Summary and Commentary

Act 1 scene 1

Moliere’s skill of exposition demonstrated in this first scene
Critics have praised this first scene for the skill of the exposition as he reveals all the background necessary for the audience’s understanding. 

The stage setting and the dress of the characters will show that this is a well-off, middle class, Parisian family.  Although Orgon, the master of the house is absent, we meet Elmire, his young, glamorous second wife and learn of her socializing lifestyle through the disapproval voiced by Orgon’s mother Mme. Pernelle.  Because the latter also feels the need to express critical opinions about her own two grandchildren, we get an introductory view of Orgon’s children, Damis and Mariane.  (As the widowed Orgon has remarried a younger wife, Elmire’s relationship with Damis and Mariane is that of a stepmother not too different in age from her husband’s children by his first marriage.}

The central character, whose name gives us the title of the play, has not yet made his entrance, but he is the topic of much of the discussion in this first scene.  We learn that Tartuffe is a religious man with strict and narrow views who has come to reside in Orgon’s home. 

The dramatic situation, actual and potential, is sensed in the strong opposition to a man called Tartuffe, who is not present. This hostility to him comes from Elvire, Damis and Mariane, along with that of their protective family maid, Dorine.  They are unhappy that the head of the family, Orgon, has put this man of religion in control of their lives.

We also meet the children’s uncle, Cléante whose role will be quickly recognized by those familiar with Moliere’s plays.  We immediately see that Cléante is the calm, balanced character, who acts as the voice of reason.  Such characters have traditionally been referred to as Molière’s  “raisonneurs”, but other critics dislike this label, as we will discuss later.



Mme. Pernelle is leaving in a hurry. Her daughter-in -law, Elmire cannot keep up with her.
Mme P says she wants to get away from them all. The house is bedlam and no one takes any notice of her criticism.
10 Dans toutes mes leçons j'y suis contrariée;
On n'y respecte rien, chacun y parle haut,
Et c'est tout justement la cour du roi Pétaud

She attacks each one in turn.

Dorine, the maid, is cheeky and has too much to say for herself and interferes
Vous êtes, mamie, une fille suivante
Un peu trop forte en gueule , et fort impertinente;
Vous vous mêlez sur tout de dire votre avis.

Damis is, quite simply, a silly young man.
Vous êtes un sot en trois lettres , mon fils ;
C'est moi qui vous le dis, qui suis votre grand-mère;

Marianne looks innocent but Mme. P strongly disapproves of what she gets up to on the quiet.
Mais il n'est, comme on dit, pire eau que l'eau qui dort
Et vous menez sous chape un train que je haïs fort

Elmire, unlike the children’s’ late mother sets them a bad example.  She is extravagant, over-dressed for a serious wife.
30.. vous alliez vêtue ainsi qu'une princesse.
Quiconque à son mari veut plaire seulement,
Ma bru, n'a pas besoin de tant d'ajustement

Mme. Pernelle respects Cléante but not his ideas:
37 Sans cesse vous prêchez des maximes de vivre
Qui par d'honnêtes gens ne se doivent point suivre

Damis suggests sarcastically that Tartuffe fares better than they do in her eyes:

Mme. Pernelle says Tartuffe is a good man and is to be obeyed :
42 C'est un homme de bien, qu'il faut que l'on écoute,

Damis protests at the way Tartuffe tyrannises the household and forbids all entertainments.

Dorine says Tartuffe is in complete control and regards everything as a sin:
49 - S'il le faut écouter et croire à ses maximes,
 On ne peut faire rien qu'on ne fasse des crimes;
Car il contrôle tout, ce critique zélé.

Mme. Pernelle insists that Tartuffe is saving their souls.

Damis says Tartuffe angers him.
Sur ses façons de faire à tous coups je m'emporte;
And Damis foresees that he will explode with anger one day in dealing with this country bumpkin      
59 J'en prévois une suite, et qu'avec ce pied plat'
 Il faudra que j'en vienne à quelque grand éclat.

Dorine tells how Tartuffe came to them in poverty and now he has made himself the master of the house.  Bluntly, she accuses Tartuffe of hypocrisy:
69  Il passe pour un saint dans votre fantaisie
Tout son fait, croyez-moi, n'est rien qu'hypocrisie.

Dorine asks why Tartuffe has stopped them having visitors and suggests that Tartuffe is jealous on seeing Elmire with other men.
83 Veut-on que là-dessus je m'explique entre nous?
(pointing to Elmire.)
Je crois que de Madame il est, ma foi, jaloux

Mme Pernelle says people are gossiping about the constant visitors that they are having. She knows these visits are harmless but they must avoid causing gossip.
91 Je veux croire qu'au fond il ne se passe rien;
Mais enfin on en parle, et cela n'est pas bien.

Cléante says you cannot stop people gossiping.  All you can do is to ensure that you live a good life.
100 A tous les sots caquets n'ayons donc nul égard,
Efforçons-nous de vivre avec toute innocence,
Et laissons aux causeurs une pleine licence.
Dorine analyses why people like their neighbours like gossiping. She says it is the people most vulnerable to blame themselves who gossip:
105 Ceux de qui la conduite offre le plus à rire
Sont toujours sur autrui les premiers à médire;
Those with shameful secrets gossip about the innocent to make their own affairs seem equally innocent or to hope to make other people share the blame that’s due to them.

Mme. Pernelle says that Orante (a pious lady) condemns Elmire for socializing.

Dorine says that this Orante is virtuous now that she is too old herself.
122 Il est vrai qu'elle vit en austère personne;
Mais l'âge dans son âme a mis ce zèle ardent,

Mme. Pernelle dismisses this as pure fantasy and she says that Tartuffe has been heaven sent in order to stop their way of life.        
151 Ces visites, ces bals, ces conversations
Sont du malin esprit' toutes inventions
and she says it's like the tower of Babylon( la tour de Babylone)  in this house
Cléante laughs at her ideas.
Offended, Mme. Pernelle says it will be a long time before she comes back.
She slaps and abuses her servant, Flipote, for being too slow to follow her.
170 Jour de Dieu ! je saurai vous frotter les oreilles.
Marchons, gaupe, marchons !

Mme. Pernelle represents the perennial generation divide- members of the older generation are always shocked by the behaviour of the next, conveniently forgetting that, years ago, they faced the same disapproval of new ways.


Dorine’s cheeky character



The character of Damis.- his grandma thinks that he is silly

Mariane’s character – her meek manner.  But her grandma thinks she may not be so innocent

Elmire’s character. She dresses as if she wants to catch the eye of other men, suggests Orgon’s mother.


Mme Pernelle hints that her brother in law “Cléante” is a free-thinker –“un libertin” in 17th century French terminology.

Incredibly, the central character, Tartuffe, only appears in Act 3 Scene 2, but he gets a big build-up in the scenes that precede!
He is the main topic of this first scene






Damis is quick to anger.

The dramatist’s skill in “Preparation”
Here we have preparation for Damis’s later  hot-headed behaviour.

Dorine makes no bones about it that Tartuffe is a hypocrite.




Preparation for a situation of illicit love in the familyhome

The malicious gossip of supposedly proper people. 
The superficiality of a stratum of society where appearance matters more than substance.

Cléante is always the voice of common sense and his morality is based on reason –rather than religious decree or social code.

Dorine’s good sense in the exchange with Mme Pernelle

Picture of the social background
Notice how the young upper middle class was imitating the lifestyle of the nobility at the royal court






Comedy of language.  Mme Pernelle is talking of the Tower of Babel, but is unaware of her error.



Comedy of situationHaving lectured everyone about good behaviour, she gives a very bad example of her own.

Act 1 Scene 2

The family goes out to see the irascible grandmother off.  Cléante and Dorine stay.

Cléante says he doesn't want to be told off  and so he won't follow “la bonne femme” ( the old lady )
Dorine says Mme. Pernelle would not like him to call her that.

Cléante says Mme. Pernelle is taken in by Tartuffe.
Dorine says it's nothing compared with the infatuation of Orgon.  Until then Orgon had been wise and sensible and a loyal subject defending the King during the Fronde rebellion
181 – Nos troubles  l'avaient mis sur le pied d'homme
Et pour servir son prince il montra du courage;
Mais il est devenu comme un homme hébété
Depuis que de Tartuffe on le voit entêté.
Il l'appelle son frère et l'aime dans son âme
Cent fois plus qu'il ne fait  mère, fils, fille et femme.

Dorine says that Orgon gives Tartuffe everything. Tartuffe is a glutton and eats as much as six.  We see the crude humour of the servant girl as she illustrates Orgon’s infatuation:
192 -Avec joie il l'y voit manger autant que six;
Les bons morceaux de tout, il fait qu'on les lui cède;
Et, s'il vient à roter, il lui dit : « Dieu vous aide! »

She says Orgon quotes all Tartuffe’s sayings and regards everything he does as a miracle. He is paying out money to him all the time.

Even Tartuffe's servant preaches at them and asks them to throw away their ribbons and their mouches.  He was furious that Dorine had pressed her lace bodice in her holy book.



Act 1 Scene 3

Elmire and her two stepchildren re-enter.

Elmire tells Cléante he was lucky not to have gone to the door and not to have had to listen to Mme. Pernelle,
But she sees her husband arriving. She will go upstairs to wait for him.

Damis asks Cléante to speak to his father about his sister Marianne's planned marriage to Valère because Tartuffe is turning Orgon against it. Damis has a personal interest in this, because he wants to marry Valère’s sister.









The character of Orgon – As with Tartuffe, we have got to know him before he comes onstage.

The historical and social background Orgon had fought bravely and loyally for the king during the Fronde rebellion.
(1648 -1653)

The character of Dorine
Dorine has the rude expressions of a lower class person- like Mme. Pernelle.  From her class though, Dorine gets also her commonsense, no nonsense approach to life, so she has no illusions about Tartuffe’s pretensions and her master’s infatuation with the man.
She expresses her views with telling humour

The social background
Mouches were little patches of black material that ladies wore on their faces to enhance their pale complexions.





Elmire had come down from her sickbed to see her stepmother, but goes back upstairs, when her husband arrives.

Act 1 Scene 4

Cléante greets Orgon but Orgon says he wants news of his home. He asks Dorine how people are
Dorine says Mme. has a fever.
229 - - Madame eut avant-hier' la fièvre jusqu'au soir,
Avec un mal de tête étrange à concevoir.

Orgon quickly asks
233 - Et Tartuffe ?
Dorine replies that Tartuffe is big, fat with a ruddy complexion.  
234 - Tartuffe? Il se porte à merveille,
Gros et gras, le teint frais et la bouche vermeille.

Orgon is full of concern for him, and says :
235 - Le pauvre homme !

but Dorine puts her mistress first and insists on telling Orgon that the previous evening Elvire had been sick and unable to eat. Orgon asks:
238 - Et Tartuffe ?
Dorine says that he ate two partridges and half a leg of lamb. Orgon replies :
241 - Le pauvre homme !

Dorine says Elmire has not slept the night long. Orgon asks:
245 - Et Tartuffe ?
Dorine replies that Tartuffe had slept like a log all night long.  Orgon replies:
249 - Le pauvre homme!

Dorine says that Elmire has had to be bled by her doctors.  Orgon asks:
252 - Et Tartuffe ?

Dorine replies that Tartuffe, to fortify his soul and to make up for Mme.’s blood loss, had drunk four big glasses of wine for breakfast.
252 - Il reprit courage comme il faut,
Et, contre tous les maux fortifiant son âme,
Pour réparer le sang qu'avait perdu Madame,

Orgon replies:
Le pauvre homme !

Finally Dorine says both of them are well and she adds sarcastically that she will tell her mistress of his concern for her convalescence.
256-                            Tous deux se portent bien enfin; Et je vais à Madame annoncer par avance
La part que vous prenez à sa convalescence.

