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Tartuffe | Act 2, Scenes 3–4 | Summary

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Summary

Act 2, Scene 3

After Orgon goes, Dorine turns on Mariane and demands to know why she didn't defend herself. Does she want to marry Tartuffe? But Mariane has "bowed so long to Father's strict control" she cannot stand up to him now despite her love for Valère. Dorine soon tires of Mariane's refusal to fight back and tells her she "deserve[s] to be tartuffified." At last Dorine relents and agrees to devise "some plan of action." They are interrupted by Valère's arrival.

Act 2, Scene 4

Valère has gotten wind of Orgon's plan to marry Mariane to Tartuffe, and Mariane admits she has just learned of it. When he asks what her position is on the matter, she says she doesn't know. Valère advises her to marry Tartuffe, and Mariane says she will take his advice. Watching from a distance, Dorine wonders "which fool will prove the stubborner." Valère says he knows where to find another woman who will offer "kinder treatment," and Mariane encourages him to do so. Soon he is about to leave. Dorine grabs him and drags him back. She takes their hands in hers and joins them. Eventually their emotions soften, and they listen to Dorine's plan: Mariane will agree to marry Tartuffe but will invent delays so the marriage does not take place. In the meantime Valère will plead their case to Orgon's friends, and Dorine will enlist Elmire's help. Now that they've reconciled, it's all Dorine can do to get the lovers to separate.

Analysis

The conversation between Mariane and Dorine in Act 2, Scene 3 is much like an interior monologue. At first, one advocates one course of action, and the other argues for another. In the second half of the scene, it is as if Mariane is angry with herself, picturing the horrors of marriage to Tartuffe and then despairing. For Mariane, clearly, it is the habit of a lifetime to obey her father. She is young and has never had to fight for what she wants. As frustrating as Mariane's hesitance and inaction is for Dorine, who is a woman of clear insight and decisive action, she is willing to help.

When Valère arrives, the situation gets no better. Like his fiancée Valère is young and insecure. Neither wants to appear selfish or weak, which is why neither will demand the other's affections. This scene might easily take place in a sitcom today, with both partners unwilling to be the first to show weakness and need. It's too easy to get hurt. Because neither is willing to take the necessary first step to remain together, it begins to look as if they are destined to be apart. Fortunately for Mariane and Valère, Dorine is outside of the situation and sees it clearly. She devises a plan and expects it to be set in motion immediately.

It is worth noting these three young people must be roughly the same age. It is unlikely Mariane's maid would be much older than she. Despite Dorine's lack of years, being on the outside of a situation makes it easier to judge it.

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