Moliere's Tartuffe is a satire based on religious hypocrisy. Every character is essential in Tartuffe. All of the characters play an important role, but it is easy to say that Tartuffe and Orgon are the main characters. First, we must know the definition of satire. According to the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, satire is defined as "literary work holding up human vices and follies to ridicule or scorn" ("satire"). In other words, a satire is defined as literary work that uses humor to point out the foolishness of a person or just in human nature. Religious hypocrisy can be self-defined as a false assumption of a person. What follows are examples of how I believe Tartuffe exposes humor through religious hypocrisy.
In a class lecture, the professor pointed out that the word/name Tartuffe means hypocrite, which can easily be seen as the drama unfolds. Early in the story, the audience learns that Tartuffe has a sleazy talent to receive piety in Orgon's household. In Act I, it is implied that Orgon has offered his daughter's hand in for marriage to Tartuffe, although Damis, Orgon's son, believes that Tartuffe does not wish to do so. Damis states, "I think Tartuffe's against it, and that he's been urging Father to withdraw his blessing" (Tartuffe 1.2.8-9). At this point, it is obvious to see that Orgon has a lot of respect for Tartuffe, although others may think differently. Cleante, Orgon's brother in law, is shown as the voice of reason and questions Orgon by saying,
"There's a vast difference, so it seems to me, between true piety and hypocrisy: How do you fail to see it, may I ask? Is not a face quite different from a mask? Cannot sincerity and cunning art, reality and semblance, be told apart" (Tartuffe 1.5.73-78).
As the story continues, Orgon then confronts his daughter, Mariane, about her thoughts of Tartuffe and later orders her to marry him. In spit of the fact that Mariane wishes to marry with Valere; but she wants to please her father as well. Dorine, Mariane's maid, questions Orgon by saying,
"There's lately been a rumor going about- Based on some hunch or chance remark, no doubt- That you mean Mariane to wed Tartuffe. I've laughed it off, of course, as just a spoof" (Tartuffe 2.2.5-7).
It is obvious to see at this stage in the story that many of the characters are in disbelief that Orgon wishes Mariane to marry Tartuffe. Several of the characters have confronted Orgon about his decision and have given their own opinions on Tartuffe is blindness. There have not been any positive comments or statements made about Tartuffe to Orgon but Orgon stubbornly believes that Tartuffe is a heaven's blessing. As the story progresses, Orgon is left with no other choice, but to believe what is being said. But Orgon learns such wisdom at a near-tragic cost.
Before Orgon is left to believe the statements about Tartuffe, it is the discussion between Orgon's wife, Elmire, and Tartuffe that begins to reveal the truth of the rumors of Tartuffe. As Elmire and Tartuffe talk about Orgon's proposal to marry Mariane, Tartuffe says that he would rather find happiness elsewhere. It is at this point in the play that Tartuffe begins to reveal his feelings towards Elmire.
"How could I look on you, O flawless creature, and not adore the Author of all Nature, feeling a love both passionate and pure, [...] I thereupon surrendered to your beauty. It is, I know, presumptuous on my part to bring you this poor offering of my heart" (Tartuffe 3.3.63-76).
In shock, Elmire questions Tartuffe on his character, considering he is a saint of the Church, but Tartuffe quickly replies that he is human as well. Although he is human, it is not morally right for a saint to confront a person with such words as Tartuffe has used. Once again, this shows that Tartuffe is doing so for self-satisfaction, despite being a "saint." The audience then comes to learn that Damis, Orgon's son,...