This essay's intended audience is educated and influential Europeans, primarily from France. Montaigne himself was French and wrote in French, rather than Latin, the "universal" language at the time in Europe. We know that this is his audience, because Montaigne, as was the custom at the time, constantly refers to classical authors of Greek and Roman antiquity admired and well known among the European educated classes. Montaigne focuses on classical authors famous for their wisdom, such as Lycurgus and Plato, both Greek, and the Roman Seneca.
In the essay, Montaigne reports on what a "plain ignorant fellow ...the more likely to tell truth" has reported to him on the state of a "barbarous" and "savage" nation in the New World. His point, however, is to show that these so-called "barbarous" natives, who the Europeans feel superior to, have a far better culture than the Europeans. As Montaigne puts it, the natives live in a virtual state of bliss in that they:
surpass all the pictures with which the poets have adorned the golden age... [in] so native and so pure a simplicity... maintained with so little artifice and human patchwork ...
This description is the beginning of the concept of the Noble Savage, an idea that became important in the seventeenth and eighteenth century in thinking about native peoples. Montaigne argues to his upper-class French audience that the Europeans have much to learn from natives, despite the fact that they normally look down on them and write them off as savages. These native people have much to teach Europeans because they are in touch with nature and live in greater purity and simplicity, closer to how God intended. Montaigne, through writing this essay, hopes that elite Europeans, especially the French, will listen to his critique of European society as in many ways much more corrupt and unhealthy than "primitive" societies and make changes in their own culture.