Act one scene 5

Cléante begins to chide his brother in law. Can he not tell that he is being laughed at? He asks how he can be so infatuated by Tartuffe.
263 - Et se peut-il qu'un homme ait un charme aujourd'hui
A vous faire oublier toutes choses pour lui?

Cléante tells how Orgon rescued Tartuffe from poverty.

 Orgon interrupts to say that Cléante does not know Tartuffe.  He tries to describe his virtues, but is speechless at first;
272 - C'est un homme... qui... ha!... un homme... un homme enfin
Qui suit bien ses leçons, goûte une paix profonde et comme du fumier  regarde tout le monde.

Orgon boasts of how Tartuffe has made him indifferent to things of this world but ironically he only succeeds in showing inhumanity:        
277 - De toutes amitiés  il détache mon âme,
Et je verrais mourir frère, enfants, mère et femme,
Que je m'en soucierais autant que de cela.

Cléante is shocked by these inhuman sentiments.
280 - Les sentiments humains, mon frère, que voilà!

Orgon describes with naive admiration Tartuffe’s ostentatious show of piety in church
285 - Il attirait les yeux de l'assemblée entière
Par l'ardeur dont au Ciel il poussait sa prière;
Il faisait des soupirs, de grands élancements,
Et baisait humblement la terre à tous moments;

Orgon admires Tartuffe’s restraint because he always wants to return part of the gifts that Orgon makes him,

And when he refused, Tartuffe distributed the money to the poor before his very eyes  

He tells how he took Tartuffe into his house and how Tartuffe shows great interest in his wife warning him of men who take advantage of her:
301 - Je vois qu'il reprend tout, et qu'à ma femme même Il prend, pour mon honneur, un intérêt extrême;
Il m'avertit des gens qui lui font les yeux doux,
Et plus que moi six fois il s'en montre jaloux.

Orgon marvels at the way in which Tartuffe finds sin in the least thing. He accused himself of killing a flea too angrily during his prayers.
Cléante says that he can't believe Orgon is serious.

Organ says Cléante talks like a free thinker and he'll get into trouble.
314 - Mon frère, ce discours sent le libertinage.
Vous en êtes un peu dans votre âme entiché.

Cléante replies that he is asking Orgon to make the distinction between true religious devotion and ostentatious pretence.
320 - C'est être libertin que d'avoir de bons yeux,
Et qui n'adore pas de vaines simagrées
331 - Hé quoi ! vous ne ferez nulle distinction
Entre l'hypocrisie et la dévotion?
Vous les voulez traiter d’un semblable langage,
Et rendre même honneur au masque qu'au visage

In a speech which is often quoted to show Moliere's own ideas, Cléante preaches moderation.
339 - Les hommes, la plupart, sont étrangement faits! 

Dans la juste nature on ne les voit jamais;
La raison a pour eux des bornes trop petites;
En chaque caractère ils passent ses limites
Et la plus noble chose, ils la gâtent souvent
Pour la vouloir outrer et pousser trop avant.

Organ then shows his closed mind by refusing to argue sensibly.  Instead in a childish jibe, he accuses Cléante of pretending to know everything.

Cléante stresses his respect for piety, when it is sincere;
355 - Et, comme je ne vois nul genre de héros
 Qui soient plus à priser que les parfaits dévots,
Aucune chose au monde et plus noble et plus belle
Que la sainte ferveur d'un véritable zèle.

He finds hypocrites odious - people who use pretence to gain credit, wealth and social standing:
359- Aussi ne vois-je rien qui soit plus odieux
Que le dehors plâtré d'un zèle spécieux,
365 - Ces gens qui, par une âme à l'intérêt soumise,
Font de dévotion métier et marchandise,
Et veulent acheter crédit et dignités
A prix  de faux clins d'yeux et d'élans affectés
Par le chemin du Ciel courir à leur fortune;

Cléante criticises these people whose words are belied by their lifestyle.        
371 - Qui, brûlants et priants, demandent chaque jour
Et prêchent la retraite au milieu de la cour;

Hypocrites who pretend to be acting in God's name when they perform acts of malice.
375- Et, pour perdre quelqu'un, couvrent insolemment De l'intérêt du Ciel leur fier ressentiment

Cléante says that the devotion of true Christians is quite different. True Christians are humane and moderate.
388 -On ne voit point en eux ce faste  insupportable,
Et leur dévotion est humaine et traitable.
Ils ne censurent point toutes nos actions :

True Christians are charitable to others’ failings and do not band together to form power groups for the purpose of intrigue.
397 -Point de cabale  en eux, point d'intrigues à suivre
On les voit, pour tous soins, se mêler de bien vivre.
Yet Cléante is charitable towards his brother-in-law,  Orgon and believes he acts in good faith:
406 -C'est de fort bonne foi que vous vantez son zèle.
Mais par un faux éclat je vous crois ébloui.

Organ’s reaction shows him totally unwilling to listen to reason. His ears are closed to all Cléante’s words and he wants to get away:
Monsieur mon cher beau-frère, avez-vous tout dit

Cleante moves and to meet the previous request made to him by Damis, he tries to confirm that Orgon intends to keep his word and see that the marriage contract of Valère and Marianne goes ahead.  

Orgon, is playing an obvious game as he repeatedly refuses to answer Cléante’s question.

Finally Orgon says ominously, that it is the will of heaven that will be done.

Cléante leaves in order to warn the young lovers

Relationship of Elmire & Orgon
Her choosing not to greet him is a rather puzzling reaction from a wife whose husband returns after several days' absence.  But perhaps she was deliberately reminding him of her illness

Orgon immediately shows that he has little concern about his wife’s health, because of his preoccupation with Tartuffe

Tartuffe- a (mocking) description of his appearance. 234
Through the words of Dorine in this scene, we see the real manch, Tartuffe, by whom Orgon is blinded:
He is a greedy, sensual man who enjoys the good things of life.

Comedy of character:  The absurdity of the contrast between Tartuffe’s pose as a self-denying man of religion and the sensualist self-indulgence of his actual lifestyle.

The stage representation
Cléante is onstage during this exchange between Orgon and the maid, but he remains silent. One imagines, however, his facial expressions at his brother in law’s outrageous reactions to the reports on Tartuffe from the maid.

252)The irony of Dorine is totally lost on Orgon, distracted by his obsession with Tartuffe.



Comedy of Character
Cléante sums up what we learnt from the previous scene, that Orgon is making himself ridiculous through his obsession with Tartuffe.



Comedy of language
His inability to put his admiration for Tartuffe into rational language suggests that Tartuffe’s virtues are hard to place.


Comedy of character
Orgon is ridiculous in his obsession but he is also odious when he boasts of his own inhumanity

Character of Tartuffe-  The Pharisee.
There is dramatic irony as Orgon, thinking he is painting an impressive man of religion,  describes a man of pretentious religious exhibitionism - the Pharisee in the bible.
Historical background
Later Tartuffe will be linked to an intrusive  religious grouping which was arousing resentment. The distributing of alms (297)was an aspect of the work of this "Company of the Sacred Sacrement."
Orgon naively says that Tartuffe takes an extreme interest in his wife, confirming Dorine’s suspicions.  Dramatic irony in this.
Comedy of character
Absurd sense of guilt on killing a flea.



Cléante denies that he is a free-thinker.  Free thinking became progressively more and more dangerous in 17th century France.




The Golden Mean
Cléante preaches his and probably Molière’s own doctrine of moderation in all things.

These lines are known by heart by students of Moliere






Cléante says that there is nothing more admirable than a good and sincere Christian

Historical background
There were a number of members of Louis XIV’s court who had protected themselves by a sudden conversion to ostensible religious devotion.







The justification of acting in accordance the will of God in order to destroy a fellow human being will be heard later in this story





The Company of the Sacred Sacrement was also known as the “Cabale des Dévots” 397






Character of Orgon
He has a closed mind and will not listen to any ideas that do not suit him.

Act 2

ACT II - Scene I -
The stage representation

In this scene there is scope for rich comic effect as the mood of the scene changes quickly from:
1. Sentimental harmony.
2. Incomprehension.
3. Despair and anger.

One can imagine the rapidly changing facial expressions of the two characters - Thus there is Potential for Comedy of physical action
Orgon has arranged a private meeting with his daughter, telling her that he wishes to speak to her in confidence.

He checks that there is no-one in the room adjoining, because this is an ideal place for someone to overhear them.

The conversation begins with complacent, sentimental exchanges between father and daughter. There is dramatic irony at this stage as Mariane assures her father of her respect for his authority happily assuming that the confidential meeting is to discuss Valère’s proposal (the audience already suspects Orgon’s motives).

0rgon had told Mariane that she had always been dear to him and that he liked her sweet nature.   
431………… J'ai, Mariane, en vous
Reconnu de tout temps un esprit assez doux,
Et de tout temps aussi vous m'avez été chère

Mariane says she is very grateful for his paternal love

Orgon continues that to deserve her father's love she should seek only to grant his wishes.
435 C'est fort bien dit, ma fille; et, pour le mériter,
Vous devez n'avoir soin que de me contenter.

Mariane still thinking he is talking of her fiancé Valère  assures him of just that.       

When Orgon asks her opinion of Tartuffe, Mariane says that she will say what Orgon wishes her to  say - eager to pass on to what she assumes is the real purpose of their meeting.

It is then that the mood of the scene changes with a bombshell from Orgon who asks her if she will tell him that she would like to marry Tartuffe. 
441 – C’est parler sagement.  Dites-moi, donc, ma fille,
Qu'en toute sa personne un haut mérite brille,
Qu'il touche votre cœur, et qu'il vous serait doux
De le voir par mon choix devenir votre époux.

Mariane is staggered that Tartuffe is the man her father proposes for her husband. Orgon is equally staggered that she cannot recognise how suitable his own proposition is.

This mutual bewilderment is expressed comically in broken exchanges.
445 Eh? (Mariane se recule avec surprise.)
MARIANE.     Eh?
ORGON.         Qu'est-ce?
MARIANE.     Plaît-il?
ORGON.         Quoi?
MARIANE.     Me suis-je méprise ?
ORGON.         Comment?

Mariane is almost dumbfounded with shock

Angered by her reaction, Orgon tells Mariane that exercising his rights as her father, he has resolved that Tartuffe will be her husband.
455 Il sera votre époux, j'ai résolu cela;
Et comme sur vos voeux je...

If this scene had continued between Orgon and his heartbroken daughter, it would have been more tragedy than comedy, but at this point Orgon turns to see Dorine standing there and has to interrupt himself.

Organ asks his daughter’s  lady’s maid what she is doing there, poking her nose in too far into private matters:
457 - Que faites-vous là ?
La curiosité qui vous presse est bien forte, 
Mamie, à nous venir écouter de la sorte.
( It might seem surprising that Orgon addresses Dorine as “Mamie” (Ma amie)which would be a term of endearment from husband to wife.  However it was also used as routine address of a domestic)

Dorine says she didn't believe the news that she has just heard and treated it as just stuff and nonsense           
461 - Mais de ce mariage on m'a dit la nouvelle,
Et j'ai traité cela de pure bagatelle.

Orgon asks what is incredible about it.
463 - Quoi donc! la chose est-elle incroyable?
He threatens Dorine by saying he knows the way to make her believe it.
465 - Je sais bien le moyen de vous le faire croire.

There follow comic exchanges as Dorine repeatedly expresses her disbelief while Orgon becomes more and more angry.
468 - DORINE.- Chansons!
ORGON. - Ce que je dis, ma fille, n'est point jeu.
DORINE. - Allez, ne croyez point à Monsieur votre père
 Il raille.
ORGON. - Je vous dis...
DORINE. - Non, vous avez beau faire. On ne vous croira point.

Finally when Orgon is about to explode,  she says that she believes him, but in terms of the maximum personal disrespect;
472 - Hé bien! on vous croit donc, et c'est tant pis pour vous
Quoi! se peut-il, Monsieur, qu'avec l'air d'homme sage
Et cette large barbe au milieu du visage,
Vous soyez assez fou pour vouloir...

