Study Guide

Tartuffe Act 5, Scene 1

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Act 5, Scene 1

  • At this point, Orgon is running around like a chicken with its head cut off.
  • Cléante tries to calm him down. He asks him what's the matter.
  • As it turns out, Orgon's fears were confirmed. Tartuffe has made off with the contents of the "strongbox," also known as a safe. It seems that, long ago, Orgon's friend Argas brought him the box just before he, that is, Argas, fled the country. As far as Orgon knows, the papers contained within would ruin Argas's reputation if they were ever released. They're what you might call prime blackmail material…sort of like those nude photos of celebrities you hear about every once in a while. We don't know exactly what they are, but they were bad enough to send Argas fleeing from the government...and that's pretty bad.
  • Cléante doesn't understand why Tartuffe would even know about such things.
  • Orgon, it seems, saw fit to let Tartuffe hold onto the box; he felt guilty about keeping such a secret.
  • Cléante, usually quick with advice, has nothing to say. Orgon has really messed things up this time.
  • Orgon curses Tartuffe and swears that he'll never associate with "pious men" and that he'll "persecute them worse than Satan could" (5.1.10).
  • Cléante tells Orgon to stop talking such drivel and wise up. One bad apple doesn't spoil the barrel, as far as Cléante is concerned, and if Orgon wants to prevent another debacle he has to stop taking things to the extreme. Cléante reminds him – and the audience – that there are truly righteous men out there and that, as long as he/they is/are cautious, he/they will be able to avoid frauds like Tartuffe.

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