Study Guide

Tartuffe Quotes

  • Hypocrisy

    Damis:
    "Good God! Do you expect me to submit
    To the tyranny of that carping hypocrite?
    Must we forgo all joys and satisfactions
    Because that bigot censures all our actions?" (1.1.18)

    Damis comes right out and says what everyone is thinking. He drops the H-bomb mere minutes/pages into the play.

    Dorine:
    "You see him as a saint. I'm far less awed;
    In fact, I see right through him. He's a fraud." (1.1.23)

    This notion of "seeing right through" is an important one. Hypocrisy is a way of hiding one's own faults. In this case, Tartuffe doesn't seem to be doing such a great job of hiding his.

    Dorine:
    "Those who have greatest cause for guilt and shame
    Are quickest to besmirch a neighbor's name.
    [...]
    By talking up their neighbour's indiscretions
    They seek to camouflage their own transgressions" (1.1.31)

    Dorine lays out a simple motive for hypocrisy; it's a means by which one's own wrongs can ignored or swept under the rug.

    Cléante:
    "There's a vast difference, so it seems to me,
    Between true piety and hypocrisy:
    How do you fail to see it, may I ask?
    Is not a face quite different from a mask?" (1.5.9)

    Cléante is right that there is a big difference between true piety and hypocrisy, but he seems unable to acknowledge that sometimes even big differences can be hard to see.

    Tartuffe (Observing Dorine, and calling to his manservant offstage):
    "Hang up my hair-shirt, put my scourge in place,
    And pray, Laurent, for Heaven's perpetual grace.
    I'm going to the prison now, to share
    My last few coins with the poor wretches there."

    Dorine (Aside):
    "Dear God, what affectation! What a fake!" (2.2.1-2)

    You don't need Dorine to tell you what a fraud Tartuffe is. He asks Laurent to put away his hair-shirt and scourge, instruments used to humble a person before God, in order that he might look holier in Dorine's eyes.

    Tartuffe:
    "But soon, fair being, I became aware
    That my deep passion could be made to square
    With rectitude, and with my bounden duty." (3.3.27)

    While Tartuffe is able to square his passion (lust for Elmire) with his rectitude, there's no doubt he would allow anyone else that kind of free pass. He, like any hypocrite, can always justify his own actions – even though, here, he does not let us know what his justification is.

    Tartuffe:
    "Yes, brother, I'm a wicked man, I fear:
    A wretched sinner, all depraved and twisted,
    The greatest villain that has ever existed.
    […]
    Believe what you are told, and drive Tartuffe
    Like some base criminal from beneath your roof;
    Yes, drive me hence, and with a parting curse:
    I shan't protest, for I deserve far worse."

    Orgon (To Damis):
    "Ah, you deceitful boy, how dare you try
    To stain his purity with so foul a lie?" (3.6.2-3)

    Ironically, the one and only time Tartuffe actually tells the truth, he does so in order to trick Orgon once more. Unfortunately, his trick works.

    Tartuffe:
    "How can you know what I might do, or be?
    Is it on my good actions that you base
    Your favor? Do you trust my pious face?
    Ah, no, don't be deceived by hollow shows;
    I'm far, alas, from being what men suppose;" (3.6.6)

    Tartuffe's advice to Orgon is quite similar to Cléante's. If there's one thing you can trust Tartuffe to know, it's the ins and outs of hypocrisy. After all, he's got a lot of experience with them.

    Tartuffe:
    "God knows what people would think! Why they'd describe
    My goodness to him as a sort of bribe;
    They'd say that out of guilt I made pretense
    of loving-kindness and benevolence." (4.1.2)

    In order to justify his treatment of Damis, Tartuffe tells Orgon that he simply can't forgive him…because if he did, people might think he were a hypocrite.

    Cléante:
    "Why weren't you moved to give your evidence
    Until your outraged host had driven you hence?
    I shan't say that the gift of all his treasure
    Ought to have damped your zeal in any measure;
    But if he is a traitor, as you declare,
    How could you condescend to be his heir?"

