Hypocrisy is a slippery thing. To some, it's obvious: Tartuffe is called a hypocrite pretty much right off the bat. The more we're told about him, the more noticeable his hypocrisy becomes. At the same time, hypocrisy goes hand in hand with deception; it represents an effort to project a false image. It's a hard act to pull off, and Tartuffe doesn't do a particularly good job of it, but he still succeeds in putting everything off balance. That's the real problem with hypocrisy: it calls the truth of everything into question.
Questions About Hypocrisy
Obviously, Tartuffe is a hypocrite; so is Monsieur Loyal. But are there any other characters that might be guilty of that particular sin?
Is Tartuffe ever sincere about anything? Does he ever speak from his heart?
Would we be more forgiving of Tartuffe if he didn't pretend to be so good? Would we prefer it if he were simply, sincerely evil.
Cléante claims that it's incredibly easy to detect hypocrisy. Is that true?
Chew on This
Though Tartuffe definitely doesn't practice what he preaches, he manages to deceive himself; he actually buys into some of his lies.
By putting a hypocrite at the center of the play, Molière puts everything off balance. We're forced to question every statement and every action, to decide if they each – or any – should be taken at face value.