Orgon interrupts her, in a state of fury warning her against taking liberties with him.  However she continues to do so by taking it upon herself to advise her master that they can have a discussion without losing their tempers

Nevertheless her own words are provocatively frank
Dorine calls Tartuffe a bigot and says he shouldhave nothing to do with Orgon’s daughter.
480 Votre fille n'est point l'affaire d'un bigot;

Her second argument is that a wealthy man like Orgon should not give his daughter to someone who is penniless like Tartuffe.
483 A quel sujet aller, avec tout votre bien,
Choisir un gendre gueux….?

Orgon says that Tartuffe comes from a good family and that his poverty has come about because he is uninterested in worldly things. In fact, Tartuffe is a nobleman and Organ is helping him to regain his rights with the financial aid Organ is giving to him.

At this stage Dorine's arguments become more serious and well-argued than we would expect from a servant.
Dorine argues that a truly devout man should not boast of his birth.     
497 - Qui d'une sainte vie embrasse l'innocence
Ne doit point tant prôner son nom et sa naissance,
Et l'humble procédé de la dévotion Souffre mal les éclats de cette ambition.

She takes up a favourite theme of Moliere that forced marriages only lead to trouble.  Her argument is that a woman who is forced to marry a man she doesn't love cannot be expected to remain faithful.

507 - Sachez que d'une fille on risque la vertu
Lorsque dans son hymen son goût est combattu;

Orgon will not listen.  He is not willing to take advice from a servant
518 - Je vous dis qu'il me faut apprendre d'elle à vivre!

He says that he knows what's best and he is the father.
520 Ne nous amusons point, ma fille, à ces chansons; Je sais ce qu'il vous faut, et je suis votre père
Orgon starts to find fault with Mariane’s present fiancé, Valère, to whom he had previously promised his daughter. He says that Valère gambles and he suspects him of being a “libertin”, because he doesn’t go to Church often.   
523 - Mais, outre qu'à jouer on dit qu'il est enclin,
Je le soupçonne encor d'être un peu libertin;
Je ne remarque point qu'il hante les églises.

Dorine argues that being religious is not a matter of putting on a show to impress others.
526 - Voulez-vous qu'il y coure à vos heures précises,
Comme ceux qui n'y vont que pour être aperçus?

Orgon refuses to take advice from a maid and paints a picture of how Mariane and Tartuffe will be happily married -  like two turtle doves:
533 - Ensemble vous vivrez, dans vos ardeurs fidèles, Comme deux vrais enfants, comme deux tourterelles ;

But Dorine says fidelity will not feature in their marriage
537- Elle? Elle n'en fera qu'un sot  je vous assure.

Orgon says that’s a terrible thing to say (of his daughter),
But Dorine says that Tartuffe is fated for it in the stars i.e. to be a cuckold.
Orgon’s patience is now completely exhausted and he orders Dorine not to say another word as he speaks to Mariane.
541 - Cessez de m'interrompre, et songez à vous taire, Sans mettre votre nez où vous n'avez que faire.

(However the stage note tells us that Dorine will interrupt the moment Orgon turns his back.)

Before he can say a word to Mariane, Dorine says she is only speaking in his interest
A famous comic exchange follows between master and servant:

543 - DORINE. - Je n'en parle, Monsieur, que pour votre intérêt.
ORGON.- C'est prendre trop de soin ; taisez-vous, s'il vous plaît.
DORINE. - Si l'on ne vous aimait...
ORGON. - Je ne veux pas qu'on m'aime.
DORINE. - Et je veux vous aimer, Monsieur, malgré vous-même.
ORGON. - Ah!
Orgon’s temper reaches its height and then Dorine reminds him that religious people do not get angry.
552 -  Ah! vous êtes dévot, et vous vous emportez !

Orgon demands her silence : 
553 - Oui, ma bile s'échauffe à toutes ces fadaises,
Et tout résolument je veux que tu te taises.

Dorine agrees not to speak but she says that won’t stop her speaking.

Orgon moves to his daughter and Dorine moves from centre stage but she continues to mutter asides to the audience at each of his remarks., shutting up immediately when Orgon turns round to her.

Orgon is recommending Tartuffe to his daughter, but cannot finish because of the adverse comment muttered by Dorine.
Orgon is trying to say that although Tartuffe  is no dandy, he has other attributes , but can’t finish.  Dorine makes a mocking pun on “damoiseau = dandy  “beau museau” – an ugly mug
559 - ORGON……… Sans être damoiseau, Tartuffe est fait de sorte...
DORINE, (aside) -     Oui, c'est un beau museau

Finally Orgon turns round to Dorine again, arms folded and the lady’s maid lets herself saying sarcastically that Mariane would be well off with Tartuffe.  She says that no-one would get away with marrying her to someone she didn’t and a woman has always a revenge ready after the wedding celebration.

Orgon reminds her of her promise of silence and Toinette says she was only talking to herself.

Orgon says he will give her a smack if she carries on and takes up position to administer it as he resumes his talk to Mariane.  Dorine stands silent as he waits with his hand at the ready.  Each time he looks at Dorine she straightens up, her lips sealed.

Orgon continues and waits for a retort but none comes.  He invites Dorine to speak one little word but she says she has nothing to say to herself.

Orgon finally finishes his statement saying that Mariane must act with obedience to his wishes and show total deference to his choice
577 - Enfin, ma fille, il faut payer d'obéissance,
Et montrer pour mon choix entière déférence

It is Dorine who immediately speaks out. -  She’d be darned if she would take such a husband.  She ducks Orgon’s blow and runs away.           

Finally, Orgon exasperated by Dorine is too upset to continue and leaves the room.


Dorine asks why Mariane hasn't said anything to defend herself.
She tells Mariane to tell Orgon, if he finds Tartuffe so charming, to go and marry Tartuffe himself.          
594 - C'est à vous, non à lui, que le mari doit plaire;
Et que, si son Tartuffe est pour lui si charmant,
Il le peut épouser sans nul empêchement.

Timid Mariane says that a daughter has to accept a father's will.
597  - Un père, je l'avoue, a sur nous tant d'empire
Que je n'ai jamais eu la force de rien dire.

Dorine asks her if she really loves Valère and casts doubts on her sincerity.
This provokes Mariane to state her love for Valère. She claims that if the marriage was forced upon her she would kill herself.
613 - DORINE.- Sur cette autre union quelle est donc votre attente ?
MARIANE. - De me donner la mort, si l'on me violente.

Dorine dismisses this solution of Mariane with an ironical comment:     
DORINE. -  Fort bien. C'est un recours où je ne songeais pas;
Vous n'avez qu'à mourir pour sortir d'embarras.

Weakly Mariane says that it's up to Valère to solve the problem.

Dorine says that Valère stands little chance with Orgon.
Mariane again talks about the duty of a daughter.
To provoke an effective reaction in Mariane, Dorine says that Tartuffe is a good match and with total irony lists his personal features to be admired:
645 - Tout le monde déjà de gloire le couronne;
Il est noble chez lui', bien fait de sa personne;
Il a l'oreille rouge et le teint bien fleuri:
Vous vivrez trop contente avec un tel mari.

Mariane is horrified and, forced by Dorine to face reality, she finally asks for help.
However Dorine is still driving the point home.  She paints their life in the country when she is married to Tartuffe and lives with his family of country bumpkins.
660 - D'abord chez le beau monde on vous fera venir; Vous irez visiter, pour votre bienvenue,
Madame la baillive et Madame l'élue',
Qui d'un siège pliant vous feront honorer.
Là, dans le carnaval, vous pourrez espérer
Le bal et la grand-bande, à savoir deux musettes.
(Louis XIV’s “Grande-Bande” was an orchestra of 24 violins.  Tartuffe will only provide two bagpipers.
Mariane pleads for help to avoid this fate, but Dorine is still annoyed and refuses, making up her own comic word to describe what is going to be done to her young mistress:
674 - Non. Vous serez, ma foi, tartuffiée.
In despair, Mariane tries to get away, but Dorine softens and calls her back.  She consoles Mariane that the marriage can be prevented if they go about it skillfully.

Mariane’s  fiancé, Valère arrives.

Valère says he has just heard that Mariane is to marry Tartuffe and he asks her to confirm it.

Mariane, confirms that her father has decided this, having changed his mind and Mariane gives Valère no indication of her own reaction.
687 -………………………………. Il est certain
Que mon père s'est mis en tête ce dessein.

Valère is surprised by her reserve and has to ask her what her opinion is.
Preferring that her lover should express his feelings first, Mariane says that she doesn't know.  Valere is taken aback:
694 -  …………….La réponse est honnête.
Vous ne savez?
VALÈRE.        -           Non?

Hoping no doubt for a passionate declaration of love on his part, she asks him what he would advise.

Valère is now unsure whether her lack of emotion shows indifference to him and judges that his self-respect requires him to show similar indifference.
697 -   …………………………………………Sans doute.
Le choix est glorieux et vaut bien qu'on l'écoute.

Mariane says that she accepts his recommendation.

Each of the lovers is petulant with the other and accuses the other of wishing the match with Tartuffe. The exchange becomes increasingly heated.

Valere says that doubtless she had never loved him
715 - …………………………………… votre coeur
N'a jamais eu pour moi de véritable ardeur.
MARIANE.- Hélas! permis à vous d'avoir cette pensée

Valère says there is some-one else who would be pleased to accept his love.  Mariane says that he will easily find consolation.

Valère says that to be spurned in love involves our honour
730 - Un coeur qui nous oublie engage notre gloire.
Il faut à l'oublier mettre aussi tous nos soins.
Valère adds  that it is unforgivable for one to love someone who leaves us and Mariane replies with irony
735 - Ce sentiment, sans doute, est noble et relevé.

In the ensuing exchanges there is comedy of physical as Valère repeatedly pretends to be taking leave of Mariane for good, expecting  Mariane to call him back, but Mariane does not play the lover’s game.

Valere says he is leaving her and will never see her again.  Marianne merely says “Bye!”
751 - VALÈRE, coming back after leaving once -  
Vous me voyez, c'est pour toute ma vie,
MARIANE.     - A la bonne heure!
This game continues :
VALÈRE walks away but when he is at the door turns round
…………………………………………      Euh?
MARIANE. - Quoi?
VALÈRE. - Ne m'appelez-vous pas
MARIANE.- Moi? Vous rêvez.
VALÈRE. - Hé bien! je poursuis donc mes pas,
Adieu, Madame. (he moves off slowly.)
MARIANE. - Adieu, Monsieur

Dorine who has stood at one side to watch the lovers’ antics with amusement now intervenes to stop this folly.

She tells them to think about avoiding the marriage instead of quarrelling. She has let them quarrel to see how far they would go.

The lovers stand apart and Dorine talks to one and then runs across the stage to talk to the other.

Finally Dorine gets the lovers together joining their hands.
At Valère’s appeal Mariane finally gives a little smile.
785 Mais ne faites donc point les choses avec peine,
Et regardez un peu les gens sans nulle haine.
(Mariane tourne l'oeil sur Valère et fait un petit souris)

Dorine's remarks about the folly of lovers.
787- A vous dire le vrai, les amants sont bien fous !

Even then the argument seems to be about to break out again as each blames the other for the previous misunderstanding.

Then Mariane asks what they can do to avoid the unfortunate marriage.
Dorine says that they should pretend to acquiesce in the marriage but at the same time find constant excuses to put off the marriage.

They should get the help of Cléante and Elmire.

Dorine tells the lovers they must not be seen together and she pushes them off in separate directions as they linger in their fond farewells.


The traditional theme of a Molière play is an opposed Marriage. In ACT II - Scene I , this basic conflict is made clear to the audience






Preparation Damis later uses the room for just that purpose






Orgon’s character
His true love of his daughter



Historical background
In the 17th century, the father had absolute authority over his children.








