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Tartuffe and Hypocrisy

By raymarshjr Oct 18, 2014 1491 Words
Ray Marsh English 204-I Research Paper May 5, 2014 Tartuffe and HypocrisyIn the play Tartuffe, Moliere comically portrays how religious hypocrites preyed on innocent individuals of the French society for their own benefits to demonstrate how corrupt a theocratic government can get. Moliere uses common characters to effectively illustrate his argument. Tartuffe satirically represents the church or rather the Charlatans (hypocrites) of the church, and Orgon represents a typical God fearing individual. The plot of Tartuffe describes how attuned Orgon becomes with Tartuffe, who in return, sees his commitment as an advantage to make Orgon believe anything. Once Tartuffe had Orgon’s full trust, he starts to make his moves. In the end, Tartuffe double crosses Orgon, swindles his property, and tries to hurt his family.The process a religious hypocrite uses to prey; is a slow one, thus an individual wouldn’t be hurt right away, but easily bought. Likewise in Tartuffe, the character Tartuffe has to set up his stage first, to act out his façade of a holy man to gain trust, so in time, he can benefit from it. He casually references his holy deeds, but with a “humble manner” as if no one but himself is listening. Tartuffe, observing Dorine, and calling to his manservant: “Hang up my hair-shirt, put my scourge in place, And pray, Laurent, for Heaven’s perpetual grace. I’m going to the prison now, to share my last two coins with the poor wretches there”(3.2.1-4). He spews out a bunch of religious clichés quite loudly for anyone to hear, but acts as if it’s no big deal that he shares his money with prisoners and wears a hair-shirt. A hair-shirt at that time was worn as a penance and a person would never reveal that they wore one. The fact that he loudly announces it shows his hypocritical character. However, innocent people such as Orgon perceive it as a humble or even a noble attempt to be pious. It was only natural that Orgon wholeheartedly trusted the pious man, but he trusted Tartuffe to the point where he gave him a free access into his personal life. Tartuffe then having such power becomes fearless to make his moves. “A love of heavenly beauty does not preclude a proper love for earthly pulchritude; our senses are quite rightly captivated by perfect works our maker has created. Some glory clings to all that heaven has made; in you, all heaven’s marvels are displayed” (3.3.55-60). He first tries to prey on Orgon by trying to steal his wife. He casually confesses his love (lust) and offers Elmire (Orgon’s wife) to keep their affair a secret. Not only is Tartuffe betraying Orgon, he was also trying to break his family apart. Poor Orgon however, was blinded by his true believing nature. His faith (in this case Tartuffe) meant everything to him. The revelation of Tartuffe’s inappropriate proposal didn’t even get through to him. Instead, he accuses his own son of trying to get rid of Tartuffe with lies. Perhaps Orgon jumps to this conclusion, because he knew from his earlier experiences, that his son, Damis, doesn’t like Tartuffe. His accusation towards Damis gets stronger as Tartuffe preaches about what a sinful thing he has done. “Ah, you deceitful boy, how dare you try to stain his purity with so foul a lie” (3.6.15-16). “Ah, brother, let him speak: you’re being unjust. Believe his story; the boy deserves your trust” (3.6.19-20). “So! You insult him, and defy your father! A stick! A stick! No, no--- release me, do. Out of my house this minute! Be off with you, and never dare set foot in it again” (3.6.62-65). In the end, Orgon disowns his son without even verifying his revelation. This clearly shows progression in the preying process, his act is fully in motion and working. Tartuffe’s hypocrisy goes unnoticed by Orgon once again, as he shouts his pious lines. This time he incriminates himself to get out of trouble. Once off the hook, Tartuffe is well aware that he controls the house. Damis’s eviction is further beneficial to him in the way that it keeps his true nature in the dark. Tartuffe has total domination over Orgon’s life and his targets only get bigger. Orgon illustrates his attachment with Tartuffe very early in the plot, but his level of reverence is really shown when he breaks a vow and forces his daughter, Mariane, into marriage with Tartuffe. His goal is to make Tartuffe his son and owner of his property. As the plot develops, the marriage is disregarded and Orgon hands away his property without closing the deal. “Poor fellow! Come, we’ll go draw up the deed. Then let them burst with disappointed greed!” (3.7.43-44) The property given was originally supposed to be Damis’s, but he was disinherited earlier, thus the marriage deal becomes null. Again, Tartuffe’s hypocrite side comes out when he claims: he’s only taking the property because he doesn’t want the evil to get their hands on it. “I do so only, as he well understands, lest so much wealth fall into wicked hands” (4.1.59-60). Of course Orgon believes Tartuffe word for word, but through his wholehearted trust he gave away more than just property. Orgon shared all his secrets, even documents that determined his whole life. The ultimate advantage was given. Tartuffe more powerful than ever, fearlessly tries to seduce Elmire. This was his high point of deceit, even caught red handed by Orgon, he quickly dismisses the situation. He reminds Orgon that he now owns the house and his precious documents, and orders Orgon and his family out of the house. Tartuffe played his act very well, slowly earning trust, completely dominating Orgon’s common senses, and finally double crossing him when he had all that he wanted. When Orgon was no longer beneficial to him, he simply threw him away. I do not believe Moliere is necessarily attacking religion as much as pointing out flaws of people who follow blindly behind false profits and forget to recognize the true meanings of religion itself. He makes valid points as to what makes up a true devote of heaven and compares them to the performance some people project to “prove” they are devoted and more spiritually involved than others. In Act I, Scene VI, while Cleante expresses his concerns to Orgon about his utter willingness to believe and follow Tartuffe without fail, Orgon explains his case of how he came about knowing this holy man and what a great man he truly is. He speaks fondly of Tartuffe’s protectiveness over his wife, the refusal to take all the money Orgon offers him, how he gives a portion of his money to the poor, his feeling on how people should be, and the way he made him realize that the possessions in his life are meaningless. Cleante, then counters by making the points of how a true believer in heaven wouldn’t go around speaking or publicly showing off their humbleness and their sincerity, rather they would keep it to themselves and that would prove they were true devotes of God. The concern Moliere is bringing to the forefront of Tartuffe is the effect of worshipping false idols who claim to be true believers may have on people who follow blindly behind them. This play seems more of a religious cautionary tale rather than an attack on religion. I understand Tartuffe as being a play to bring people back to a simpler and truer way of believing in heaven, helping the audience/reader acknowledge how charlatans may detrimental to their lives. This was a play that I read twice and watch on youtube and was very enjoyable both ways. I especially liked the character of Dorine, very sassy and kind of likeable. She knew all along what type of person Tartuffe really was, but was always told to shut up. It made for some good slapstick type comedy to watch. Moliere was a genius in his own time. He is credited with over 30 plays ranging from: A Jealous Husband in 1653 to The Hypocondriac, or The Imaginary Invalid in 1673, as well as numerous books and poems. Moliere was born Jean-Baptiste Poquelin in 1622 in Paris, France and died in 1673. “A Christian burial was initially denied him because he had not received last rites nor had he made a deathbed recantation of his profession (as tradition required), but the archbishop of Paris, responding to petitions from Moliere’s widow, grudgingly allowed a private burial in the parish cemetery[…], without ceremony”. (J. Paran)

Work Cited The Bedford Anthology of World Literature. Book 4. Bedford/St.Martins. Boston, New York.2003. Tartuffe. (pages 22 – 87) https://www.mccarter.org/education/tartuffe/html/3.html author: Janice Paran. Ret. 5/5/2014 http://www.site.moliere.com. Retrieved 5/5/2014 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v. rights to SOTA music. Retrieved 5/5/2014

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