Literature Study GuidesTartuffeAct 5 Scenes 4 5 Summary

Tartuffe | Study Guide


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Tartuffe | Act 5, Scenes 4–5 | Summary



Act 5, Scene 4

Monsieur Loyal has come with news from Tartuffe—news he says will make Orgon "most content." Feeling hopeful, Orgon invites him to speak. Monsieur Loyal is a bailiff and is there to evict them. Orgon and his family are to leave immediately. When the family seems unwilling, he gives them until the next day. He and his men will stay the night and help the family remove their furniture from the house in the morning. Cléante takes the order from Monsieur Loyal and tells him to leave.

Act 5, Scene 5

Madame Pernelle is now convinced of Tartuffe's "villainy." Cléante urges them to "take some action," but Elmire has the only suggestion: They should "tell the world of [Tartuffe's] low trick" and rely on public outrage to save them.


Molière's use of the character Monsieur Loyal is another instance of verbal irony. In Act 5, Scene 4 Dorine points out the disconnection between the bailiff's name and demeanor by commenting that he is a "most disloyal sort." Monsieur Loyal says he volunteered for this duty because of previous service to Orgon's father and "dear" feelings he holds for the family. However, the audience can't help but wonder whether he isn't using this opportunity to avenge some slight. Whatever the reason, like his name, his words can't be believed. Whatever he says is the opposite of what is true. For instance, he announces his "news will make [Orgon] most content." Since he has brought an eviction notice, it's hard to see how contentment can be the outcome for Orgon. He greets Orgon by saying "May Heaven confound / Your enemies, and may your joys abound." However, he comes in the name of Orgon's sole enemy, Tartuffe, to bring sorrow to the entire household. When he says he'll offer "a short reprieve," it turns out that means the family must not leave immediately but early the next morning. He and his men will stay the night and help them move. He states this as if it were a friendly offer when in reality it is a threat.

The entire family is outraged and its members are well on the way to getting themselves arrested for threatening the bailiff; only Cléante can contain himself and behave relatively calmly. Still, he has no advice for how to get out of the situation Orgon has created by falling for Tartuffe's con. Elmire is the only one with a suggestion: to throw themselves on the mercy of the public. At the end of Scene 5, things look pretty hopeless. The only positive outcome is family unity in their recognition of Tartuffe's malevolence.

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