Orgon’s character – He is so deluded that he genuinely believes that Tartuffe is a good match for his daughter.

Comedy of situation- The abrupt change of mood: from cosy niceties to mutual incomprehension.



Comedy of language
The rapid broken exchanges of mutual incomprehension

Comedy of Situation: 3rd change of mood, when Mariane finally understands what her father intends.  On Mariane’s part, there is despair and on Orgon’s there is violent anger at his daughter's rejection of his choice of husband.

Orgon’s character
He becomes odious as the despotic father.


The intervention of the cheeky maidservant permits the comic treatment of what is a very serious and sad situation.



Comedy of situation
The servant talks good sense, but the head of the family, Orgon, a socially respected man, talks foolishness.





























The character of Dorine
She is not a mere housemaid, she is a family governess.  Here her arguments are so wise that in an earlier edition, these words were spoken by Cléante  in Act IV

Historical Background
The established tradition of forced marriages.
Dorine (and Moliere) question whether a father has the right to decide whom his daughter should marry.


(518- 521) Orgon hides behind his parental authority and closes his ears to reason.


The character of Valère
Like a number of young men in society, Valère enjoys gambling and is not very pious. Thus he is open to accusation from those hostile to him of being a freethinker- un libertin.

Dorine has in mind one particular person in mind who is a religious Pharisee such as this.






Earthy Dorine says that a wife denied love by forced marriage will find it somewhere else.




Comedy of Situation
Orgon talks to his daughter, with Dorine constantly interrupting from behind.












Comedy of physical action
As Dorine defies Orgon’s threats as he attempts to silence her










559 Dorine invents a mocking pun  to ridicule Tartuffe.






The physical sparring onstage between Orgon and Dorine continues.








A final comical physical act as Orgon aims a blow at Dorine, who ducks it






The comic observations of Dorine

Mariane’s character: Her acceptance of the duty of obedience of daughters

Mariane’s timidity

She asserts her love for Valère and sys she would kill herself if forced into this marriage.

Well aimed irony from Dorine, deflates Marine’s over-dramatic expedient, one reminiscent of a heroine in contemporary Précious literature

The manners of the time.
Admittedly, Mariane is weak, but, engaged in a love affair, the girl had to be careful of her dignity. Thus she could appear forward if she took the initiative.  In the “moeurs” of the time this would be Valère’s role.

Dorine uses withering irony to remind her charge how physically repugnant Tartuffe actually is.(645)


Dorine uses vivid imagination to make her irony tell, mocking the humble married life deep in the country,which is all that Tartuffe will be able to offer her. 
Historical detail.
Note the contempt of Parisians for life in the Provinces.  All real social life depended on the Sun King and his court - To be banished from the capital was a virtual death in their eyes.


Comedy of language
Moliere invents a new comic word – which might have the same sexual meaning as the word that Orgon will twice have on the tip of his tongue later in the play, before public decency restrains him.


This is a scene involving a complicated misunderstanding between two lovers. Such scenes were a standard feature of 17th century European comedy.

Molière choses to include his lovers' tiff scene here as it provides some escape from a very serious situation.

Even though each of the lovers is talking of the breakup of their love, everyone on stage, including Mariane and Valère know in their hearts that the pair of them are just being silly, through the emotionality and insecurity of young love.

Historical Background.

Why does Mariane not show her love for Valere more clearly?

According to the manners (moeurs) of 17th century France, the honour of each of the partners was at stake in a love affair, Mariane is aware that she will lose countenace if she shows more interest  in Valère than he shows to her.








Comedy of physical action - He pretends to walk out on her, expecting her to call him back.

Comedy of physical action













Stock comic situation of two characters in a quarrel standing at different sides of the stage with a go-between going from one to the other-

This is another standard routine in contemporary comedy.


Dorine gives her very true verdict on the folly of young lovers


Damis is in a furious temper. His language is very strong. He calls Tartuffe a"fat”: (An insulting word meaning a self-inflated show-off.  Dorine had used this word to describe Tartuffe’s servant in Act 1 Scene 2)

Dorine tries to calm Damis. She adopts a more retrained approach in the face of this unruly young man.  Dorine says Orgon has done no more than suggest the idea of the marriage and she tells Damis to let Elmire help, as Elmire has some influence over Tartuffe, who is amenable to her and might have a soft spot for her

Ah! tout doux! envers lui, comme envers votre père, Laissez agir les soins de votre belle-mère.
Sur l'esprit de Tartuffe elle a quelque crédit;
Il se rend complaisant à tout ce qu'elle dit,
Et pourrait bien avoir douceur de cœur pour elle.

Elmire already intends to question Tartuffe about the marriage.
Dorine tells Damis that Tartuffe’s servant, Laurent, has told Dorine that Tartuffe is coming down shortly.

Damis says he wants to listen to the conversation that will take place between them. He won’t say a word

Dorine refuses saying she knows how quickly Damis gets angry.
Vous vous moquez : on sait vos transports ordinaires,
Et c'est le vrai moyen de gâter les affaires.

Dorine expresses her exasperation with Damis.
Que vous êtes fâcheux!

As Tartuffe enters, Damis hides in the adjoining closet.


Character of Damis
As always, Damis is headstrong and quick-tempered

Dorine is perceptive and recognizes that Tartuffe’s vulnerable spot is the attraction that he feels for Elvire, who can influence him.


Dorine recognizes that Damis has the temperament to ruin the women’s strategy.

Note the dramatic preparation










Dorine finds Damis exasperating.

After the previous long build-up, Tartuffe, the central character, now comes onstage for the first time.
His words provide a dramatic first appearance as he proclaims his acts of self-mortification and his abounding acts of charity.
Laurent, serrez ma haire' avec ma disciplinez,
Et priez que toujours le ciel vous illumine.
Si l'on vient pour me voir, je vais aux prisonniers 
Des aumônes que j'ai, partager les deniers'.

He tells the family maid, Dorine, to cover her bosom, revealed by her low-cut dress

Impertinently Dorine says that Tartuffe is easily excited. She could see him stark naked without being tempted.
Vous êtes donc bien tendre à la tentation,
Et la chair sur vos sens fait grande impression!
Et je vous verrais nu du haut jusques en bas
Que toute votre peau ne me tenterait pas.

Dorine informs Tartuffe that Elmire is coming to have a word with him.
Immediately Tartuffe immediatetely replies “Very willing”.  Dorine’s suspicions of the attraction he feels for the lady of the house are reinforced by his sudden change of Persona.
In an aside Dorine says:
…………………………Comme il se radoucit!      
Ma foi, je suis toujours pour ce que j'en ai dits

 Elmire enters and Dorine says she will leave the two of them on their own.  (But the audience knows a third person is eavesdropping.)


Act 3 Scene 3

Tartuffe greets Elmire piously. He asks her about her health and he says he has prayed for her recovery.

She says the fever is now over.        
Tartuffe overdoes his consideration for health. He says he would sacrifice his own health for hers.

Elmire deflates his exaggeration but politely.
C'est pousser bien avant la charité chrétienne,
Et je vous dois beaucoup pour toutes ces bontés.

Unintentionally raising his hopes, Elmire tells Tartuffe that she is glad that they can speak without being overheard.     
Tartuffe expresses his own pleasure at the opportunity. His language is pious but already the profane undertones are very clear.
He tries to explain way why he has raised objections to her socializing , by inviting friends into her home
Et je ne veux aussi, pour grâce singulière,
Que montrer à vos yeux mon âme tout entière,
Et vous faire serment que les bruits que j'ai faits
Des visites qu'ici reçoivent vos attraits
Ne sont pas envers vous l'effet d'aucune haine,
Mais plutôt d'un transport de zèle' qui m'entraîne,
Et d'un pur mouvement...

Tartuffe explains that he had criticised the visitors to the house not out of hatred but out of a rush of zeal.           

As he explains he squeezes Elmire 's fingers tightly. Elmire cries out:
Ouf! vous me serrez trop.

Tartuffe says he wouldn't hurt her and now puts his hand on her knee instead.  She questions him about it and his explanation is unconvincing
Que fait là votre main?
Je tâte votre habit; l'étoffe en est moelleuse

Elmire tells Tartuffe that she is ticklish and she moves her chair back. Tartuffe moves his chair back up close to Elmire.

Now Tartuffe starts to handle the lace on her bodice admiring the needlework.

Elmire brings these antics to an end by broaching the subject she wishes to deal with. She asks if it is true that Orgon is going to give Marianne’s hand to Tartuffe in marriage.

Tartuffe says his hopes do not lie in that direction.

Elmire chooses to disregard this sexual overture and pretends that he means by this that he is only interested in religious things.

But Tartuffe tells her that his heart is not made of stone.
930 Mon sein n'enferme pas un cœur qui soit de pierre.

Elmire pretends that she doesn't understand what Tartuffe is implying.
Pour moi, je crois qu'au ciel tendent tous vos soupirs, Et que rien ici-bas n'arrête vos désirs

Tartuffe goes on to declare his love hypocritically cloaked in religious terms. 933
L'amour qui nous attache aux beautés éternelles N'étouffe pas en nous l'amour des temporelles
But his declaration has the elaborate affectation of a beau in Paris society 941
Et je n'ai pu vous voir, parfaite créature, Sans admirer en vous l'auteur de la nature,
Et d'une ardente amour' sentir mon coeur atteint
Au' plus beau des portraits où lui-même il s'est peint.
He tells Elmire that at first he thought his love was a snare of the devil but now he believes that he can reconcile it with propriety.
NB. The sprinkling of religious terms throughout the whole speech.957
En vous est mon espoir, mon bien, ma quiétude :
De vous dépend ma peine ou ma béatitude :

NB also the balance of the last two lines. It has a studied antithesis that could be typically found in the declaration of love of a 17th century courtier.
Et je vais être enfin, par votre seul arrêt,
 Heureux, si vous voulez, malheureux, s'il vous plaît.

Elmire has no illusions that this is a “galant” declaration. Moderately, she reproves Tartuffe and tells him that he should resist temptation. (It is not in her interest to quarrel with him!

Tartuffe tells her that although a man of religion he is still a man.
Ah! pour être dévot, je n'en suis pas moins homme;
Et lorsqu'on vient à voir vos célestes appas,
Un cœur se laisse prendre et ne raisonne pas.
Je sais qu'un tel discours de moi paraît étrange;
Mais, madame, après tout, je ne suis pas un ange,

Tartuffe puts the blame  on Elvire’s charms because of which his religious self-mortification has pushed into the background
De vos regards divins l'ineffable douceur
Força la résistance où s'obstinait mon cœur;
Elle surmonta tout, jeûnes, prières, larmes,
Et tourna tous mes vœux du côté de vos charmes.

Tartuffe offers Elmire his love Typically he is offering her"devotion"  although he had previously referred to these passions as “tribulations”
J'aurai toujours pour vous, ô suave merveille, Une dévotion à nulle autre pareille

Tartuffe now represents the secret deception that a man of religion can provide  as a moral advantage
He says a courtier would boast of his conquest (989)but her reputation is safe with a discreet man like himself.

Tous ces galants de cour dont les femmes sont folles
990 Sont bruyants dans leurs faits et vains dans leurs paroles; De leurs progrès sans cesse on les voit se targuer; Ils n'ont point de faveurs qu'ils n'aillent divulguer
What a man like Tartuffe has to offer is
De l'amour sans scandale et du plaisir sans peur.

Elmire asks Tartuffe if he isn't afraid she will tell her husband.
Tartuffe replies that she is too kind for that.

Elmire says she will not divulge his secret but he must on his side do something for her. He must press for the marriage of Mariane and Valère to go ahead.
Je ne redirai point l'affaire à mon époux;
Mais je veux en revanche une chose de vous
C'est de presser tout franc, et sans nulle chicane, L'union de Valère avecque Mariane;          
De renoncer vous-même à l'injuste pouvoir"
Qui veut du bien d'un autre enrichir votre espoir;
Et….. But she is interrupted, when Damis rushes out of the little room, where he has been hidden.

