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.