The time in which Moliere made his famous works was classicism. It started in the mid 17th century and lasted until the end of the 18th and it was strongly developed in France. The authors paid close attention to the form, content and style of writing and all of those characteristic were inherited from the ancient writers. Human was in the center and his psychology was studied and intellect always won over imagination and feelings. Also Classicism was based on harmony, order and perfectionism.
French comedy in those times was based on commedia dell’arte which is translated as an improvised comedy. The writers stood up for moral literature - they emphasized virtues and judged vices. The literature was also didactic because it relied on intellect and evil was shown as something that sooner or later goes away.
Moliere used all of these elements in his works. "Tartuffe" is a comedy in which we have a critical aspect on society and its typical representatives and the struggle Moliere went through to get "Tartuffe" to the theatre is educational and unusual. All of the evil forces of his time manifest in his battle but in the end everyone recognized "Tartuffe" as a masterpiece of French and worldwide comedy. The comedy was rejected because it made fun of nobility which was inacceptable back then.
"Tartuffe" is made like Plautus' comedies and it is divided into 5 acts. The plot is settled in Orgon’s estate. He was a wealthy citizen. Moliere picked a character from the upper class to show precisely the moral, political and sociological characteristics of the previously mentioned class. Through Orgon he represents significant types of the French society and his house became the burning point of all French public life events.
Orgon accepted Tartuffe into his house and subordinated his household members to Tartuffe’s wishes but Moliere puts Tartuffe on the scene in the third act so he isn’t really the main character of this work. All the characteristics of Moliere’s work are present here: mocking the nobility, social classes, priest’s hypocrisy and a happy ending in which the moral and good wins.
Theme: display of a family in which many plots take place and whose life is taken over and manipulated by Tartuffe.
Time: 17th century
Orgon lives in the house with his family: his wife, son, daughter, his mother, brother in law and servants.
Madame Pernelle, Orgon’s mother, is furious while leaving his house. Elmire, Dorine and Cleante are surprised and asked her why was she furious and she told him that she felt sorry for people like Tartuffe who are judged by stupid people. The other household members didn’t see eye to eye with her. They called Tartuffe a phony and said they would never be able to love him and Damis stated their opinion out perfectly. Madame Pernelle didn’t change her opinion and she told them that the cause of their hate was the fact that Tartuffe always says the truth. He was driven by the sky and they were unaware of it.
By the end of the act DAmis and Cleante were talking about Oregon forcing his daughter into marrying Tartuffe even though she was in love with Valere. Orgon kept on asking about Tartuffe as soon as he would walk into the house and then DAmis and Cleante talked about him worshiping Tartuffe. The act ends with Oregon leaving. Cleante told VAlere all about the forced marriage between Mariane and Tartuffe.
Orgon and Mariane talk and he suggest her marrying Tartuffe. She wasn’t so shocked with his suggestion and she managed to remain calm even though she was burning with desire to be with VAlere.
Hey were interrupted by Dorine, Mariane’s friend who thought that the marriage was a mistake. Orgon and Dorine start a discussion and Dorine tries to explain to him why the marriage wouldn’t work and Mariane stood on the side without any opinion about the marriage. Sometimes it even seemed like she was on board with it and Dorine had a problem with that. After a long discussion Orgon was furious and tried to hit Dorine that managed to runaway but she still held her ground by saying that a man like Tartuffe would even be a good servant.
Mariane and Dorine were left alone and they talked about the previous events. Dorine couldn’t just sit back while Mariane did nothing to change her father’s decision. Mariane asked her for advice and she only said that she will find a way out somehow.
Valere came and joined the conversation. Even though he loved Mariane, after their argument he told her that she should accept the engagement and he left. Dorine tried to get them back together and she starts working on a plane to unmask Tartuffe.
It begins with a conversation between Damis and Dorine in which they discuss Orgon’s decision and Tartuffe’s departure. They came up with a plan to eavesdrop on a conversation between Tartuffe and Elmira because they suspected that he was in love with her. When Tartuffe entered the house he told Dorine to cover her breasts because such behavior hurts the soul. Dorine ignores him and tells him to wait for Elmire, Orgon’s wife.
When she arrived Tartuffe told her that that was an appropriate place to exchange a few words. She told him to spill his heart out to her and he decides to do so but when the conversation takes a wrong turn she just turn everything around and starts talking about Tartuffe’s and Mariane’s weeding. Tartuffe states that the marriage is not the kind of happiness her after and then emphasizes Elmira’s beauty.
Damis heard everything and he stepped out of the small cabinet in which he was hiding. He yelled at Tartuffe and said he was against him. Elmira tried to calm them down but then Orgon came and saw the dispute and got furious with his son. Orgon didn’t even let him speak because he was convinced that Damis was insulting Tartuffe’s honor. In the emotion rush he declared Tartuffe his heir. Tartuffe accepted everything knowing that he will manipulate the family from now on with no problem.
Cleante tried to explain to Tartuffe the damage he was causing to his family and that it was intolerable for Orgon to kick his son out on the street because of Tartuffe. Cleante advised Tartuffe to bring Damis and Orgon back together because he should be forgiving. Tartuffe told him that he is unable to live under the same roof with a man who had offended him and humiliated him in the way Damis did.