Damis says he has heard all and will tell his father.
Elmire tries to dissuade Damis. She says it is enough that Tartuffe repents.
She has made Tartuffe a promise and she doesn't like scandal.
A woman of the world knows how to deal with such matters without creating a fuss.
Puisque je l'ai promis, ne m'en dédites pas.
Ce n'est point mon humeur de faire des éclats;
Une femme se rit de sottises pareilles
Et jamais d'un mari n'en trouble les oreilles.

However, Damis is in full cry. His talk is violent.
Mon âme est maintenant au comble de sa joie,
Et vos discours en vain prétendent m'obliger
A quitter le plaisir de me pouvoir venger;
Sans aller plus avant, je vais vider d'affaire;
Et voici justement de quoi me satisfaire.

Damis is looking forward to the pleasure of revenge.

At this point, Orgon enters and Damis tells his father that he has overheard Tartuffe avowing his love for Elmire.
He tells Orgon that Elmire is too discreet and too gentle to tell him.

Elmire is angry and leaves the room saying that there was no need to disturb her husband by such matters and that it is enough for a woman to be able to look after herself.

She tells Damis that he shouldn't have spoken out.


As stepmother and stepson exchanged words, Tartuffe has remained in the room not saying a word
Orgon, when he makes his entrance goes straight to him and asks if what he has heard is to be believed.
Tartuffe's tactics show the utmost cunning. He doesn't go over the actual events but impresses Orgon by affecting the Christian humility of the miserable sinner, heaping upon himself all crimes except the specific one of which he is accused:
Oui, mon frère, je suis un méchant, un coupable,
Un malheureux pécheur tout plein d'iniquité,
Le plus grand scélérat qui jamais ait été.

Pathetically, he tells Orgon to drive him away from his house.

Orgon convinced by outward display, as always, now turns on his son accusing him of a false accusation.

As a hypocritical pose, Tartuffe tells Orgon to listen to his son and makes a show of defending his accuser, Damis, out of apparent selfless Christian charity.
Ah! laissez-le parler; vous l'accusez à tort,
Et vous ferez bien mieux de croire à son rapport. Pourquoi sur un tel fait m'être si favorable?
Savez-vous, après tout, de quoi je suis capable?
Vous fiez-vous, mon frère, à mon extérieur?

Tartuffe falls to his knees in a dramatic gesture of humility and asks Damis to heap abuse upon him.
(S'adressant à Damis.)
Oui, mon cher fils, parlez, traitez-moi de perfide, D'infâme, de perdu, de voleur, d'homicide;
Accablez-moi de noms encor plus détestés;
Je n'y contredis point, je les ai mérités,
Et j'en veux à genoux souffrir l'ignominie,

Orgon shouts at his son and tries to lift Tartuffe up onto  his feet.

Deeply touched Orgon begins to threaten his son physically.

At this Tartuffe goes on his knees again begging mercy for Damis.
Orgon is shocked that all his family is in conspiracy against this devout person and resolves to get his own back on them all.
On met impudemment toute chose en usage
Pour ôter de chez moi ce dévot personnage;
Mais plus on fait d'efforts afin de l'en bannir,
Plus j'en veux employer à l'y mieux retenir,

Et je vais me hâter de lui donner ma fille
Pour confondre l'orgueil de toute ma famille.

Organ tells Damis to beg Tartuffe for forgiveness and when Damis refuses Orgon chases him out shouting to be given a stick to beat him.
He tells Tartuffe not to hold him back.
As Damis leaves Orgon shouts that his son is disinherited and that he has invokes a father's curse upon him.
                       Vite, quittons la place.
Je te prive, pendard, de ma succession
 Et te donne, de plus, ma malédiction.

ACT 3 SCENE VII        
With absurd effusion Orgon starts to console Tartuffe.
Offenser de la sorte une sainte personne !

With a quick prayer to heaven, Tartuffe uses his feigned Christian sanctity to fire Orgon's resentment further.

Ô Ciel ! pardonne-lui la douleur qu'il me donne
(A Orgon.)
Si vous pouviez savoir avec quel déplaisir
Je vois qu'envers mon frère on tâche à me noircir
Tartuffe exploits the great esteem that Orgon has for him.  He arouses his pity by making a great display of the distress that Damis has wrought on his sensitive soul.
L'horreur que j'en conçois... J'ai le cœur si serré
Que je ne puis parler et crois que j'en mourrai

All this reduces Orgon to tears and incites him to an even greater outburst of anger.  He runs to the door after his son and cries out:
Coquin! je me repens que ma main t'ait fait grâce
Et ne t'ait pas d'abord assommé sur la place,

He goes to pull Tartuffe to his feet from his prayers.

In this scene we see how Tartuffe is in complete control of Orgon and can gain anything he wants from him.

Tartuffe says that it would be better, if he ceased to live in Orgon’s house, because next time Orgon might believe these suspicions.
1162                     Ah! mon frère, une femme
Aisément d'un mari peut bien surprendre" l'âme

Orgon insists that he stays on at his house and so Tartuffe agrees to stay even though he claims this means his self-mortification.
Hé bien, il faudra donc que je me mortifie".
Pourtant, si vous vouliez...

Also Tartuffe ensures that he will be able to see Elmire again by asking for the opposite.
On the contrary, Orgon insists that Tartuffe should see his wife constantly in order to flout all the other malicious people.
1172 –
Non, en dépit de tous, vous la fréquenterez.

Faire enrager le monde est ma plus grande joie
Orgon says that he is going to make Tartuffe his sole heir and give him all his goods here and now.
 (Remember in Orgon’s plans his daughter Marianne will be Tartuffe’s wife.)

Tartuffe accepts saying that God's will should be done. Orgon expresses his admiration for this holy man with the three words that have become the refrain of the play.
Le pauvre homme ! Allons vite en dresser  un écrit,
Et que puisse l'envie en crever de dépit!
(Here l’envie means les envieux)

Orgon is hoping that the envious people around them will die with anger.

End of Act 3

Comedy of manners
A large part of the comedy in the next few scenes stems from “Comedy of Manners”.   (Comédie de Moeurs)  This kind of comedy is based upon social behaviour.  In “Tartuffe, ” this mainly targets certain extremist religious groups and individuals.
Comedy of character
Tartuffe’s  first entrance is dramatic and comic.  He is obviously a Pharisee as he needs loudly to proclaim his charity and piety.
Historical background
The company of the Sacred Sacrement used to visit prisons.

Dorine Her sharp down to earth humour





The theatrical representation
The sudden change in the bearing of Tartuffe, previously overbearing and grim, but  transformed as happy and amenable at the mention of Elvire. 




Elmire’s character
She gently corrects Tartuffe’s over-effusiveness (894)but is still the perfectly polite lady of society.

Dramatic irony.  The people in the audience know what the Tartuffe on the stage does not know- that Damis is listening

Comedy of language Throughout the scene, Tartuffe will use religious language for his absolutely profane purposes – the attempted seduction of another man’s wife.



Comedy of physical action
The audience are going to see a sequence of Tartuffe's unseemly physical advances;
Firstly he squeezes Elvira’s hand




Secondly he fondles her knees


Thirdly he chases her, still seated, across the room as she slides her chair away from him to keep her distance

Fourthly he handles the bodice of her dress.













Comedy of Character
Tartuffe is the supreme hypocrite:
In the act of this blatant seduction, he claims to be admiring in the perfection of Elvire’s beauty the works of the Lord, saying that his heart is seized with such ardent love because God himself is painted in this portrayal.  

Comedy of language
 Note the religious terms in which he makes his totally immoral proposition.

Historical background
In many bedrooms of the Palace of Versailles many noblemen would be making similar extra-marital propositions with words perhaps even more carefully crafted.

Comedy of language
These famous line (966) and (970) are full of delicious irony as Tartuffe, seeking to justify himself, inadvertently tells us what Tartuffe, the true man, is.

Comedy of Manners
 The alternative lifestyles found in contemporary society are presented humorously as (975)

  1. Illicit amorous self- indulgence
  2. Religious self denial, mortification and misery.

Moliere, praised by many for his good sense, would have, no doubt, chosen neither.

The historical background
In those days, when a man won the favours of an attractive woman, it was regarded as a conquest that did him honour in society.(989)

Comedy of situation
Tartuffe has been deceiving Orgon
Elvire has been deceiving Tartuffe.











Elvire’s character (1015)
She has tolerantly heard Tartuffe’s declaration. Now she intends to use the situation for her own ends.  She is clever calm and dignified.

The character of Damis
As we had been forewarned the impulsiveness of Damis ruins Elvira's strategy.

The historical background
(1031)Love was a major preoccupation of the leisured elite of 17th century France and a code of conduct existed to alleviate its complications. Thus Elvire had wanted to settle the matter with the minimum upset in the family. Perhaps from personal past experiences, she knows how to rebuff the approaches of a suitor without causing great scandal

Damis is exuberant at the idea of getting his own back on Tartuffe and is incapable of tact.


Comedy of situation
The audience logically thinks that Tartuffe has been found out and that Orgon’s first question expresses his shock at what Damis immediately tells him. However, they immediately discover that his question means that the obsessed Orgon, on the spot, dismisses the allegation made by his son








Tartuffe the hypocrite
(1074 - 1076) As Tartuffe builds up the hypocritical deception, his words of self-denunciation are comic through their actual accuracy and hence their comic irony.







Stage representation- Tartuffe's pious kneeling of a sinner

Comedy of character
The exaggeration of Tartuffe.
Among the crimes that he invites Tartuffe to accuse him of are thieving and homicide.1102

Comedy of physical action
There is hectic physical action in this scene as Orgon angry at his son shouts at him and tries to hit him.
At the same time he has to speak gentle compassion to Tartuffe and lift him back to his feet when he persists on falling onto his knees.

His disregard for the feelings of his daughter.(1125)  He is supposedly a devout Christian but his paranoia and self-deception make an odious character.

The historical background. Orgon disinherits his son 1139.  Note the tyrannical rights of the father of the family: Sons could be put in prison, daughters enclosed in a convent for disobedience.



This serious moment becomes bitterly comic because of the following portrayal of the mad absurdity of Orgon's (religious) delusion.

 In this scene with two men alone together, we see the depth of Orgon’s obsession for Tartuffe and Tartuffe’s ruthless skill in exerting his control over Orgon

Comedy of physical action

The comically conflicting emotions of Orgon in the previous scene continue with full force.  Tartuffe is weeping copiously over the supposed wrong done to Tartuffe but simultaneously manages to be in a furious temper against his departed son.

He is still pulling Tartuffe to his feet who still persists in kneeling down.



Tartuffe’s complete control of Orgon 1162
He gets complete access to Orgon’s wife by apparently asking for the opposite

Tartuffe the total hypocrite

He says that by staying on in Elvira's company he will be mortifying himself


Comedy of situation
The audience know that Orgon is unconsciously conniving in the seduction of his own wife.


Comedy of character. The evil pleasure that Orgon gets out of unknowingly making a cuckold of himself.



Comedy of language –
Dramatic irony 1183
“Le pauvre homme”.  Here Orgon applies the play’s comic refrain to the man whom he has made the true master of the house and the legal owner of all Orgon’s property and wealth.


Cléante contrives a personal conversation with Tartuffe and has hopes of appealing to him as a Christian to have mercy on those in the family, who have been made to suffer.       

Cléante says the scandal of the expulsion of Damis is detrimental to Tartuffe's reputation and first of all he asks Tartuffe to show forgiveness to Damis whatever he may have doneto his reputation.           

Even if Damis had been guilty, Tartuffe, as a Christian, should forgive Damis.      
N'est-il pas d'un chrétien de pardonner l'offense
Et d'éteindre en son cœur tout désir de vengeance?

Cléante asks if it can be right to cause a father to throw out his son and asks him to bring about reconciliation.