    Tartuffe (To the Officer):
    "Sir, spare me all this clamor; it's growing shrill." (5.7)

    Tartuffe has no answer for Cléante's allegations, and with good reason: Cléante has just pointed out as flagrant a case of hypocrisy as any. Tartuffe, who claims to be a moral man, is willing to be the heir of a supposedly immoral person. It's a real "gotcha" moment.

  • Foolishness and Folly

    Madame Pernelle:
    "Children, I take my leave much vexed in spirit.
    I offer good advice but you won't hear it.
    You all break in and chatter on and on.
    It's like a madhouse with the keeper gone." (1.1.5)

    Madame Pernelle considers Orgon's family to be mad; as we find out, however, they "break in and chatter on and on" in attempt to persuade Madame Pernelle that her ideas are, in fact, crazy.

    Madame Pernelle:
    "These visits, balls, and parties in which you revel
    Are nothing but inventions of the Devil.
    […]
    People are driven half-insane
    At such affairs, where noise and folly reign
    And reputations perish thick and fast.
    As a wise preacher said on Sunday last,
    Parties are Towers of Babylon, because
    The guests all babble on with never a pause;" (1.1.34)

    Madame Pernelle's description of "visits, balls, and parties" is similar to the chaos that Tartuffe has brought to Orgon's house.

    Cléante:
    "My, what a scene she made, and what a din!
    And how this man Tartuffe has taken her in!"

    Dorine:
    "Her son is worse deceived;
    His folly must be seen to be believed." (1.2.3-4)

    Dorine's claim is a bit hard to swallow, but seeing is believing in this case; Orgon really is worse deceived.

    Dorine:
    "Your wife, two days ago, had a bad fever,
    And a fierce headache which refused to leave her.

    Orgon:
    "Ah. And Tartuffe?"

    Dorine:
    "Tartuffe? Why he's round and red,
    Bursting with health and excellently fed."

    Orgon:
    "Poor fellow!" (1.4.4-6)

    Orgon's reaction is totally illogical to the point of being disturbing. It's as if he can't hear what Dorine is saying.

    Cléante:
    "That girl was laughing in your face, and though
    I've no wish to offend you, even so
    I'm bound to say that she had some excuse.
    How can you possibly be such a goose?
    Are you so dazed by this man's hocus-pocus
    That all the world, save him, is out of focus?" (1.5.1)

    Cléante talks of Tartuffe as if he is a magician and of Orgon as if he is his unwitting target.

    Dorine:
    "All right, then: we believe you, sad to say.
    But how a man like you, who looks so wise
    And wears a mustache of such splendid size,
    Can be so foolish as to…" (2.2.14)

    Dorine makes fun of Orgon by mocking the notion of "looking wise." Orgon may look like a distinguished older man, but he's still remarkably foolish.

    Dorine:
    "I tell you, lovers are completely mad!" (2.4.85)

    Dorine's observation is right in line with the French expression l'amour fou, or crazy love. The lovers' little spat can be thought of as a brief moment of madness.

    Dorine (To Mariane):
    "Your father's addled; he's acting like a dunce.
    Therefore you'd better humor the old fossil.
    Pretend to yield to him, be sweet and docile,
    And then postpone, as often as necessary,
    The day on which you have agreed to marry." (2.4.90)

    Rather than try to reason with a fool (Orgon), Dorine decides it would be best to simply string him along until some more drastic measure can be taken.

    Orgon:
    "Enough, by God! I'm through with pious men:
    Henceforth I'll hate the whole false brotherhood,
    And persecute them worse than Satan could."

    Cléante:
    "Ah, there you go – extravagant as ever!
    Why can you not be rational? You never
    Manage to take the middle course, it seems,
    But jump, instead, between absurd extremes." (5.1.10-11)

    Orgon's actions prove that, just because you can cure a fool of one illusion, without curing him of being a fool.

