While ‘Tartuffe’ is largely considered a comedy, with some of its most prominent laughs dished in the scenes encompassing seduction, as well as those involving the imposter, it is quite evident that the play aims at a purpose greater than comic relief. The character on whom the play derives its name first appears in the play in Scene 2 of Act 3, which is nearly halfway through the play. Moliere’s play focuses primarily on Orgon and his constant scuffles with his family and the folly enshrined in religious hypocrisy (Galens 112). These struggles contain a myriad of allegorical insinuations that question various notions of the society such as faith and religion. Notably, through putting a focus on the imposter, the playwright deflects attention from some of the most unpleasant questions, which the character of Orgon poses. Clearly, although Moliere’s play pokes fun at the hypocrisy inherent in religious people, the play is quite offensive towards religion and seeks to make clear the hypocritical tendencies of religious people.
Moliere’s primary focus in the play is Orgon and religious hypocrisy in society. However, Moliere could not have entitled the play “Orgon” since the French monarchy would not have permitted the play’s stage presence. This is because the term Orgon would not have concealed the play’s inherent criticism of the French monarchy. Although the play criticizes the monarchy, such criticism is camouflaged effectively by the phony piety of Tartuffe, which serves to portray the inherent hypocrisy in which religion is shrouded (Saur 10). The 17th-century context in which Moliere wrote Tartuffe was a time of extremist power exerted by the French Monarchy where Cardinal Richelieu and King Louis XIV converted the French feudal monarchy into a supreme monarchy. At this time, the Catholic Church and political elite held a lot of power and advocated both religious and social persecution. Moliere, therefore, wrote Tartuffe, a comedy concerning hypocrisy in religion and the manner in which people use religion adversely to mask sin.
The play is clearly offensive towards religion as a whole and particularly the Catholic Church. The play’s initial plot was censored for five years, but its revised version still experienced immense criticism for its attack on Christian faith and Christianity as a whole. Through the play, it is rather evident that Moliere aimed at attacking Christianity offensively and developing the notion that he was attempting to destroy society’s overall faith in religion. Howarth (203) poises that Moliere was not only poking fun at the beliefs and doctrines held by real-life bigots within the society, but he was also making a clear statement through comical means regarding the notions of common bigoted people in all ages. He also aimed at highlighting his clear stance on falsely pious people who used the church’s authority to justify their antisocial views, as well as inhumane activities. This affirms that Moliere was not only attacking people with political and religious authority but their religion, as well. This is because this religion permitted those with authority to perpetrate heinous acts against other people in society. A consideration of the play’s characters shows that none of them were true believers, but rather hypocrites who used religion to cover up their sins.
Works Cited: Galens, D. A. Drama for Students. Detroit: Gale, 2003. Print.; Saur, P. S. “Moliere’s Tartuffe.” Explicator 60.1 (2001): 9-12. Print.; Howarth, W. D. Moliere: A Playwright and his Audience. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982. Print.