In Moliere’s comedy Tartuffe, The play centres on the family of Orgon, a wealthy and impressionable man, his central target of ridicule is Orgon. Orgon is Moliere’s character of how a man can be so blind in his devotion to a belief that he cannot make a good judgement as to the sincerity of others who would use that belief to deceive him. This play fits into the concept of comedy because all of the elements of comedy are present. It happens that the title character is the villain rather than the hero and some of the elements have been tampered with. In Tartuffe, we have the classic comic scenario of two lovers, Valere and Marianne, trying to get together but being thwarted. However, instead of the villain, Tartuffe is not the one who is antagonizing them, it is Orgon who gets in the way.
Orgon tries to flatter Tartuffe by offering Marianne to be his wife. Before it is all over, Orgon ends up giving the deed to all his land to the deceitful Tartuffe. The other comic elements such as the unmasking of the villain and the happy ending are also present in Tartuffe. It is in the duality of Orgon, who is a believing and devoted subject, and Tartuffe, the manipulating hypocrite. Moliere takes his shot at the extremes of enthusiastic belief. Tartuffe plays the role of a man whose greedy actions are cloaked by a mask of overwhelming piety, modesty and religious passion. Orgon is the head of a household who has taken Tartuffe in and given him shelter and food. Everyone in the family, except Oregon’s mother, knows that Tartuffe is a fake. In this play Moliere uses Cleante to emphasize pious qualities, Cleante spoke with wisdom common sense and moderation.
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All of Orgon’s relatives try to warn him of Tartuffe’s gluttony and the false nature of his pious proclamations. When Dorine tries to tell Orgon about how sick Elmire is, all Orgon can say is “Ah and Tartuffe”? He is only concerned with the well being of Tartuffe. When she tries to explain that Tartuffe has no concern for Elmire’s health and that he is only concerned with eating food, all he can say is “Poor fellow!” Orgon is so caught up in his own perception of Tartuffe as a saint, and all that Tartuffe does. It is as if Tartuffe can do no wrong. When Orgon’s son Damis tells his father what he has overheard and that Tartuffe was making advances toward Elmire. Orgon is so upset with Damis, that he disowns his son and exiles his son from the house and the property. Because of this passion, Orgon is stupid and blind to all that is going on around him.
Despite the protestations of his sensible brother-in-law Cleante and his son Damis, Orgon determines that his daughter Mariane, who is in love with a young man named Valere, shall marry Tartuffe. When Orgon’s wife Elmire seeks out Tartuffe to beg him to refuse Mariane’s hand, he attempts to seduce her. It is at this point that Elmire decides that the truth can only be exposed through lies. And she wants to prove to her husband what Tartuffe is really like. Only when his wife Elmire convinces him to hide under the table and hear Tartuffe’s advances towards her, does the reality finally confront Orgon’s idealism and Tartuffe is unmasked. Orgon’s eyes are opened, a little too late. For he has already assigned all he owns to Tartuffe. When Tartuffe realizes his hypocrisy has been discovered, he promptly turns the family out of the house. Then by reporting to the authorities that Orgon possesses a strongbox containing the papers of an exiled friend, Tartuffe tries to have his former host arrested.
Elmire feels that the people will be outraged by what has happened to them and their family, and they will bring justice to Tartuffe. But by order of the King, the arresting officer apprehends Tartuffe instead, and the imposter is hauled off to prison for his treacherous behaviour toward his well-meaning if too believing host. The play ends as Damis is reconciled with his father and the wedding of Marianne and Valere is announced. It is my belief that Moliere was a moderate and against excess and obsession in all things. In Tartuffe, he has used Orgon as an example of how the obsessive need to believe can cause a man to be taken in by those who would cloak themselves in, and manipulate with, those beliefs. The play is comic because Moliere shows how silly and foolish Orgon looks when his sincere belief is contrasted with the truth, which is seen by all but his blind self.
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