    Orgon:
    "You're talking nonsense. Can't you realize
    I saw it; saw it; saw it with my eyes?
    Saw, do you understand me? Must I shout it
    Into your ears before you'll cease to doubt it?" (5.3.17)

    Here, Orgon gets a taste of his own medicine; he gets to see what it's like to argue with a fool.

  • Religion

    Orgon:
    "He used to come into church each day
    And humbly kneel nearby, and start to pray.
    He'd draw the eyes of everybody there
    By the deep fervor of his heartfelt prayer;
    He'd sigh and weep, and sometimes with a sound
    Of rapture he would bend and kiss the ground;" (1.5.6)

    Orgon seems to have missed this passage in the Gospel of Matthew: "And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you" (Matthew 6:5-6).

    Cléante:
    "And just as there is nothing I more revere
    Than a soul whose faith is steadfast and sincere,
    Nothing that I more cherish and admire
    Than honest zeal and true religious fire,
    So there is nothing that I find more base
    Than specious piety's dishonest face – " (1.5.11)

    Cléante may seem more rational than religious, but he certainly prizes piety.

    Cléante:
    "They [men like Tartuffe] cloak their spite in fair religion's name,
    Their private spleen and malice being made
    To seem a high and virtuous crusade,
    Until, to mankind's reverent applause,
    They crucify their foe in Heaven's cause." (1.5.11)

    Cléante criticizes those who sin in the name of religion while still praising religion itself as "fair."

    Orgon:
    "He lost his fortune, as he says himself,
    Because he cared for Heaven alone, and so
    Was careless of his interests here below.
    I mean to get him out of his present straits
    And help him to recover his estates – " (2.2.17)

    Orgon a) doesn't seem to think there's anything suspicious about Tartuffe's story, and b) doesn't think it's strange for a man of God to suddenly become interested in worldly wealth. Sometimes it seems like Orgon doesn't think at all.

    Elmire:
    "I see: you care for nothing here below."

    Tartuffe:
    "Ah, well – my heart's not made of stone, you know."

    Elmire:
    "All your desires mount heavenward, I'm sure,
    In scorn of all that's earthly and impure."

    Tartuffe:
    "A love of heavenly things does not preclude
    A proper love for earthly pulchritude." (3.3.24-27)

    Tartuffe is quite right: you can love heavenly things and earthly beauty. You just can't get away with loving someone's wife while telling everyone else they're constantly sinning. Also: pulchritude is the ugliest word for beauty out there.

    Damis:
    "It's high time that my father was undeceived,
    And now I've prove that can't be disbelieved –
    Proof that was furnished me by Heaven above." (3.4.3)

    Considering how much pain and hypocrisy Damis has dealt with, it comes as no surprise that he considers his proof of Tartuffe's lechery to be Heaven sent. Unfortunately, the results of his plan aren't so divine.

    Tartuffe:
    "The treasures of this world I quite despise;
    Their specious glitter does not charm my eyes;
    And if I have resigned my self to taking
    The gift which my dear Brother insists on making,
    I do so only, as he well understands,
    Lest so much wealth fall into wicked hands" (4.1.6)

    Tartuffe, ever the slippery one, can twist the act of inheriting a lot of money into a truly selfless act. Never mind that he doesn't even think of giving it to charity.

    Tartuffe:
    "Some joys, it's true, are wrong in Heaven's eyes;
    Yet Heaven's not averse to compromise;
    There is a science, lately formulated,
    Whereby one's conscience may be liberated,
    And any wrongful act you care to mention
    May be redeemed by purity of intention." (4.5.13)

    While Christians believe that sins can indeed be forgiven, Tartuffe's interpretation is less than orthodox. He seems to think that he can get away with anything – even if he knows it's wrong – as long as he does it with "pure intentions." Whatever that means.

    Tartuffe:
    "This house belongs to me, I'll have you know,
    And I shall show you that you can't hurt me
    by this contemptible conspiracy,
    That those who cross me know not what they do,
    And that I've means to expose and punish you,
    Avenge offended Heaven, and make you grieve
    That ever you dared order me to leave." (4.7.8)

    Tartuffe seems to think he's God's messenger – or maybe even God himself. Even his language starts to sound biblical.