Tartuffe soon left Cleante. He told him that he must go pray. Orgon came home and told Mariane that he has the document which will lead her to her happiness – the marriage documents. Mariane tries to convince him to give up on the marriage and Dorine interferes and Orgon tells them angrily to shut up.
Everyone tried to make him change his mind so he told them all that he knows what is true and what is false and that his son Damis made them all tell awful thing about the pure and kind Tartuffe.
After that scene Elmire tells Orgon that she has something to show him in order to prove that they were alltelling the truth about Tartuffe. All he had to do was sit under the desk and be quiet. She planned for Tartuffe to come to her and declare his feelings. Tartuffe came and he found it odd that Elmire was declaring her feeling all of the sudden but he let go of the doubts and declared his love for Elmire as well.
She coughed loudly to show her husband what she was talking about and after hearing everything Orgon rises up and tells Tartuffe that he now has the proof that his family was telling the truth all the time and then he kicks him out of the house. Afterwards Orgon remembered that he signed his estate over to Tartuffe and that he was free to manipulate their lives.
The household members talked about the recent events and searched for the best solution. Orgon couldn’t believe that he was mistaken all along. He explained to his family that he gave Tartuffe his chest and that there is nothing he can do about it because Tartuffe will send the police to their doors.
In that moment mister Loyal appears. He was a court official and came with the otice of eviction of all household members. Damis started insulting him and Orgon couldn’t believe thatevenhe had to move out of his house. In that moment he changed the document and gave them time until the next day. He left followed by many insults.
Valere came to bring some bad news. He said that Tartuffe went to the king to show him the chest which was hidden by Oregon and that they were coming to arrest him now.
Tartuffe came in the name of the king to arrest Orgon and he knew that this blow will crush him once and for all. But in the end good wins because an official arrives all of the sudden to unmask Tartuffe who did these kinds of frauds before. He was a con artist. The official took Tartuffe away. After all Orgon says that they should all be thankful for the mercy and that they should celebrate their victory by marrying Mariane and Valere.
The comedy end with the preparation for their weeding.
Characters: Orgon, Elmire, Cleante, Madame Pernelle, Damis, Marine, Valere, Tartuffe, Dorine
Orgon - was the main household member and he made all of the other members nervous by worshiping Tartuffe. Everyone, except for him, were aware of the fact that he needs to change his opinion and look at Tartuffe from a different perspective. Orgon didn’t listen and he did what he wanted to do so instead of treating Tartuffe different he treated his family different, like they were trying to defraud him. He kicked his son Damis out of the house and forced his daughter to marry Tartuffe.
Aggressive, nervous and stubborn are the perfect adjectives for Orgon’s description during his dispute with his family. His wife had to stage everything to make him realize that he was wrong.
In the end of the comedy Orgon realized that he was wrong and starts to appreciate his family. He realized the importance of Valere’s and MAriane’s love and he lets them get married.
Tartuffe - is the character Moliere placed into one aristocratic house to make a mockery out of the family and nobility itself. He presented himself as a religious man and bragged about his faith every step of the way. that was the reason why Orgon loved him so much and believed everything he said. Orgon accepted him because Tartuffe at first presented himself a sa poor and sad man so Orgon felt the need to help him. The brave and resourceful Tartuffe entered Orgon’s family’s life and started manipulating them. he is the base of the plot twist, the only cause of disputes in the family but he isn’t the main character. He is more a cause of the plot, instead of its leader. When Orgon announces his marriage with Mariane Tartuffe accepts but later on he confesses his love for Orgon’s wife. In the end he was unamasked to be a con artist. He went to jail and alongside with him went all the misery he caused to Orgon’s family.
Elmire - was Orgon’s wife. She calmly accepted everything that had happened to her family and she was skilful in getting her husband on the right side of the story. She couldn’t tell him what an awful man Tartuffe was so she showed it to him. She has a strong, feminine attitude and opinion and ever since she staged Tartuffe’s declaration of love she brought the plot to its culmination. Even though she didn’t appear much in the comedy her character is a winner because she was aware of Tartuffe’s lust, knew how to use it and she made an influence on the happy outcome of this comedy.
Jean-Baptiste Poqelin Moliere Biography
Jean-Baptiste Poqelin Moliere was born in 1622 and is one of the most famous French comedy writers, next to Corneille and Racine. He is the best writer of the golden era in French playwriting that reached it’s peak in the 17th century.
Except for being a writer Moliere was also a screenwriter and contributed to the development of the humoristic satire.
He was going to become a lawyer but he gave up on that and decided to dedicate his life to the theater where he worked as an actor, writer, director till the rest of his life.
He wrote 33 comedies. Some of them were in verse and some of them were in prose and they are believed to be the mirror of the French society in the 17th century. Moliere always tried to give a detailed description of the social layers and their characteristics. He was judgmental and laughed out everything that wasn’t in harmony with the nature that he believed was the symbol of intellect.
His most famous comedies are: "The School for Husbands", "Tartuffe", "The Misanthrope", "Don Juan" …
He wanted to write tragedies but he became famous for his burlesques that were performed after the tragedies. Later on, he dedicated himself to writing musical comedies.
He suffered from tuberculosis and just a few hours after he coughed blood on stage he died on February 17th, 1673 in Paris.
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