Course Hero. "Tartuffe Study Guide." Course Hero. 3 Nov. 2017. Web. 17 Nov. 2018. <https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Tartuffe/>.
Course Hero. (2017, November 3). Tartuffe Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved November 17, 2018, from https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Tartuffe/
(Course Hero, 2017)
Course Hero. "Tartuffe Study Guide." November 3, 2017. Accessed November 17, 2018. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Tartuffe/.
Course Hero, "Tartuffe Study Guide," November 3, 2017, accessed November 17, 2018, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Tartuffe/.
In the first scene, Dorine bluntly tells Orgon's mother, Madame Pernelle, exactly what she thinks of Tartuffe. In doing so, she puts her finger on the primary conflict in the play. The old woman and her son have been taken in by the con artist, but Orgon's family and Dorine have not. Tartuffe may pray ostentatiously in church and in Orgon's home, but true piety does not proclaim itself. Dorine and the others are sure he has some ulterior motive in mind. Tartuffe's motive will become clear and bring the family to the brink of ruin.
My mother, children, brother, and wife could die, / And I'd not feel a ... moment's pain.
Orgon has been so taken in by Tartuffe he has pushed aside his feelings for his family. In becoming a disciple of the supposedly pious Tartuffe, Orgon has put aside all natural feelings for his family. In effect, he has become inhuman and monstrous.
In the 1600s French fathers ruled their households just as the king ruled France—with absolute power. As a result, Mariane has been subject to her father's will all her life. This has left her almost entirely unable to contradict him, much less stand up for her own wishes. Here she explains her reticence to Dorine, who wants Mariane to fight for her right to marry the man she loves—and not to marry a man she abhors.
Dorine tries to get Mariane to gather her strength and fight for Valère by implying she doubts Mariane's love for him. She suggests that if Mariane won't fight, she must really want to marry Tartuffe, and they deserve each other. Tartuffe's hold over Orgon influences several characters: Orgon betrays Mariane by telling her to jilt Valère and marry Tartuffe; Mariane betrays Valère by doing her father's bidding. As will be seen, Valère is then too proud to beg; he almost betrays Mariane by accepting her lack of decisiveness. But Dorine has the strong heart required and will do all she can to make sure her mistress and Valère marry.
My keen concern for my good name insures / The absolute security of yours.
With these words Tartuffe's passionate and poetic declaration of love to Elmire comes to a mercenary end. He's covering all his bases. If she doesn't fall into his arms immediately after hearing all his flattery, he wants to make sure she realizes that succumbing will not make her the center of scandal. Because he must maintain his own reputation, hers is also safe. This is telling—Tartuffe really doesn't care about her reputation at all; he cares only about his own.
After Damis accuses Tartuffe of trying to seduce Elmire, Tartuffe uses reverse psychology to convince Orgon it never happened. He claims he's happy to accept the blame since he's guilty of so many sins. He doesn't explicitly confess to the sin he has really committed; in fact, he implies he didn't do it. In this way he seems conciliatory and forgiving.
Don't be deceived by hollow shows; / I'm far ... from being what men suppose.
Here, Tartuffe tells Orgon the absolute truth, but his great show of humility makes the truth sound false. It is another example of his effective use of reverse psychology to manipulate Orgon. Tartuffe confesses guilt to appear innocent; he offers to leave so he'll be invited to stay; he forgives Damis so Orgon won't forgive the boy. Orgon is completely convinced by all Tartuffe's "hollow shows."
Come, we'll go draw up the deed. / Then let them burst with disappointed greed!
Fooled once again by Tartuffe, Orgon signs all his property and wealth over to the con man. He does this to prove his devotion to Tartuffe and to spite his family for not joining him in his misguided hero worship. Because he is someone who acts in haste and repents at leisure, he does this without thinking of the real consequences: It is not only his family who will suffer for their rudeness to Orgon's dear houseguest, but also Orgon himself.
Despite his claim that his family means nothing to him, Orgon feels himself weakening in the face of Mariane's desperate pleas not to force her to marry Tartuffe. She begs to be allowed to go to a convent instead. This is such a cliché it gives Orgon the strength to turn the idea of marriage to Tartuffe into another sort of religious life. She can suffer for God by marrying the man she so detests. After all, Orgon believes Tartuffe is a godly man and marriage to him will be good for her soul.
When Orgon continues to insist Mariane marry Tartuffe, Elmire is moved to be stern with her husband. She doesn't understand how he can ignore the reports of Tartuffe's aggression toward her despite Damis's and her own eyewitness accounts. She wants Orgon to see for himself so he will realize he has been wrong about Tartuffe all this time.
Amorous men are gullible. Their conceit / So blinds them that they're never hard to cheat.
With these words Elmire puts her finger on Tartuffe's one vulnerability. She knows he desires her, and she will use that to her advantage. She also knows Tartuffe believes himself utterly irresistible and will use this to her advantage. Their second meeting, when she tricks the schemer into betraying his true nature to Orgon, is actually a turning point in the play for both men. Orgon sees the truth, and Tartuffe takes the first step toward his downfall.
True to form, after Tartuffe has bilked him of his fortune, Orgon decides never to be taken in again by apparent piety and has turned on all overtly religious people. Cléante offers him this advice: to wrongly think ill of everyone is a much greater injustice than to wrongly think well of one person. In so saying, Cléante demonstrates a much truer form of forgiveness than that ostensibly practiced by Tartuffe.
Dorine states the issue succinctly by pointing out that Madame Pernelle's refusal to believe Orgon's eyewitness account of Tartuffe's actions parallels his earlier distrust. His entire family tried to convince him of the truth about Tartuffe, but he would have none of it. Now he knows how they felt.
All that we most revere, he uses / To cloak his plots and camouflage his ruses.
Dorine points out the method Tartuffe uses to perpetrate his frauds: He takes what matters to his selected target—duty to God or to the king—and uses it as a front. When Orgon asks Tartuffe how he can treat him so badly after Orgon treated him so well, Tartuffe claims it's his duty to Heaven and to his king. In this display of hypocrisy he cloaks his plot in both religion and patriotic duty.
[The king's] zeal for virtue is not blind, / Nor does his love of piety ... make him [tolerate] hypocrites.
Tartuffe ends happily through the intercession of the king, who saw through Tartuffe immediately and recognized him as a wanted criminal. This is made known in a messenger speech by the police officer who accompanied Tartuffe to Orgon's house. In the king's name, the police officer arrests Tartuffe, pardons Orgon for his association with a political exile, and restores Orgon's wealth and property. He also praises the king at length for his piety, intelligence, and just and forgiving nature. Through this deus ex machina, the seemingly insurmountable problems faced by Orgon and his family are resolved.
At the same time, Moliere seems to be making a tongue-in-cheek comment about the length of time (five years) it took Louis XIV to see through the hypocrites pressuring to retain the ban on public performances of Tartuffe.