    Cléante:
    "Shall you conclude that all men are deceivers,
    And that, today, there are no true believers?
    Let atheists make that foolish inference;" (5.1.11)

    Once again, Cléante comes to the defense of religion, reminding Orgon that there are, in fact, truly holy people.

  • Women and Femininity

    Madame Pernelle:
    "And you, his sister, seem so pure,
    So shy, so innocent, and so demure.
    But you know what they say about still waters.
    I pity parents with secretive daughters." (1.1.11)

    Madame Pernelle's comments suggest not only that Mariane is deceitful and, possibly, promiscuous, but that all "secretive daughters" are similarly disposed.

    Madame Pernelle:
    "You're much too free with money, and I'm distressed
    To see you so elaborately dressed.
    When it's one's husband that one aims to please,
    One has no need for costly fripperies." (1.1.13)

    Madame Pernelle seems to think that married women should avoid any kind of luxury.

    Dorine:
    "Oh, yes, she's strict, devout, and has no taint
    Of worldliness; in short, she seems a saint.
    But it was time which taught her that disguise;
    She's thus because she can't be otherwise.
    So long as her attractions could enthrall,
    She flounced and flirted and enjoyed it all,
    But now that they're no longer what they were
    She quits the world which fast is quitting her,
    And wears a veil of virtue to conceal
    Her bankrupt beauty and her lost appeal." (1.1.33)

    Dorine's is an interesting proposition. In this case, virtue and religious observance seem to be a mere replacement for beauty and charm.

    Mariane:
    "You can't mean, Father…"

    Orgon:
    "Yes, Tartuffe shall be
    Allied by marriage to this family,
    And he's to be your husband do you hear?
    It's a father's privilege…" (2.1.24-25)

    In asserting his own authority over Dorine, he asserts the authority of all fathers over their daughters.

    Dorine:
    "Doesn't it seem to you a trifle grim
    To give a girl like her to a man like him?
    When two are so ill-suited, can't you see
    What sad consequence is bound to be?
    A young girl's virtue is imperiled, Sir,
    When such a marriage is imposed on her;
    For if one's bridegroom isn't to one's taste,
    It's hardly an inducement to be chaste." (2.2.18)

    Dorine's opinions regarding marriage are rather extreme. Dorine makes it seem as if a daughter forced into an unwanted marriage can't help but cheat.

    Dorine:
    "They'll make a lovely pair.
    If I were she, no man would marry me
    Against my inclination, and go scot free.
    He'd learn, before the wedding-day was over,
    How readily a wife can find a lover." (2.2.46)

    Here, again, Dorine asserts that women have a right to look for other partners if their husbands are not, shall we say, suitable.

    Mariane:
    "He's welcome to my money; take it, do,
    But don't, I pray, include my person too.
    Spare me, I beg you; and let me end the tale
    Of my sad days behind a convent veil."

    Orgon:
    "A convent! Hah! When crossed their amours,
    All lovesick girls have the same thought as yours." (4.3.4-5)

    Orgon writes off Mariane's real concerns as the idiotic fantasies of "lovesick girls" everywhere. He has no interest in actually listening to her.

    Elmire:
    "My taste is for good-natured rectitude,
    And I dislike the savage sort of prude
    Who guards her virtue with her teeth and claws
    And tears men's eyes out for the slightest cause;" (4.3.12)

    Elmire advocates what you might call a relaxed – but certainly not lax – attitude toward virtue.

    Elmire:
    "Ah, Sir, if that refusal made you smart,
    It's little that you know of woman's heart,
    Or what that heart is trying to convey
    When it resists in such a feeble way!
    Always, at first our modesty prevents
    The frank avowal of tender sentiments;" (4.5.4)

    Elmire uses undesirable stereotypes about women in order to manipulate Tartuffe.

    Dorine:
    "Monsieur Loyal, I'd love to hear the whack
    Of a stout stick across your fine broad back."

