Considering Tartuffe was written in the 17th century, you might expect the female characters to be soft-spoken, demure, and generally pretty dull. But that couldn't be further from the truth – well, except in the case of Mariane; she's soft-spoken, demure, and generally pretty dull. But Elmire and Dorine – that's a whole different story. Each one defies convention with gusto: they do some things that would still be audacious even today. They're quick-witted, strong-willed, and a bit saucy. They're a match for their male counterparts anytime, any day.
Questions About Women and Femininity
Mariane is the most conventional female figure in Tartuffe. Her obedience to Orgon leads to problems, but she is only acting in a way consistent with the standards of her time. Does Molière mean for us to believe that such obedience is harmful?
Does Dorine's position as a servant allow her more freedom to speak her mind? If so, why? And what about Elmire? Does it matter that she's Orgon's second wife?
Can we draw any conclusions from Tartuffe regarding the ideal role for women in society?
Chew on This
Molière portrays unconventional female characters not because he has progressive notions, but because their actions make for better theater.
Dorine and Elmire represent a real alternative to traditional gender roles; they are the real protagonists in Tartuffe, the only characters who are able to take action.