Literature Study GuidesTartuffeAct 2 Scenes 1 2 Summary

Tartuffe | Study Guide

Molière

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Tartuffe | Act 2, Scenes 1–2 | Summary

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Summary

Act 2, Scene 1

After checking to make sure no one is eavesdropping on their conversation, Orgon tells Mariane he wants her to marry Tartuffe. She tries to refuse.

Act 2, Scene 2

Their private conversation is interrupted by Dorine, who at first pretends Orgon has been joking. When he insists he's serious, she tries to talk him out of it. Next she tries flattering him, then reasoning with him. Tartuffe is an inappropriate choice for Mariane, she suggests, because he is too busy praying and he's poor. But Orgon intends to help restore Tartuffe's former wealth and estates, which he claims Tartuffe lost "Because he cared for heaven alone." Dorine next appeals to Orgon's love for his daughter, pointing out how miserable she will be and that such a marriage may well drive her to sin. Orgon is offended and tells Mariane to "disregard this dunderhead." He explains he has lost faith in Valère; he has heard Valère gambles, and he doesn't see the young man in church very often. Dorine defends Valère, and Orgon shushes her. But she keeps interrupting before he can speak further to Mariane. Dorine insists she is arguing with Orgon out of love for him. He orders her to be quiet, but she continues speaking, though now in biting asides. Finally, Orgon threatens to slap Dorine if she utters "one more bit of impudence"; he positions himself in front of her with his hand poised to strike. As soon as he turns to Mariane to say she must do as he says, Dorine moves away and comments, "I'd not wed such a monster, even in jest." Orgon strikes, but his hand meets only air. He is so upset by the altercation with Dorine he must "calm [himself] by going for a walk."

Analysis

When Act 2 begins, the audience learns Damis was right: Orgon has decided Mariane will not marry Valère. Instead, she is to marry Tartuffe. Orgon is not so far gone that he will just announce this openly. Instead, he meets with his daughter alone to try to convince her to consent to marry his houseguest. His concern about being overheard is indicated by his checking for eavesdroppers. It is likely he knows there are valid legal concerns attached to his change of mind. In the mid-1600s when a couple became engaged, the agreement was considered legally binding, and at about that time the first common law suits for breach of promise took place. The French state officially regarded marriage as a civil contract—part of the struggle for power between the French state and the Church. The official engagement would take place in front of witnesses, often including lawyers. However, since parental consent was also officially required, it is unlikely Mariane could marry Valère if Orgon withdrew his consent. At the same time, the Church insisted the partners in a marriage must consent to it freely, which is doubtless one reason Orgon would try to convince Mariane to consent to marry Tartuffe, as he does in Act 2, Scenes 1 and 2.

Mariane appeared in two scenes in Act 1, Scenes 1 and 3. In Scene 1 she said two words—"I think"; they were addressed to her grandmother, who immediately talked over the young woman. In Scene 3 Mariane was seen but not heard. In Act 2, Scene 1 Mariane is alone with her father and answers him, but although she is honest with Orgon, she avoids any direct confrontation. For instance, rather than say she does not want to marry Tartuffe, she first feigns incomprehension of Orgon's wishes and then asks why he would want her to "say what isn't so." She is the epitome of the dutiful and demure daughter, and her passivity forces her to rely on others to fight for her.

It is Dorine who steps up to argue Mariane's case. As a result, in Act 2, Scene 2 Mariane is again little more than a stage prop. The stage directions do not even suggest her reactions to the conversation between Orgon and Dorine. It is as if Dorine were Mariane's interior voice, saying the things Mariane won't say for herself. Her chain of reactions and tactics follow much the same order that Mariane's thoughts must: from incredulity to logical persuasion to emotional pleas to angry sarcasm. Seen as Mariane's thoughts, it is easy to understand Dorine daring to say to Orgon that she is arguing with him out of love for him.

Nevertheless, Dorine need not be seen as Mariane's alter ego. In the 17th century, it was recommended that a man treat his servants as family. In 1664 an anonymous Englishman wrote a book of advice to his son that included this passage:

Reckon thy servants among thy children; the difference is only in degrees; ... cast him not off in old age, when he hath spent himself in thy service; a faithful servant does well deserve to be accounted amongst thy friends.

Even though Dorine is a servant, Orgon might well have treated her with indulgence up until now and earned a sort of daughterly love from her.

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