    Monsieur Loyal:
    "Take care: a woman too may go to jail if
    She uses threatening language to a bailiff." (5.4.33)

    Monsieur Loyal hints at a sort of double standard for women. "Even women can be sent to jail," he says, but one wonders if he'd give the same sort of warning to a man in the first place.

  • Lies and Deceit

    Madame Pernelle:
    "And you, his sister, seem so pure,
    So shy, so innocent, and so demure.
    But you know what they say about still waters.
    I pity parents with secretive daughters." (1.1.11)

    Madame Pernelle accuses her own granddaughter of being a liar and, perhaps some other less savory things. She presumes that she is guilty of something even though she clearly has no evidence.

    Damis:
    "Ah no, Grandmother, I could never take
    To such a rascal, even for my father's sake.
    That's how I feel, and I shall not dissemble.
    His every action makes me seethe and tremble
    With helpless anger, and I have no doubt
    That he and I will shortly have it out." (1.1.21)

    Damis is firmly opposed to any kind of deceit. We see later on that his commitment to telling the truth causes a lot of trouble.

    Dorine:
    "Oh, yes, she's strict, devout, and has no taint
    Of worldliness; in short, she seems a saint.
    But it was time which taught her that disguise;
    She's thus because she can't be otherwise.
    So long as her attractions could enthrall,
    She flounced and flirted and enjoyed it all,
    But now that they're no longer what they were
    She quits the world which fast is quitting her,
    And wears a veil of virtue to conceal
    Her bankrupt beauty and her lost appeal." (1.1.33)

    Here, virtue is worn as a kind of make-up, to cover over the signs of aging. It is a mask, a way of deceiving those who might have found some cause for criticism.

    Dorine (To Mariane):
    "Your father's addled; he's acting like a dunce.
    Therefore you'd better humor the old fossil.
    Pretend to yield to him, be sweet and docile,
    And then postpone, as often as necessary,
    The day on which you have agreed to marry." (2.4.90)

    Dorine advocates lying to Orgon; as long as she's using deception to do good, she has no qualms.

    Elmire:
    "Some women might do otherwise, perhaps,
    But I shall be discreet about your lapse;
    I'll tell my husband nothing of what's occurred
    If, in return, you'll give your solemn word
    To advocate as forcefully as you can
    The marriage of Valère and Mariane," (3.3.32)

    Elmire, like Dorine, is OK with deception if it serves a good purpose.

    Damis:
    "She, with her too gentle disposition,
    Would not have told you of his proposition;
    But I shall not make terms with brazen lechery,
    And feel that not to tell you would be treachery." (3.5.1)

    Damis, on the other hand, is unwilling to compromise his morals. As a result, he's disinherited and more trouble is brought upon the house of Orgon.

    Elmire:
    "You've been too long deceived,
    And I'm quite tired of being disbelieved.
    Come now: let's put my statements to the test,
    And you shall see the truth made manifest." (4.3.22)

    Elmire's decision to step in and show Orgon the truth is based on both her compassion for Orgon and her overall fatigue. She wants to save him and save herself the trouble of dealing with him any longer.

    Elmire:
    "I'm going to act quite strangely, now, and you
    Must not be shocked at anything I do.
    Whatever I may say, you must excuse
    As part of that deceit I'm forced to use." (4.4.7)

    Elmire only uses deceit as a last resort, in order to save Orgon once and for all. She makes it very clear that she's "forced" to use it, and is up front about it being deceitful. She's no hypocrite, after all.

    Tartuffe:
    "To please you is my joy, my only goal;
    Your love is the restorer of my soul;
    And yet I must beg leave, now, to confess
    Some lingering doubts as to my happiness.
    Might this not be a trick? Might not the catch
    Be that you with me to break off the match
    With Mariane, and so have feigned to love me?" (4.5.5)

    Tartuffe, world-class liar that he is, knows a trick when he sees one, but he's eventually overcome by his lust.

    Officer (To Orgon):
    "Sir, all is well; rest easy, and be grateful.
    We serve a Prince to whom all sham is hateful,
    A Prince who sees into our inmost hearts,
    And can't be fooled by any trickster's arts." (5.7.19)

    The King/Prince is something like the anti-Orgon. He knows a liar the moment he sees one.

