Study Guide

Tartuffe Religion

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"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).

"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.

"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."

"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.

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

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

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

"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.

"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.

"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.

"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.

"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.

"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.

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