Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

Orgon’s house

Orgon’s house. Parisian home of Orgon, a wealthy former officer of the King’s Guard, that is the play’s principal setting. The class and wealth of Orgon’s home exist with the craziness and irrationality found inside. The extravagant house where Orgon, the master, and his new younger bride, Elmire, abide is a place where carriages frequently appear at the door, and footmen and lackeys are kept busy. Orgon’s children and loyal maid, Dorine, must share their dwelling with duped Orgon’s new houseguest, the religious hypocrite Tartuffe. The house becomes a battleground between Tartuffe’s supporters, Orgon and his mother, and the more “enlightened” or reasonable personages of Dorine and Elmire, and especially Cleante—Orgon’s wise and temperate brother-in-law.

Closet

Closet. Small and well-hidden enclosed space in one of the sitting rooms in Orgon’s mansion that represents the pivotal point in the play’s plot. In the third act, Orgon’s son Damis, while hiding in the closet, overhears the pious Tartuffe attempting to seduce his father’s wife, Elmire. The closet also serves to heighten the erratic behavior of Orgon, who refuses to believe the accusations against Tartuffe. Orgon even denounces and disinherits his son, forces Mariane to commit herself to Tartuffe, rather than her lover Valere, and then makes the religious imposter his sole heir.

Table

Table. Heavy, long food-serving table that provides a place of thematic importance in the play: true virtue versus its outward appearance. In the fourth act, Elmire’s plan for her husband to hide under a table and to hear the false holy man’s lascivious, adulterous remarks enables Orgon to come to his senses and condemn the liar, who now is the owner of the property and money. Again, the location points to the folly of extreme, nonrational behavior as Orgon comically denounces all future interaction with godly men and holds them all in utter abhorrence.