  • Morality and Ethics

    Madame Pernelle:
    "What he reproves deserves reproof,
    He's out to save your souls, and all of you
    Must love him, as my son would have you do." (1.1.34)

    Madame Pernelle treats Tartuffe as a supreme moral authority. His power is reinforced by the endorsement of both Madame Pernelle and Orgon.

    Madame Pernelle:
    "I tell you that you're blest to have Tartuffe
    Dwelling, as my son's guest, beneath this roof;
    That Heaven has sent him to forestall its wrath
    By leading you once more, to the true path;
    That all he reprehends is reprehensible,
    And that you'd better heed him, and be sensible." (1.1.34)

    Madame Pernelle repeats what she said earlier, but this time she claims that Tartuffe has the authority of Heaven behind him.

    Orgon:
    "To keep his precepts is to be reborn,
    And view this dunghill of a world with scorn.
    Yes, thanks to him I'm a changed man indeed.
    Under his tutelage my soul's been freed
    From earthly loves and every human tie:
    My mother, children, brother, and wife." (1.5.4)

    Is there anything of true moral worth in this sentiment? Is there some valid philosophy embedded in there that has, perhaps, been twisted?

    Dorine:
    "It's hard to be a faithful wife, in short,
    To certain husbands of a certain sort,
    And he who gives his daughter to a man she hates
    Must answer for her sins at Heaven's gate." (2.2.30)

    Dorine takes an ethical situation that seems straightforward – "thou shalt not commit adultery" is one of the Ten Commandments – and suddenly calls the conventional interpretation into question.

    Elmire:
    "All your desires mount heavenward, I'm sure,
    In scorn of all that's earthly and impure."

    Tartuffe:
    "A love of heavenly things does not preclude
    A proper love for earthly pulchritude.
    Our senses are quite rightly captivated
    By perfect works our Maker has created." (3.3.27)

    Once again, it seems as though there's truth to what Tartuffe said; taken out of context, his statement is perfectly moral. When you add adultery to the mix, well…that's a whole different story.

    Cléante:
    "Assuming, then, that you have been ill-used
    By young Damis, and groundlessly accused,
    Ought not a Christian to forgive, and ought
    He not stifle every vengeful thought?" (4.1.1)

    Cléante points out to Tartuffe that he's not acting particularly Christian. After all, he seems to be ignoring the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

    Cléante:
    "Leave vengeance to the Lord, Sir; while we live,
    Our duty's not to punish, but forgive;
    And what the Lord commands, we should obey
    Without regard to what the world may say." (4.1.3)

    Cléante contradicts what Madame Pernelle says about Tartuffe earlier in the play. Only God, he says, has the authority to judge and decide what's right.

    Tartuffe:
    "Again, Sir, let me say that I've forgiven
    Damis, and thus obeyed the laws of Heaven;
    But I am not commanded by the Bible
    To live with one who smears my name with libel."

    Cléante:
    "Were you commanded, Sir, to indulge the whim
    Of poor Orgon, and to encourage him
    In suddenly transferring to your name
    A large estate to which you have no claim." (4.1.4-5)

    Cléante has a pretty good point. Has Tartuffe really done right by the "laws of Heaven"?

    Tartuffe:
    ":If you're still troubled, think of things this way:
    No one shall know our joys, save us alone,
    And there's no evil till the act is known;
    It's scandal, Madam, which makes it an offense,
    And it's no sin to sin in confidence." (4.5.19)

    When you were little, did you ever think that, when you closed your eyes, people couldn't see you? Crazy, right? Well, Tartuffe's argument makes just about as much sense as that one, if not less.

    Orgon:
    "These papers vexed my conscience, and it seemed best
    To ask the counsel of my pious guest.
    The cunning scoundrel got me to agree
    To leave the strong-box in his custody,
    So that, in case of an investigation,
    I could employ a slight equivocation
    And swear I didn't have it, and thereby,
    At no expense to conscience tell a lie." (5.1.8)

    Here's another case of totally illogical moral arguments. Think of it this way: by giving the documents to Tartuffe, Orgon's actually doing more to hide the documents from the King – or so he thinks.

