractability.
Oregon’s brother-in-law Cleante is one step removed from the effects of the influence of the father and the opportunist priest, and the swirl of the contention and romantic confusion...
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