Questions and Answers: Act III
1. What character flaws does Damis have that prevent him from initially attaining his goals?
2. How does Tartuffe reconcile his physical passion for Elmire with his religious nature?
3. How does Elmire react to the improper advances?
4. How does Tartuffe escape Orgon’s wrath after Damis’ accusation?
5. Does Elmire offer any resistance when Organ disinherits his son?
1. Damis is too hotheaded and impetuous. He fails to think things through logically before acting on his emotions and hatred. In acting without thinking, he fails to comprehend that his father may still take Tartuffe’s side after hearing the accusation. In his need for immediate action, Damis endangers his long-range goals. He would do better to follow the rational advice of his mother.
2. Tartuffe is, of course, a fraud, who is not really religious at all. However, for appearance’s sake, he must still present a religious philosophy that allows for his sexual gratification. In his speech from lines 933-960, he amply addresses this point. In his worldview, a love of heavenly beauty does not preclude “proper love for earthly pulchritude.” Elmire is too beautiful; how could a mere mortal, like him, resist her?
3. Elmire tells Tartuffe that she will keep the incident to herself if he agrees to consent to the marriage of Mariane and Valère. In this respect, Elmire is wise. She plans to use the incident to get what she wants. Additionally, she feels that improper advances are all too common; there is no need to tell a husband about such trifles.
4. Tartuffe confesses everything, proclaiming that he is a base sinner. He is overly penitent and acts as if the sins of the world are upon him. Heaven has chosen to “mortify” him, much like Christ. The ploy works for Tartuffe. Just as in an outcome of reverse-psychology, Orgon ends up mistakenly believing that Tartuffe is so pious that he is actually covering for Damis’ “lies.”
5. The scenes in Act III are—for the most part—very brief. Elmire is not present in Scene VI when Orgon disinherits his son. Although she was present in the two preceding scenes, she can exert no influence over her husband’s rash decision; only Orgon, Damis and Tartuffe are present for the final confrontation. In Scene V, Elmire voices the opinion that Damis should have remained silent and spared his father the whole accusation. However, she does nothing to validate or deny his claim. In this sense, she does not stand up for her son; instead, she treats her husband like a man who needs to be protected from the truth.