  • Marriage

    Damis:
    "Sound him [Orgon] about my sister's wedding, pleas.
    I think Tartuffe's against it, and that he's
    Been urging Father to withdraw his blessing.
    As you well know, I'd find that most distressing.
    Unless my sister and Valère can marry,
    My hopes to wed his sister will miscarry,
    And I'm determined…" (1.3.3)

    Damis makes it seem as though marriage is a rather political affair, a matter of making alliances. This isn't to say love isn't involved, of course.

    Cléante:
    "No, Brother, wait.
    There's one more matter. You agreed of late
    That young Valère might have your daughter's hand."

    Orgon:
    "I did."


    Cléante:
    "You've now postponed it; is that true?"

    Orgon:
    "No doubt."

    Cléante:
    "The match no longer pleases you?"

    Once again, marriage is talked about in business-like terms. Their talk sounds a bit like a contract negotiation.

    Mariane:
    "You can't mean, Father…"

    Orgon:
    "Yes, Tartuffe shall be
    Allied by marriage to this family,
    And he's to be your husband, is that clear?
    It's a father's privilege…" (2.1.24-25)

    Again, there's talk of marriage as an alliance. More important, however, is Orgon's assertion of fatherly authority. Mariane and Valère may be bound together by love, but their bond is contingent upon Orgon's consent.

    Dorine:
    "Doesn't it seem to you a trifle grim
    To give a girl like her to a man like him?
    When two are so ill-suited, can't you see
    What sad consequence is bound to be?
    A young girl's virtue is imperiled, Sir,
    When such a marriage is imposed on her;
    For if one's bridegroom isn't to one's taste,
    It's hardly an inducement to be chaste." (2.2.18)

    Can we take Dorine's words at face value? Does she really believe the radical things she's saying, or is she simply trying to provoke Orgon?

    Orgon:
    "This match will bring you joys beyond all measure;
    Your cup will overflow with every pleasure;
    You two will interchange your faithful l loves
    Like two sweet cherubs, or two turtle-doves.
    No harsh word shall be heard, no frown be seen,
    And he shall make you happy as a queen."

    Dorine:
    "And she'll make him a cuckold, just wait and see." (2.2.22-23)

    Dorine disturbs all of Orgon's clichés about marriage with a single "harsh word" – cuckold. A cuckold is a man whose wife has cheated on him.

    Dorine (To Valère):
    "You're both great fools. Her sole desire, Valère,
    Is to be yours in marriage. To that I'll swear.

    (To Mariane):
    He loves you only, and he wants no wife
    But you, Mariane. On that I'll stake my life." (2.4.76)

    Dorine doesn't seem to have a husband of her own. Isn't it strange how wise she is in matters of love?

    Damis:
    "Too long he's meddled in my father's affairs,
    Thwarting my marriage-hopes, and poor Valère's.
    It's high time that my father was undeceived,
    And now I've proof that cant be disbelieved – " (3.4.3)

    Although Tartuffe is mainly guilty of hypocrisy and self-righteousness, it's his meddling with the marriage of Valère and Mariane that really gets him into trouble.

    Damis:
    "But I shall not make terms with brazen lechery,
    And feel that not to tell you [Orgon] would be treachery."

    Elmire:
    "And I hold that one's husband's peace of mind
    Should not be spoiled by tattle of this kind.
    One's honor doesn't require it: to be proficient
    In keeping men at bay is quite sufficient." (3.5.1-2)

    Like Dorine, Elmire treats the subject of marriage in an unconventional manner. Her idea of fidelity and trust does not involve total openness and full disclosure.

