Tartuffe Short Analysis
- Date:Jan 15, 2021
In Tartuffe, and throughout the play, the author displays religion as critical as and core as in the contemporary and typical religious society. Within the narrative, a classical family is reviewed, enclosed fully within the ranges of individuality and person. The roles of different members of family members and a variety of units of society marinated within the depth of religion and the journey towards spirituality. Every member reacts differently which gives a scope to the limits and holes rendered throughout society by the interaction of human weakness (and wickedness) and religion. The extent to which the society’s zeal for righteousness and the gift of an ‘after-life’ flows is uniquely expressed and felt. However, otherwise criticized, the exhibition of hypocrisy and gullibility of the ‘common’ man by religious bigots is a course for study and scrutiny.
A man, a common Joe – Orgon, lives in a familiar family setup. His mother, Madame Pernelle, reasonable and experienced visits his son. From her own point, she understands the promise of happiness and fulfillment accrued to religion. She sets her family and especially Orgon on a journey of self-conflict and into loggerheads with the status quo. MADAME PERNELLE: … He’s out to save your souls, and all of you must love him… (Moliore 1.1 16-19). Within the journey to holiness, is the manipulative and rather experienced warden; Tartuffe. He is more than ready to pounce and prey on the gullible. Unlucky Orgon.
Orgon is ‘blessed’ with a variety of resources that can be put to the ‘Lord’s work’. Mariane, Orgon’s daughter, and Damis her ( Mariane’s) brother. Mariane is promised to be married to another (Valere). But who are we to stand or question in the Lord’s way. The marital exchanged is entangled and complicated, put simply, through the exchange, Damis will too have a chance to get married to Valere’s sister. Damis surely wants Mariane to get married to Valere, for obvious reasons, but does the Lord have similar plans?
There are voices of concern. Cleanse and Dorine frankly criticize how the situation is. DORINE: You see him as a saint. I’m far less awed;… (Moliere 1.1. 19-24) Orgon is being manipulated. Tartuffe is a wicked man. But they can do nothing about it Orgon would not take heed. Orgon, after arriving at his home finds his wife unwell, but would rather care about the Tartuffe. ORGON: Ah And Tartuffe? (Moliere 1.4. 1-12). Orgon is focussed on only anchoring his family to Taftuffe and sufficiently ignores the question raised by Cleante regarding Valere. He however makes it clear to his daughter that she has to be married to Tartuffe. Mariane is struck with disbelief. How is that even possible.
The idea does not resonate well, too, with Dorine (Orgon’s household). Having overheard the conversation, she questions Mariane and reprimands her for not turning down her father’s idea. DORINE: Well, have you lost your tongue, girl? (Moliere 2.3. 1-4) Serious exchange of words between Mariane and Valere. Valere, too, fails to understand the logic. He cannot think of the possibility of a world where that would happen. He is furious and unhappy. What is he supposed to do? Why did She agree to that? Dorine hears all this and promises them that she would help expose the fraud that Tartuffe is. The entire family except Orgon is against Orgon and Tarfutte. Tartuffe must be exposed.
Tartuffe, now an orthodox member of Orgon’s family finds himself in Orgon’s house. He is armed with a plan and willing to see it through. However, he is human, and like all of us his wickedness ahead of his thoughts. Orgon’s wife; caught between securing the interest best interest of her family and being the ideal wife, Elmire, is perfectly alone. The perfect temptation. Tartuffe had craved for such a chance. Greed and lust. He pounces, with no regard to honor (or any other human and Christian value) against his desires. He seizes the moments and takes sets himself up to woo her. Naïve that the setup would not necessarily end up well with him for Orgon’s family. The rightful day to shame the devil and take him back to hades is here. Elmire tells him off, rebukes him, and tells him off the forthcoming wedding. Tartuffe continues to profess his deep-rooted desires. In the background, Damis becomes impatient and brings himself forward. And for a moment, they had had Tartuffe in their hand. Red-handed. He must be exposed. Damis cannot wait till his father is home. When Orgon is home, the news is served hot. He is ‘unreliably’ informed about the treachery. The plan does not go through. Damis’s temper had not only ruined the perfect setup but now he is disinherited. The journey is hard and requires sufficiently radical choices. Thanks to Orgon’s unrealistic absurdity, Tarfutte wins over Orgon’s wife, children, and relatives, again.
