staged 1664, revised in 1667 and 1669
Le Tartuffe ou l'imposteur. Play,
3 acts (1664 version), later 5-Acts (1667 and 1669 versions). Rhymed
couplets in alexandrine
verse. Recommended Translations:
Richard Wilbur (in rhymed iambic
A con man by
the name of Tartuffe pretends piousness and deceives a well-to-do
gentleman named Orgon. Tartuffe tries to seduce Orgon's wife, Elmire,
and gets Orgon to sign over to him all of his property. The play
revolves around the attempts by the family, friends, and household
of Orgon (his wife Elmire, his brother-in-law Cléante, his
son Damis, his daughter Mariane, Mariane's fiancé Valère,
and the maidservant Dorine) to unmask and get rid of Tartuffe.
social critic: denunciation of religious hypocrisy and false piety;
misuse of religion in the avoidance of personal responsibility;
Molière claimed not to mock faith but to attack its misuse
issues of censorship: the play was bitterly opposed by Catholic
Church, the archbishop of Paris, the Queen Mother Anne of Austria,
and the Company of the Holy Sacrament which influenced its banning;
five act revision in 1667 still opposed, finally brought back
to the stage in 1669
of patronage: flattery and less obvious references to Louis XIV
and his family and associates
and folly embodied in figure of Tartuffe; play of masks/deception;
struggle for power
self-examination and confrontation of the evil in the self
as voice of wisdom, moderation, common sense, self-control, Nature,
courage, wit, and intelligence as Moliere's commentary on class
and gender issues as well as personal worth independent of social
restoration of order in family; humane, forgiving, and balanced
attitude of Molière
Is the play
in any way connected to the historical and political situation of
Moliere's time? Do any of the characters in the play represent historical
figures? Who might those be? In that sense, what might Molière
be criticizing or addressing?
What vices or
problems does Tartuffe represent? Are those vices present only in
him? Is there anything in the character or behavior of the others
which in any way resembles or echoes the problems of Tartuffe? Is
Tartuffe the only one to blame for the problems in the home? If
Tartuffe were to be entirely removed from the situation, would anything
Are there characters
in the play who stand for virtues or positive qualities? Who are
they? What do they represent? How do those characters fit in with
the values of the Enlightenment?
Aside from Tartuffe,
are any other characters in the play criticized for their vices?
If so, who are they and what are those vices? What is Orgon's problem?
What does his name suggest? (think in French, if you can) Why does
he admit Tartuffe into his home? What makes him vulnerable to the
deceptions of Tartuffe? What does Orgon expect to gain from his
association with Tartuffe?
Is there significance
in the fact that Orgon invites Tartuffe to come into his home? What
does the home represent? What does Tartuffe symbolize? What links
the two of them to each other? Do they have anything in common?
Does Orgon change
after meeting Tartuffe? Does Tartuffe make Orgon into a more pious
or more Christian man? Why or why not? How does Orgon feel about
others in his family? What does that indicate? Exactly what effects
does Tartuffe have on Orgon? What are true piety and true Christianity
according to Molière?
How do the members
of Orgon's family feel about Tartuffe's presence in the home? What
effect does Tartuffe have on them? Does their behavior change in
any way because of Tartuffe? Do those changes resemble the changes
Do any of the
characters change for the better in the course of the play? What
is the evidence of such changes?
Is there any
symbolic significance to the strongbox that Orgon entrusts to Tartuffe?
Any similarity to the significance of the house? What is Orgon giving
Are the family
members successful in countering the schemes of Tartuffe? Why or
why not? How do they propose to fight him? What are they fighting
for? What saves them? Is it their own efforts? Do they deserve to
be saved? Why is the ending of the play said to be problematic?
What does the intervention of the king at the end represent? What
does it suggest? Is the king a symbol? What does he stand for?
defeated in the end? Is he really gone for good? Is there any threat
of his returning? What could cause such a return? What brought him
in in the first place?
of Tartuffe: http://moliere.multimania.com/piectartu.html
2001, 2002 by Fidel Fajardo-Acosta,
all rights reserved