Tartuffe replies that he would forgive Damis himself but heaven's will must be done,  and letting his self-interest show, he says if Damis comes back, he, Tartuffe,will have to go.     
Je lui pardonne tout, de rien je ne le blâme
Et voudrais le servir du meilleur de mon âme;
Mais l'intérêt du ciel n'y saurait consentir,
Et, s'il rentre céans, c'est à moi d'en sortir.

Tartuffe says that people would claim that he did it because he felt guilty or because he wanted to keep Damis quiet, under his control.

Cléante says these excuses are exaggerated and questions his right to speak for heaven.
Des intérêts du ciel pourquoi vous chargez-vous?
Pour punir le coupable a-t-il besoin de nous?

Cléante goes on to ask whether it matters what other people should think.
Quoi! le faible intérêt de ce qu'on pourra croire
D'une bonne action empêchera la gloire?

Tartuffe merely maintains that it is God's will.

Cléante now changes his tactics and deals with the legal position. He asks whether heaven advises Tartuffe to take the inheritance which Orgon's whim had given him and to which he has no right.
Tartuffe says that worldly goods mean nothing to him. If he accepts it is merely to prevent the money falling into unworthy hands.
Cette donation qu'il a voulu me faire
Ce n’est, à dire vrai, que parce que je crains
Que tout ce bien ne tombe en de méchantes mains

(Cléante’s reply stresses that Damis is a rightful heir.)
Cléante says that if Tartuffe cannot live with Damis it is Tartuffe who should go.

Tartuffe escapes from his arguments by claiming he has some religious observations to perform in his room.

Dorine appeals to Cléante to help them dissuade Orgon from his plan for Mariane’s wedding that very evening. Mariane is a state of great distress          
De grâce, avec nous employez-vous pour elle,
Monsieur : son âme souffre une douleur mortelle,


Orgon comes in triumphant. Like a child, he taunts them with the marriage contract.

Mariane pleads pathetically on her knees. She begs Orgon to relax the authority which he has over her
Relâchez-vous un peu des droits de la naissance,
Et dispensez mes vœux a de cette obéissance.

Touchingly she begs her father for mercy.
Au moins, par vos bontés, qu'à vos genoux j'implore,
Sauvez-moi du tourment d'être à ce que j'abhorre,

Orgon replies that he is moved but as a Christian turns his heart against human frailty.
Mariane begs him to give Tartuffe all her worldly goods but not to give him her person. She asks to go into a convent instead.

Orgon says this is a poor reason for choosing convent life. The more repugnant she finds the marriage the more merit she will gain as a Christian by this act of mortification.
Debout! Plus votre cœur répugne à l'accepter,
Plus ce sera pour vous matière à mériter

Orgon silences Dorine's and Cléante’s protests.

At this point Elmire intervenes to put him right on the events earlier in the day. She tells her husband he must be very much taken in by Tartuffe to believe his version of events.
Et votre aveuglement fait que je vous admire.
C'est être bien coiffé, bien prévenu de lui,
Que de nous démentir sur le fait d'aujourd'hui.

Orgon says that he can see what is obvious - 
Because Elmire is fond of Damis, she had been afraid to admit that Damis had played a trick on Tartuffe.

(1321) He is also convinced that if Damis`s story had been true Elmire would not have been so calm about it all.

Elmire maintains that hers had been a reasonable reaction to a simple avowal of love.
J'aime qu'avec douceur nous nous montrions sages
Et ne suis point du tout pour ces prudes sauvages
Dont l'honneur est armé de griffes et de dents.

Elmire believes that a lady replies to such avowals of love with a discreet coolness.
Je veux une vertu qui ne soit point diablesse
Et crois que d'un refus la discrète froideur
N'en est pas moins puissante à rebuter un cœur.

Orgon says that he knows that all the family is trying to lead him on a false scent.

Elmire in exasperation offers to show him he is wrong. Orgon however still argues and Elmire expresses her impatience with her husband.
Quel homme! Au moins répondez-moi.!

Elmire is irritated that her husband accuses her of deceit and she tells Dorine to bring Tartuffe.

Dorine is hesitant, thinking it will not be easy to deceive Tartuffe.

 However, Elmire says it is easy to deceive someone who is in love with you.  Vanity makes people fool themselves.
Non : on est aisément dupé par ce qu'on aime,         
Et l'amour-propre engage à se tromper soi-même.

Elmire tells Dorine to bring Tartuffe down and asks the Cléante and Mariane to leave.


Elmire persuades Orgon to get under the table, hidden by the table cloth     

Her husband is bemused by it all but smugly believes that he is putting his wife in an impossible position and that he is about to prove her imposture
Je confesse qu'ici ma complaisance est grande;
Mais de votre entreprise il vous faut voir sortir.

Elmire tells Orgon not to be scandalised by what she is going to say, as she is going to make Tartuffe drop his hypocrite’s mask.
Je vais par des douceurs, puisque j'y suis réduite,
Faire poser le masque à cette âme hypocrite,

Elmire tells Orgon it is up to him to put a stop to things, once he is convinced by what he hears, to avoid her being exposed to undergo anything unpleasant.
C'est à vous d'arrêter son ardeur insensée
Quand vous croirez l'affaire assez avant poussée,

D'épargner votre femme et de ne m'exposer
Qu'à ce qu'il vous faudra pour vous désabuser.


Act IV Scene V

Tartuffe enters and Elmire tells him to close the door and make sure no-one is listening.

She tells Tartuffe that she was upset by Damis's entry that morning and she did her best to calm him. Luckily all is now well. Tartuffe's reputation with Orgon has saved the day; and Orgon says that they must be together.

Elmire tells Tartuffe she is going to open her heart to him and apologises for her forwardness.
Et c'est par où je puis, sans peur d'être blâmée,
Me trouver ici seule avec vous enfermée,
Et ce qui m'autorise à vous ouvrir un cœur
Un peu trop prompt peut-être à souffrir votre ardeur

The wily Tartuffe is suspicious and says that she's changed her tune since earlier that day.

Elmire says she was bashful of declaring her love before. She claims that if she wasn't sympathetic to Tartuffe she would not have tried to restrain Damis from revealing the truth and she would not have listened so long to Tartuffe's avowal.
She implies that the reason why she wished to stop Tartuffe marrying Mariane was that she wanted Tartuffe as her lover.

Tartuffe says that he appreciates these sweet words but he suspects that this is just her tactic to try to turn him away from the marriage to Mariane.

He asks Elmire for a bit of love now, He will not be sure unless she grants him some real token of her favours.
Tartuffe in flowery language says he wants real deeds to prove her feelings towards him.
Je ne me fierai point à des propos si doux
Qu'un peu de vos faveurs, après quoi je soupire,
Ne vienne m'assurer tout ce qu'ils m'ont pu dire

Elmire coughs to alert her husband.

She pleads with Tartuffe not to rush her. Her avowal of love was a difficult enough step for her and he should not ask the final favours straightaway.
On se tue à vous faire un aveu des plus doux;
Cependant ce n'est pas encore assez pour vous,
Et l'on ne peut aller jusqu'à vous satisfaire
Qu'aux dernières faveurs on ne pousse l'affaire?

Tartuffe in the same precious language says the only way he can be sure of the glory and kindness of her love is by having enjoyed it.
Je ne croirai rien que vous n'ayez, madame,
Par des réalités su convaincre ma flamme.

Elmire expresses her amazement at the tyranny with which his love controls his heart.  She asks if it is proper for him to take advantage of a weakness felt for him so forcibly
Quoi! de votre poursuite on ne peut se parera,
Et vous ne donnez pas le temps de respirer?
Sied-il bien de tenir une rigueur si grande,
Tartuffe insists nonetheless and Elmire eventually asks Tartuffe how he can reconcile his behaviour with his religion.
Mais comment consentir à ce que vous voulez 
Sans offenser le ciel, dont toujours vous parlez

Tartuffe finally reveals his true self. He says that
He can easily get round such a religious obstacle
Si ce n'est que le ciel qu'à mes vœux on oppose,
Lever un tel obstacle est à moi peu de chose,         
Et cela ne doit pas retenir votre cœur.

But Elmire says that she is fearful of the strictures of heaven
Tartuffe then explains in detail the casuistry used by some theologians to free people from the responsibility for their actions:
…………  et je sais l'art de lever les scrupules.
Le ciel défend, de vrai, certains contentements;
(C'est un scélérat qui parle.)
Mais on trouve avec lui des accommodements.

He tells her to fulfil his desires and leave the question of sin to him.

He asks Elmire why she is coughing so much.

Elmire explains that she has an extremely bad cold and Tartuffe agrees. 
He tells her that not only has her religious scruple no substance but that he can offer her total secrecy and sinning in silence is not sinning at all.
Et le mal n'est jamais que dans l'éclat qu'on fait.
Le scandale du monde est ce qui fait l'offense,
Ce n'est pas pécher que pécher en silence.

Elmire has one more coughing fit and when her husband still does not emerge from under the table she starts to conclude that Orgon needs her to go through with it to the end.

Elmire says that she is going to have to give Tartuffe everything since otherwise she will not be believed. 

She cannot pretend to be pleased to have come to this point and is not doing of her own will.  However, with some-one very obstinate and unwilling to believe without more convincing evidence, she has to make up her mind to give people what they want. 
Puisqu'on ne veut point croire à tout ce qu'on peut dire,
Et qu'on veut des témoins qui soient plus convaincants,
Il faut bien s'y résoudre et contenter les gens.        '

If the consent she is giving causes offence, too bad for whoever forces her to do it. The fault is certainly not hers.
Si ce consentement porte en soi quelque offense,  
Tant pis pour qui me force à cette violence :
La faute assurément n'en doit pas être à moi.

Tartuffe eagerly accepts responsibility to go ahead on these terms and Orgon makes no response from under the table.

Luckily, Elmire has the presence of mind to think of a pretext for stalling procedures. She asks Tartuffe to open the door of the room to check that her husband is not nearby.

Tartuffe says there is no need because he can fool Orgon, just as he wishes, so that he doesn’t believe his own eyes.
Qu'est-il besoin pour lui du soin que vous prenez?
C'est un homme, entre nous, à mener par le nez.
De tous nos entretiens il est pour faire gloire,
Et je l'ai mis au point de voir tout sans rien croire.

Elmire insists however and Tartuffe goes out to check.


When Tartuffe is out of the room, Orgon comes out from under the table.  He says that Tartuffe is an abominable man.
Voilà, je vous l'avoue, un abominable homme!
Je n'en puis revenir, et tout ceci m'assomme.

Orgon says that he had been so overwhelmed he had not been able to come out earlier.
Elmire with biting irony shows her impatience with her husband and asks why he hadn't let things go right on to the end.
Quoi! vous sortez si tôt? Vous vous moquez des gens.
Rentrez sous le tapis, il n'est pas encor temps;
Attendez jusqu'au bout pour voir les choses sûres

She hides Orgon behind her as Tartuffe reappears.

Tartuffe (not seeing Orgon) says with great satisfaction that everything is going his way.

Orgon shows himself and we can imagine the physical comedy in the shock displayed by Tartuffe.

Orgon justifies his delayed intervention by saying that it had taken him a long time to be convinced of the villainy of Tartuffe.
J'ai douté fort longtemps que ce fût tout de bon,
Et je croyais toujours qu'on changerait de ton ;

Elmire apologises for the trick that she has had to play on Tartuffe and says that she was forced to do it.
C'est contre mon humeur que j'ai fait tout ceci;
Mais on m'a mise au point de vous traiter ainsi

Tartuffe tries at first to use the same hypocritical routine that he had used in the morning to deceive Orgon, but the latter will not allow him any words and orders him out.

At this, Tartuffe reminds Orgon that the house belongs to him. (1558) He accuses them of trickery against him and says he will show them he is in control and can avenge heaven.
He will show
Qu'on n'est pas où l'on pense en me faisant injure,
Que j'ai de quoi confondre et punir l'imposture,
Venger le ciel qu'on blesse, et faire repentir
Ceux qui parlent ici de me faire sortir.