    Orgon
    "Well said: let's go at once and, gladly kneeling,
    Express the gratitude which all are feeling.
    Then, when that first great duty has been done,
    We'll turn with pleasure to a second one,
    And give Valère, whose love has proven so true,
    The wedded happiness which is his due." (5.7.26)

    Like many traditional comedies, Tartuffe ends with a marriage. It's important to note that, even though things end happily, Orgon's language makes something very clear: Mariane is something that Valère has earned, a kind of present given to him for his service to Orgon.

  • Sin

    Dorine: "To hear him talk – and he talks all the time –
    There's nothing one can do that's not a crime.
    He rails against everything, your dear Tartuffe." (1.1.19)

    If Dorine has it right, Tartuffe's moral compass is way off. Even if he weren't sinning, that kind of attitude speaks to a misunderstanding of sin and religion in general. Also, she might have added "except the stuff he does" after everything if she wanted to be a bit more accurate.

    Madame Pernelle:
    "Well, mark my words, your souls would fare far better
    If you obeyed his precepts to the letter." (1.1.23)

    Once again, if we believe Dorine – and we must – following his precepts would really mean doing nothing at all.

    Madame Pernelle:
    "You all regard him with distaste and fear
    Because he tells you what you're loath to hear,
    Condemns your sins, points out your moral flaws,
    And humbly strives to further Heaven's cause." (1.1.27)

    Madame Pernelle's argument might be valid in another case – there are plenty of prophets that were ignored because people simply didn't want to change their ways. In this case, however, Orgon's family is right not to listen.

    Dorine:
    "When there's a chance for libel, they never miss it;
    When something can be made to seem illicit
    They're off at once to spread the joyous news.
    Adding to fact what fantasies they choose." (1.1.31)

    Dorine points out that sin, which deserves to looked down upon, can be seen as a cause for celebration, depending on how you look at it.

    Dorine:
    "He [Tartuffe] ate his meal with relish,
    And zealously devoured in her presence
    A leg of mutton and a brace of pheasants." (1.4.10)

    Don't forget: gluttony is one of the Seven Deadly Sins.

    Orgon:
    "And how austere he [Tartuffe] is! Why, he can detect
    A mortal sin where you would least suspect;
    In smallest trifles, he's extremely strict." (1.5.6)

    According to Orgon, Tartuffe is a kind of sin detector, uncovering hidden wrongs all over the place; he thinks this is really great, too. Did he forget about the whole "judge not lest ye be judged" thing? Sure seems like it. Oh, and I think he forgot about this little tidbit from the Gospel of Matthew too: "And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?" (Matthew 7:3)

    Tartuffe:
    "Cover that bosom, girl. The flesh is weak,
    And unclean thoughts are difficult to control.
    Such sights as that can undermine the soul."

    Dorine:
    "Your soul, it seems, has very poor defenses,
    And flesh makes quite an impact on your senses." (3.2.7-8)

    Tartuffe's own piety and knowledge of sin springs from his inability to avoid impure thoughts.

    Tartuffe:
    "I know such words sound strangely, coming from me,
    But I'm no angel, nor was meant to be,
    And if you blame my passion, you must needs
    Reproach as well the charms on which it feeds." (3.3.29)

    As with Dorine, Tartuffe blames his own sinful thoughts on others, despite the fact that they are unaware of having any such effect.

    Tartuffe:
    "I know, dear lady, that your exceeding charity
    Will lead your heart to pardon my temerity;
    That you'll excuse my violent affection
    As human weakness, human imperfection;" (3.3.31)

    Tartuffe justifies his actions by claiming that they're simply human nature; mankind, he suggests, is inherently sinful or "imperfect," and so he can't be blamed for his error.

    Orgon:
    "These papers vexed my conscience, and it seemed best
    To ask the counsel of my pious guest.
    The cunning scoundrel got me to agree
    To leave the strong-box in his custody,
    So that, in case of an investigation,
    I could employ a slight equivocation
    And swear I didn't have it, and thereby,
    At no expense to conscience tell a lie." (5.1.8)

    Orgon's logic is hopelessly…illogical. After all, a "slight equivocation" is a still a lie. Furthermore, as long as he knows where the documents are, he still has them for all intents and purposes.