Tartuffe or Tartuffe, ou l'Imposteur is a play by Jean-Baptise Poquelin Molière that centers on Orgon. The main hero is a wealthy Parisian patriarch, who unfortunately falls under the control of a sanctimonious hypocrite named Tartuffe. Orgon is a wealthy man by all standards. He lives an idyllic and extravagant life that is marked by his marriage with Elmire, a much younger woman than him. Furthermore, his daughter Marianne is happily engaged to the love of her life. Moreover, his son Damis is also in love. However, Orgon’s idyllic lifestyle is thrown into chaos when he welcomes the crafty Tartuffe into his home. The play’s hero becomes obsessed with Tartuffe and the spiritual principles he purportedly stands for. Thus, the attachment makes it easy for Tartuffe to influence Orgon. Tartuffe mercilessly exploits Orgon’s trust to embezzle his fortune in addition to trying to seduce his daughter and wife. Tartuffe’s luck runs out when he is thrown into prison after the King sees through his hypocrisy. Eventually, the King restores the wealth Orgon had bequeathed to the criminal back to the rightful owner. The current essay discusses how marriage and male and female relations are viewed in Tartuffe in addition to evaluating the reason why Orgon trusts Tartuffe more than his family members.
In Tartuffe, marriage is a substantial element of the play that performs the role of influencing and shaping the story. Marriage in the analyzed work is viewed as the phenomenon that is similar to political affair. It is devoid of love and only useful in making alliances. The aspect is seen when Damis addresses Cléante regarding his sister’s marriage to Valére. He seems to be very concerned about pushing his sister’s marriage so that he can marry Valére’s sister:
My sister needs for Father to agree
To her marriage with Valére, as planned.
Tartuffe opposes it and I will demand
That Father breaks hi plan and that’s not fair;
Then I can’t wed the sister of Valére. (1.3.7-12)
Another instance of marriage presentation in Tartuffe as a business transaction is seen in Orgon’s conversation about changing his mind about bequeathing his daughter’s hand to Valére. The discussion is devoid of emotions. In fact, it seems like the two are discussing a business venture or transaction:
CLÉANTE No! Wait!
There’s one more thing-no more debate-
I want to change the subject, if I might
I heard that you said the other night
To Valére that he’s be your son-in-law.
ORGON I did.
CLEANTE And set the date?
CLEANTE Did you withdraw?
ORGON I did.
CLEANTE You’re putting off the wedding? Why?
ORGON Don’t know. (1.3.178-185)
The play also views marriage as a union that is heavily influenced by a bride’s father. The element is portrayed by Marianne’s helplessness, when Orgon decided that she was to marry Tartuffe. The father disregarded the fact that she was in love with Valére and opposed his plan:
MARIANE What?! Father you want-
ORGON Yes, my dear, I do-
To join in marriage my Tartuffe and you.
And since I have. (2.1.25-28)
With regards to relationships between men and women, Tartuffe demonstrates a power struggle between men, who were considered as the superior sex, and women, who were regarded as the weaker gender. Therefore, interactions between men and women are filled with tension. The particular instances include women standing their ground when it comes to men and the decisions they make. Marianne is portrayed as the perfect woman of the discussed time because of her submissive nature. On the contrary, Dorine and Elmire go against the society’s expectations of women. The men try to assert their authority over women as seen by Orgon’s decision to force his daughter to marry Tartuffe:
ORGON I realize that you may think of me cruel.
But here’s the thing, child, I will be obeyed.
And this marriage will not be delayed. (2.2.155-157)
Female assertion in the play is mainly portrayed by Dorine and Elmire. Dorine challenges Orgon’s decision to forcefully initiate a marriage between his daughter and Tartuffe and questions his wisdom by stating that “How can a man who looks as wise as you, be such a fool to want” (2.2.19-20). Shrewdness, which was not expected of women, is portrayed by Elmire when she tactfully exploits femininity to manipulate Tartuffe into exposing his true character:
ELMIRE If thinking I was turning you away
Has made you angry, all that I can say
Is that you do not know a woman’s heart! (4.5.27-29)
Deception in the play is portrayed by Tartuffe’s ability to easily fool Orgon. He reaches the point of the hero disinheriting his son and bequeathing his fortune to Tartuffe. Orgon trusts Tartuffe more than any member of his family because the play’s author portrays him as a very gullible man, who believes that he is always right. Therefore, changing his perception about Tartuffe was an uphill task for the family because of his egotistical attitude and the belief that he could never go wrong. His ego could also be fueled by the fact that as a patriarch, he expected total submission from his family. Tartuffe’s portrayal of himself as a religious and devoted man made Orgon believe that he had no ill intentions towards him and his family. Hence, it was easy to build trust because Orgon could not fathom the fact that Tartuffe had the capability of being evil.
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