Orgon says that the gift of his property has now been made and he has also another big worry.
Orgon is anxious about a certain cassette and he wants to check that it is still upstairs.

End of Act IV

 The following is a serious scene as Cleante expresses the voice of reason, talking alone with Tartuffe.


Cléante makes a forceful Christian argument- forgiving those who trespass against us. This the argument of a true devout person.

Cléante wants a humane Christianity  He sees religion as reason in its most perfect form see Lettre sur l’Imposteur:
“La religion n’est  (pour Cléante) qu’une raison plus parfaite.

Tartuffe's hypocrisy is made blatant in his reply.








Cléante finds it inadmissible for people to claim to act with the authority of God. 1219 and argues that what people might wrongly construe about a good action is irrelevant.




Cléante now gets down to practical matters. He tells Tartuffe that he has no moral right to accept the gift of all Orgon's wealth and property.

Tartuffe’s deceitful justification for keeping Orgon’s wealth is that he does not wish it to get in the wrong hands!

Cléante has been totally frank and clear about his opinions
His final advice is strong: It is for Tartuffe to leave the house not Damis.

Tartuffe has no counter argument.

The next two scenes show the deeply sad situation on which this comedy is based.

Elmire, Mariane and Dorine come to ask for Cleante's help very urgently


The depth of Mariane's distress







Orgon’s character: His cruelty to his own daughter. The note above line 1293 is:

"se sentant attendrir"

but he resists these natural paternal feelings

Historical background
Note the rights of the father over his daughter, which Mariane acknowledges

(Difference between the truly devout and the falsely devout)

Orgon’s form of Christianity is inhumane making a virtue in suffering and self-abnegation for their own sake.

1313 Elmire roundly attacks her husband over his blind obsession for Tartuffe, so that he denies the fact of what happened toay


Elmire's calm had helped deceive Orgon into thinking that nothing serious had happened between his wife and Tartuffe

Historical background contemporary manners

Elmire's reactions show the relaxed morals in 17th century French society

Elmire's shows gentle tolerance of human failings, and has confidence in her control of the awkwardness caused by such situations.

Signs of Organ’s paranoia.


Elmire’s impatience with her husband.


It is Elmire alone who sets the trap for Tartuffe.



Elmire is a good judge of human psychology in sexual relationships -1357- perhaps from personal experience.

Elmire is decisive.  She takes control and makes her husband do what she says.

Elmire is not behaving like the lady we would expect of her.  However in a critical emergency, she has no other course.










Preparation for the future situation when Elvire is on the verge of being tartuffed! -   It will be for Orgon to emerge and stop proceedings.  (We will see how that works out!)



Comedy of Situation
Throughout the following scene, there is dramatic irony, as Tartuffe acts and speaks without knowing that Orgon is hidden under the table.


Historical background
1405. Courtesy of Elmire we get further insight into contemporary manners.

As mentioned above, in the contemporary code of love, the woman should not show her feelings too early.

1409 Tartuffe is not easily fooled





Tartuffe’s deduction is absolutely right about Elvira's motive. 1446



1447 in spite of his flowery language, Tartuffe's sexual intentions are clear.

Comedy of situation
Each cough of Elmire reminds the audience of the secondary action between Emire and her husband

Historical background - Preciosity

In the Précieux language of the time, “ma flamme” means “my love”












1479 When Elmire asks Tartuffe how he can reconcile what he wishes to do with her with the strictures of religion, Tartuffe allows his hypocrite’s mask to fall. 1481





1486 The Jansenists accused the Jesuits of “Casuistry” i.e, twisting arguments to get round moral strictures, when they prove inconvenient for important people.  Read Blaise Pascal’s “Lettres Provinciales”. 

Elmire’s cough comically reminds us of the husband under the table and the closeness she is getting to a climax - that she had never considered reaching..

Tartuffe’s frank statement of the principle of hypocrisy 1502 - 1504:
Virtue is purely a matter of appearances.

Comedy of physical action
Elmire has a final bad coughing fit. Things are getting very frantic.


Comedy of situation
Dramatic irony
Elmire’s next speech (1514 +) is addressed to the two men at the same time and to each it is a different message.  She is telling Tartuffe of her coming submission to his desires  but her main message is to her husband under the table to end this ordeal.



Elmire’s irritation with her
thick-headed husband (1517)




Elmire's presence of mind 1521




Comedy of situation - Dramatic irony 1524
The audience will be greatly amused at Tartuffe's expression of scorn for the gullibility of Orgon, knowing that he is hidden under the table.

Orgon’s laborious thought processes can’t cope with this, to him, totally unexpected development 1529






Elmire’s biting sarcasm against her slow-witted husband's refusal to accept what he was hearing under the table.






Orgon's excuse for having been so slow to react 1547



Elmire is a lady and regrets having to have needed to play this deceitful game.








Tartuffe has put his mask back on  and has the effrontery to accuse Orgon and family of imposture, asking them to repent from thoughts of throwing him out.




Orgon wants to run away, though he doesn't know where he can run to.

His wise brother-in-law, Cléante, wants to discuss the problem as a family. Orgon says that the cassette is the most serious aspect. The life of his friend, Argas, depends on the treasonable papers in the cassette.
Orgon had given the cassette to Tartuffe so that, if there was an inquiry,  Orgon could make a false statement that he didn't possess the cassette.  The idea for this deception had come fromTartuffe.

.. son raisonnement me vint persuader
De lui donner plutôt la cassette à garder,
Afin que pour nier, en cas de quelque enquête,
J'eusse d'un faux-fuyant la faveur toute prête,
Par où ma conscience eût pleine sûreté       `
A faire des serments contre la vérité

Cléante says Tartuffe had such a hold over him that Orgon should not have expelled him.

Orgon is angry about the deceit that had tricked him and now goes to the other extreme of blaming all religious men.
C'en est fait, je renonce à tous les gens de bien.
J'en aurai désormais une horreur effroyable

Cléante reproaches him.
Eh bien! ne voilà pas de vos emportements!
Vous ne gardez en rien les doux tempéraments;
Dans la droite raison jamais n'entre la vôtre,

Cléante says Orgon is now making a great mistake and makes a speech about the distinction between false men of religion and true men of religion.


Et qu'aveque le coeur d'un perfide vaurien /Vous confondiez les coeurs de tous les gens de bien.

Cléante tells him to leave it to the freethinkers to make sweeping condemnations of people of religion.  Again he advocates the golden mean of moderation in all things.
Laissez aux libertins ces sottes conséquences,
Démêlez la vertu avec ses apparences,
Ne hasardez jamais votre estime trop tôt,
Et soyez pour cela dans le milieu qu'il faut.

Cléante tells him not to do wrong to true piety and if Orgon must go to extremes he says it is better to err in the other direction rather than risk harming some truly pious person.

Damis enters and asks if it is true what he has heard about Tartuffe’s threat and abuse of their kindness.

Damis is as usual violent.  He says that it is up to him to dispose of him.
C'est à moi tout d'un coup de vous en affranchir;
Et, pour sortir d'affaire, il faut que je l'assomme

Cléante tells him that violence is out of place in contemporary life.
Modérez, s'il vous plaît, ces transports éclatants;
Nous vivons sous un règne et sommes dans un temps
Où par la violence on fait mal ses affaires.

ACT V - SCENE III       
Mme. Pernelle enters to find out about the mysterious news she has heard of her family.

Orgon describes how he gave Tartuffe everything and now Tartuffe has tried to seduce his wife and is now in the process of ruining him, thus reducing Orgon to the state of poverty, in which Orgon had found Tartuffe.

Dorine ironically adds the stock epithet for Tartuffe            :
Le pauvre homme!
Mme. Pernelle refuses to believe that Tartuffe wanted to do something so wrong. 

She says that good-living people are always picked on and repeats, what she said previously that the reason that the family hated Tartuffe was because of their irregular way of life
She repeats..
Que chez vous on vit d'étrange sorte,
Et qu'on ne sait que trop la haine qu'on lui porte.

Mme. Pernelle is deaf to Orgon as he repeatedly tells her that he had seen it with his own eyes, while she repeats that it is just malicious gossip.1670

When Orgon in exasperation asks if he has to tell her a hundred times that he saw it himself.  His mother tells him that appearances can deceive.
Mon Dieu! le plus souvent l'apparence déçoit
Il ne faut pas toujours juger sur ce qu'on voit.

She says he should have waited longer, before passing judgement.
At the height of his frustration, Orgon once again almost pronounces the rude word for Tartuffe’s potential deed.
Hé! diantre! le moyen de m'en assurer mieux?
Je devais donc, ma mère, attendre qu'à mes yeux
Il eût... Vous me feriez dire quelque sottise

Dorine is amused by the irony of Orgon frantically defending himself against a rigid attitude that had been his until very recently.
She says this is tit for tat. Orgon wouldn't believe them and now Mme. Pernelle won't believe him.
Juste retour, monsieur, des choses d'ici-bas
Vous ne vouliez point croire, et l'on ne vous croit pas.

Cléante says that they are wasting time and must decide what they are to do.

Elmire doubts that Tartuffe will show himself up by carrying out his threats, in the face of public knowledge  of his misdeeds.

However Cléante believes that Tartuffe will manage to justify himself and would have the support of the cabale,a sinister organization:
Ne vous y fiez pas; il aura des ressorts
Pour donner contre vous raison à ses efforts,
Et sur moins que cela le poids d'une cabale
Embarrasse les gens dans un fâcheux dédale.

Cléante tells Orgon that he should not have pushed Tartuffe so far, knowing what he could use against them.
Cléante hopes to negotiate some settlement with Tartuffe

Elmire says that if she had known Tartuffe was in control, she would not have done what she did.



M. Loyal enters (He is a stranger to the family.  Speaking to Dorine at the door he uses the language of a man of religion.)
Bonjour, ma chère sœur. Faites, je vous supplie,
Que je parle à monsieur.

He won’t give his name but claims that his errand is for the good of the family.
Je ne suis pas pour être en ces lieux importun.
Mon aborda n'aura rien, je crois, qui lui déplaise,
Et je viens pour un fait dont il sera bien aise.
He tells them he comes on behalf of Tartuffe. They are all puzzled but Orgon starts to hope that Tartuffe is seeking an amicable settlement.

In the sweetest manner M. Loyal introduces himself and then tells them he is a bailiff and he is there to carry out a court order.

Orgon starts to explode, but M. Loyal asks him to calm down as it is only a summons for Orgon and family to clear out, putting all their furniture outside, to make way for other people to move in immediately as the house belongs to Tartuffe.

Orgon can’t believe he has to leave his home

M. Loyal explains that M. Tartuffe is the true legal owner and he. M. Loyal, is in possession of the deeds.

Damis intervenes to threaten M. Loyal with a thrashing.  The latter orders Orgon to control his son, against whom he will make charges, if necessary.

Dorine in an aside makes a pun on the bailiff’s name:
Ce monsieur Loyal porte un air bien déloyal

M. Loyal hypocritically, says that he is doing this out of respect for them. He didn't want anybody less respectful to do the job,

Orgon asks what could be worse than ordering a man out of his own house.

M. Loyal tells them, as if it is a big concession that they don't have to move out until tomorrow. He will take the keys now and stay all night.
Ominously he adds that he has ten strong men with him to help out.
Mes gens vous aideront, et je les ai pris forts
Pour vous faire service à tout mettre dehors.

0rgon gets very angry and Cléante has to restrain him.

When Dorine recommends a few strokes of the walking stick on his worthy back, M. Loyal says the law can be used against women too.
1803 Dorine says.      
Avec un si bon dos, ma foi, monsieur Loyal,          
Quelques coups de bâton ne vous siéraient pas mal.

