So, on one hand we've got Tartuffe. He acts like a moral authority while doing tons of immoral and unethical things: he lies, steals, blackmails, attempts to commit adultery…the list goes on and on. On the other hand, we have Cléante. He has a handle on these sorts of matters, and he's not afraid to share his opinions. He explains to Orgon why Tartuffe is full of lies, and he confronts Tartuffe personally whenever he gets the chance. Those two throw their weight around, but they're not the only ones with an opinion or two. When you encounter Elmire and Dorine, be sure to watch them carefully.
Questions About Morality and Ethics
- Tartuffe is, in a way, an exposé of religious hypocrisy; but are there any other moral lessons we can take away from the play?
- Orgon's decision to hide Argas' sensitive documents is certainly not ethical, but his actions are motivated by friendship and loyalty? Should we praise Orgon for what he does or look down on him.
- Cléante certainly has a lot to say about morality, about doing the right thing, as it were, but we never actually see him do anything. Does his understanding of morality prevent him from helping Orgon in the same way that Dorine and Elmire – both of whom have no probably bending the rules – are capable of doing?
Chew on This
In Tartuffe, we learn that, though there are some cases where right and wrong are clearly defined, more often than not we find ourselves in a gray area between the two extremes.
However light and humorous Tartuffe may be, Molière has a real interest in teaching his audience about right and wrong.