Orgon kin is relentless, they genuinely bear the burden of his family. Things are not going well. For whatever time that Tartuffe has been with them, they cannot be convinced that he is indeed the servant of the lord. It is simple, the acts of a religious man are4 not supposed to be followed with hurt to the world. Cleante confronts Tartuffe, wants him to facilitate the reversal of Damis’s reinstatement. Tartuffe is cunningly adamant. He can only forgive but cannot live with a person that smears his good name. Orgon discards all advice, however sound and reasonable it sounds. The irony. He is a religious fanatic who for a moment discards reason and goes against basic human and family values. As the conversation between Orgon and his family advances, a proposal is brought forth. Throughout the scene is a conflicted person. He understands logic and balance. It is clear to him that as a human being, the need to have a religion is basic. There is the need to ‘crucify’ the flesh, and put aside earthly possessions. He also understands, perfectly, the value of family. He, therefore, is easily drawn to the logic brought forward by his family and especially by Cleante. Agreeably, things are ought to be better, especially with the situation with his kids. His wife rationally understands his position, she understands her role as a woman, she steers clear of doubt and proposes a challenge. Practical wisdom. He is, therefore, unable to find sufficient reason not to listen and be drawn into his family’s plot to unmask Tartuffe.
Orgon hides under the bed, the mission is clear. Elmire is the bait. The truth about Tartuffe is the goal. The limits and parameters are set. Tartuffe arrives. This time, the door is well taken care of. Tartuffe cannot risk being caught by Damis. Elmire is welcoming, rather stranger, isn’t it? Doubts. She sufficiently clears them. Clever Elmire controls Tartuffe. She squeezes a confession from him. He takes the bait and leads on. He manipulates his way through religion, trying to justify the situations. The man is confident, he makes mistakes, humans doing. He calls out Orgon’s stupidity and failure to see through him. That is enough proof. Tartuffe hypocrisy and wickedness cannot be earthed any longer. Tartuffe must leave Orgon’s house. Or is it? It is a scene decorated with humor and comedy. The exposure however raises serious concern within the character of Orgon who ultimately pays for reserving reason and logic. In the midst of such an interaction and all the shaming and ridicule thrown towards Orgon, the extent to which he hid from his insecurities is astonishing. But as the tables turned, it was clear that things had gone uncontrollably wrong.
As Moliere brought the story to its end, Orgon struggled to understand why people like Tartuffe could be so wicked. He had surrendered his home, he could not risk the contents of the strongbox being made public. He felt fooled. He felt deep hatred. His son too. If it was enough, Tartuffe should even be killed. But again, human values dictate logic. Logic dictates moderation.
Human beings are social beings. They crave validation, affection, and would go to extremes in their quest for hope and a better life. Different elements of our society work towards achieving this goal. Simultaneously and divergently, the elements constantly find themselves conflicting. But with the unforgiving nature of the order, some individuals find themselves on the sacrificial table. And they sacrifice their urges, desires, and goals with great honor. But where does that leave us? Is the end justifiable?
Religion offers a solution to this standpoint. As a tool towards the advancement of the social nature of human beings, Moliere depicts it as one of the avenues but not in totality. Religion should be a blend of societal and human values that interacted with divinity. The hope of a better future lies in the fabric of the kind deeds of today. The objective of happiness should be driven for the mutual benefit of all the members of society. Therefore, the future promise of joy and happiness is a function of thought, reason, logic, and acts of selflessness within society.