As he leaves, the pious hypocrite wishes them joy from heaven until they meet again.  Orgon does not reply in the same spirit:
1809 M. Loyal says
Jusqu'au revoir. Le ciel vous tienne tous en joie!
Orgon replies
Puisse-t-il te confondre, et celui qui t'envoie!


Now even Mme. Pernelle is convinced that Tartuffe is a scoundrel.

Dorine sarcastically plays the part that Orgon and Mme. Pernelle have played until now. She says that they have all misunderstood Tartuffe.
Il sait que très souvent les biens corrompent l'homme,
Et, par charité pure, il veut vous enlever
Elmire says that they must publicise Tartuffe's trickery to get society on their side.
Allez faire éclater l'audace de l'ingrat.
Ce procédé détruit la vertu du contrat;
Et sa déloyauté va paraître trop noire
Pour souffrira qu'il en ait le succès qu’on veut croire.

Orgon’s situation becomes even worse.

Valère, Mariane’s lover, arrives to tell them that he has heard from a friend at Court that Tartuffe has handed the casket with the evidence of treason over to the King.
As a result, an order has been issued for Orgon's arrest and Tartuffe is going to come along to their house with this order.         
Orgon in despair expresses his despair of the whole human race.
L'homme est, je vous l'avoue, un méchant animal.

Cléante sees that this is Tartuffe's way of making sure he gets Orgon's goods. 

Valère has already made arrangements for Orgon's escape from Paris and Orgon is saying his goodbyes when Tartuffe arrives with a royal police officer (Un exempt).



Tartuffe tells Orgon that he is not going to get very far to find refuge.  He is taking him prisoner on behalf of the King.  (NB the affectation in the 17th century of referring to the King as “Prince”.)

Orgon denounces him angrily for this final act of treachery.
Traître, tu me gardais ce trait pour le dernier! 
C'est le coup, scélérat, par où tu m'expédies,
Et voilà couronner toutes tes perfidies.

Tartuffe replies with his usual religious hypocrisy.
Vos injures n'ont rien à me pouvoir aigrir,
Et je suis pour le ciel appris à tout souffrir.

Cléante and Damis denounce him.
CLÉANTE condemns his extremism ( 1869):-
La modération est grande, je l'avoue!

However, Tartuffe has a new defence - that he is performing his patriotic duty to his King.
Then, even Mariane intervenes to tell him how inglorious his conduct is.

Tartuffe boasts that his mission is glorious, because he is acting for the greatest power in the land.

Organ reminds him of the personal gratitude that Tartuffe owes to him

Tartuffe replies sanctimoniously to Organ.   This time, however, he is talking of his total devotion not to his God but to his King, for whom, he proclaims, he would sacrifice everything and everyone including himself.
De ce devoir sacré la juste violence
Étouffe dans mon cour toute reconnaissance,
Et je sacrifierais à de si puissants nœuds
Amis, femme, parents, et moi-même avec eux.

Elmire denounces him as an imposter 1885 L’imposteur! 
Dorine says Tartuffe can cloak himself in all the things which people revere. (ie his God/ his monarch).
Comme il sait de traîtresse manière!
Se faire un beau manteau de tout ce qu’on révère

Cléante, with his persistent logic has two questions to ask of Tartuffe:
(1) Why did he only denounce Orgon once he had been caught seducing the wife.

(2) And after hewas driven out of Organ's house?
(3) Why did he have to take all of Organ's goods, if loyalty to the King was his only concern?

Tartuffe refuses to argue and tells the Exempt to carry out his duty.

The plot now takes a dramatic and unexpected twist
When the Exempt steps forward and speaks for the first time. He tells the people present, that the person whom he has to arrest and  take to prison is Tartuffe not Orgon. (1901)

Tartuffe, stunned, questions the Exempt who says that it is to Orgon that his explanation is due.
The speech by the Exempt is full of praise for the discernment and moderation of the King.
Nous vivons sous un prince ennemi de la fraude,
Un prince dont les yeux se font jour dans les cœurs,
Et que ne peut tromper tout l'art des imposteurs.
D'un fin discernement sa grande âme pourvue
Sur les choses toujours jette une droite vue;
Chez elle jamais rien ne surprend trop' d'accès,
Et sa ferme raison ne tombe en nul excès.
The king distinguishes the truly devout from the false
Il donne aux gens de bien une gloire immortelle,
Mais sans aveuglement il fait briller ce zèle,
Et l’amour pour les vrais ne ferme pas son cœur
A tout ce que les faux doivent donner d’horreur

 The Exempt explains the reason for the King’s surprise decision.

By clever questioning the King had discovered that Tartuffe was a famous criminal using a false name.
Venant vous accuser, il s'est trahi lui-même
Et, par un juste trait de l'équité suprême,
S'est découvert au prince un fourbe renommé
Dont sous un autre nom il était informé;

It was the King’s wish that the Exempt should be present at Orgon’s house so that it would be seen to what extreme Tartuffe would push his crimes.

The King had taken action to restore to Organ the money and property that he had made over to Tartuffe.

Also the King had pardoned Organ's offence in hiding his friend’s casket because Organ had been loyal to the King during the revolutionary years of “La Fronde”.

The Exempt says that the King in his wisdom knows how to reward people for their good deeds and he remembers, rather than the wrong, the good that people do.
Pour montrer que son cœur sait, quand moins on y pense, D'une bonne action verser la récompense,
Que jamais le mérite avec lui ne perd rien,
Et que mieux que du mal il se souvient du bien,

The Exempt says the King admires the true and hates the insincere.
Organ is about to rage at Tartuffe but Cléante says the true Christian wishes instead for the redemption of the wicked.

Souhaitez bien plutôt que son cœur, en ce jour,
Au sein de la vertu fasse un heureux retour,
Qu'il corrige sa vie en détestant son vice
Cléante tells Orgon to go and thank the King.

Tartuffe is silent and defeated.

Orgon says he will do these things.   His immediate priority is to give Mariane’s hand in marriage to Valere.
Aux justes soins d'un autre il nous faudra pourvoir,
Et par un doux hymen couronner en Valère
La flamme d'un amant généreux et sincère.

N.B. The affair of the/cassette heightens the drama as it increases the tension in this unhappy family. The evil imposture of Tartuffe has led them into this most menacing situation.

The affair of the cassette also allows Moliere to bring an intervention by the King into his play and gives Moliere the opportunity to make a number of extremely flattering references to the Louis XIV, on occasion present in the audience.

Tartuffe’s persuasion of Orgon to hand over the casket had drawn on Jesuit casuistry.  He told Orgon how to convey an untruth without actually telling a lie. 1587

There are some critics who find the “raisonneurs” in Moliere’s plays somewhat tiresome.  The first remarks made by Cleante1593- 1600 might seem a somewhat pointless piece of being wise after the event.

Reminding us whom Damis takes after, Orgon’s first response was anger 1604.

Cléante (1609) the reasonable man always advised reason i.e. commonsense

The truly devout

Cleante’s sermon on "true" religion1609 - 1628 is inappropriate at this dramatic moment of the play, but Moliere thought it necessary to defend his motives in writing the play, having come under attack from some sections of the Church.


 Yet again, Cleante (1624) recommends the “golden mean” – "le milieu qu’il faut".





Damis enters 1629 , perhaps comic in his predictability of character. 
He wants to solve the situation by beating somebody up.

Historical background
1629 It is true that Louis, like his father, Louis XIII tried to stop dueling, which was killing hundreds of young noblemen.  However, many historians would dispute Moliere's association of his King with non-violence. Certainly as Louis XIV’s reign progressed so did his bigotry and intolerance and the Terror which he used to eradicate the Huguenots and other ideological opponents in France is deemed to have surpassed in ferocity even that of the French Revolution.

Dorine can’t resist a joke, at Mme Pernelle’s expense, at the darkest of moments (1657)

Mme Pernelle- stubborn and closed-minded like her son, still refuses to accept the truth about Tartuffe.









Dramatic Irony  We have already seen the dangerous folly of those who refuse to see the obvious evidence before their eyes.

Comedy of language
This very grave moment is lightened by Orgon finding himself almost using the rude word ..... (1690) for the deed recently intended by Tartuffe with Elmire.

Comedy of situation –Dramatic irony (1695)
A case of the biter bit.  Orgon would not believe his family about Tartuffe.  Now he suffers the same from his mother.

Cléante (1697)needs to keep the family focused on solving the immense problem.

Elmire has faith in the civilized values of high society

Cléante (1703)rightly believes that people like Tartuffe do not act alone.  He talks of a Cabale.

Historical Background
The “Cabale des Dévots was another name given to La Compagnie du Saint Sacrement.



Elmire regrets that her trick on Tartuffe has come to this


Historical Background
M. Loyal is another member of the Cabal.  His manner is similar to that of Tartuffe and his phrase:“Ma chère soeur” is a contemporary greeting by such men of religion to a woman..


Comedy of character
The contrast between M. Loyal’s sweet words (1720 onwards) and his very harsh actions is totally ludicrous.










Damis (1767)responds as always with threats of extreme violence

Dorine’s wit (1772)
She make a pun on M. Loyal’s name

M. Loyal is another scoundrel with an hypocritical religious exterior.(1773 - 1778)










Dorine  (1803) The down to earth servant shows M. Loyal only the amount of respect that he is due to.




M. Loyal, (1809) like Tartuffe hides his malice under the cloak of religion.


When Mme Pernelle finally accepts the truth about Tartuffe, Dorine (1815) enjoys some more irony by pretending  he has taken everything they had only for their own good.

Elmire (1825) still has hope in winning over public opinion.












Orgon (1847) is always extreme in his reactions, but he has had a big dose of bad luck (and bad judgement) all the same!


In truth, from the dictatorship of 17th Century France a lot of people chose to escape, but Moliere would not deliberately mention that to his patron, the King.

The new Character, who accompanies Tartuffe is L'Exempt, a royal police officer does not speak at first, leaving Tartuffe to announce the arrest of Orgon for treason against the King.





Tartuffe (1867)is still wearing the mask of a hypocrite., saying that he will not allow himself to be embittered by Orgon's insults

Cleante sees Tartuffe’s brand of religion as offending his principles of moderation (1869)

Tartuffe's new higher loyalty; To the he King (1880)

It was Organ who had voiced to Cléante these same sentiments of submission to a higher loyalty in Act I Scene V (277- 280). Then he had said he would sacrifice his loyalty to his family to a higher loyalty.  Then the loyalty had been religion. Now (1881)Tartuffe uses the same terms with respect of loyalty to the King.

Elmire calls Tartuffe "the Imposter". (1885)Note that “L’Imposteur". is the second title of this play.

Dorine’s well-stated judgement (1886) shows her to be more than just an ordinary family maid

Here Cléante is strongly asserting his role as the defender of reason



When abslute authority reigns, there is no call for explanations.

A sudden surprise for the audience as the plot of the play takes a totally unexpected twist
The dramatic representation
: We can imagine the range of emotion onstage at this surprise revelation

The historical background
Previously in the play the authority in question has been that of religion, but now it is the supreme power in the land, the French Monarch,  His power is enhanced by his role as head of the Catholic Church in France, in defiance, when necessary of the Pope

There is a prolonged hymn of praise for Louis XIV from 1907 -1945, which to modern audiences reveals the obsequiousness due to absolute rulers of whatever kind.

The Deus ex machina
In terms of dramatic history, this last-minute intervention is a long established device.  When the action of the play is about to end as total disaster  (as here) in Classical plays, it was common for a “god” to be lowered on the stage machinery to make a sudden turn-around in the fate of the actors, this is therefore the "deus ex machina". This term is still used in dramatic theory when a play ends with a dramatc twist for which there is no preparation , even when no God or stage machinery is involved.

Sycophancy to the King

(1941 +) was a feature of the court of Louis XIV, the "Sun King."



Cléante (1951) is charitable and forgiving. (Some people may find him a bit sanctimonious here !)





(NB The plot of the play was the stock theme of an opposed marriage. The marriage is now approved and the play ends happily).