Tartuffe enters the room, having been called in by Dorine.
He tells Dorine to cover her bosom. "The flesh is weak," he says, and such displays can endanger the soul (3.2.7).
Dorine tells Tartuffe that Elmire is coming down to see him; he's very excited.
Tartuffe greets Elmire when she enters the room and inquires about her health. He's very happy to hear that she's feeling better.
Elmire tells him that she has a "private matter" to discuss with him. Tartuffe tells her that he's prayed for this moment (3.3.10-11). He also makes it clear that his "constant visits" were motivated by "a pure and deep devotion" (3.3.13).
Tartuffe attempts to hold Elmire's hand, but he only succeeds in pinching her. He then tries to put his hand on her knee; when she asks him what he's doing, Tartuffe tells her that he's feeling the wonderful fabric of her dress. At this point, Elmire begins to draw her chair away from Tartuffe, and he moves along with her. He even goes so far as to touch the collar of her dress.
Elmire asks Tartuffe if he's spoken to Orgon about the possibility of marrying Mariane.
He confirms that he's heard something about it, but that he really wants something different.
Elmire takes this to mean that he doesn't care for earthly things, but Tartuffe tries to explain that no, he's actually quite interested in them.
At this point, he openly declares his love for Elmire, and tells her how alluring she is in a dozen different ways.
Elmire asks Tartuffe if he is afraid that she will tell Orgon about his confession, but he barely blinks an eye. He continues to talk about her beauty, and tell her how he, however holy he may be, is capable of more…human love.
Once again, Elmire asks Tartuffe if he's afraid she'll tell Orgon about his confession but, as before, he doesn't seem to care.
Elmire tells Tartuffe that she'll keep quiet if he tells Orgon to let Mariane marry Valère, but Damis leaps from the closet before she can finish her sentence.
Tartuffe keeps silent as Damis and Elmire argue about the best course of action. When Damis ends up telling Orgon what's just happened – Orgon just happens to be passing through – Tartuffe waits patiently until he's asked if the allegations are true.
Tartuffe admits that everything Damis has told him is, in fact, correct.
He tells Orgon to believe his son and confesses that he is a hypocrite and a sinner.
Tartuffe begs Damis to give him the punishment that he deserves.
When Orgon begins to yell at Damis, Tartuffe sticks up for him; at this point, Orgon praises Tartuffe for his great charity.
After Orgon disinherits Damis and kicks him out of the house, he turns to console Tartuffe.
Tartuffe asks Orgon to forgive Damis, but he also acts as though he's been hurt by Damis's accusations; the longer he speaks, the more choked up he acts. His performance brings Orgon to tears. He tells Orgon that the best thing for him to do would be to leave, but Orgon won't let him. Tartuffe continues to protest until Orgon insists that he must remain in the house and promises to make him his only heir.
Tartuffe doesn't protest when he hears this.
Cléante asks Tartuffe how he could possibly accept Damis's inheritance. Shouldn't a Christian be able to forgive and forget, he asks.
Tartuffe comes up with all sorts of justifications – it's heavens will, it would look suspicious, etc. – and leaves without giving Cléante a good answer.
When Elmire attempts to "seduce" Tartuffe, he's understandably suspicious. He can't believe that she really wants him after denying him so firmly.
Tartuffe asks Elmire for some proof of her affection; he needs hard evidence before he can believe her. Elmire does her best to stall him, and eventually sends him outside the room to look for eavesdroppers.
At this point, Orgon comes out from under the table and talks to Elmire. Before he can get back into hiding, Tartuffe reenters.
In the ensuing confrontation, Orgon tells Tartuffe to leave the house immediately. Tartuffe does so, but not before reminding Elmire and Orgon that he has the deed to the house.
As he exits, he promises to give them the punishment they deserve.
Tartuffe shows up at Orgon's house with a police officer. He tells Orgon that he's sold him out to the King, using the sensitive documents from the strong box as evidence.
Cléante attempts to reason with him, but Tartuffe won't listen.
When Tartuffe tells the officer to arrest Orgon, however, the officer arrests him instead. The officer goes on to tell Orgon and Co. that Tartuffe is a known criminal, and that the King saw through his scheme in a second.
Orgon begins to insult Tartuffe, but Cléante makes him stop, telling him to hope for his redemption instead.