A play written by Moliere, Tartuffe premiered in 1664 written in French. The comedy was performed at the Orgon’s house in Paris by great classical roles such as Valere, Tartuffe and Elmire. After the premier, it was censored by King Louis the fifteenth pertaining to the influence of the Archbishop of Paris. Moliere’s tutor was the King’s confessor, Paul Phillipe. This article will articulately narrate the story presented by the play, the production, advertisement and the response it ignited.
The term Tartuffe means a hypocrite who feigns religious virtue ostensibly. The play consists of twelve syllable sentences amounting to 1,962 and has 14 significant characters. The story revolves around Orgon who is the head of the house, Tartuffe his house guest, Valere a hopeless romantic trying to win the love of Orgon’s daughter, Mariane, Elmire the wife of Orgon. Madame Pernelle the mother of Orgon, Damis his son, Dorine the housemaid, Cleante his brother in law, Argas his friend, Laurent a servant of Tartuffe, the King’s officer, Flipote a servant of Madame Pernelle and Monsier Loyal a bailiff.
Moliere narrates a story of an attempt by a hypocrite, Tartuffe, to shatter the domestic happiness of Orgon who, he has immensely charmed through his seeming piety to accept him as a house guest. Tartuffe deceives Orgon by pretending to be very pious and to speak with religious authority, hence, Orgon and Madame Pernelle cannot take any action without first running it through him. However, Tartuffe does not manage to fool the rest of the family and allies. Orgon announces that he intends to wed his daughter off to Tartuffe angering her and her fiancé, Valere. In an effort to reveal Tartuffe’s true intentions, a plan is hatched by the family. The intention is to trap Tartuffe to confess his desire for Orgon’s wife, Elmire. As a religious man, he should not harbor such feelings for the wife of his host.
The plan is destroyed when Damis cannot stand Tartuffe’s remarks to his mother and he comes out of hiding to confront him. Orgon arrives and Damis tries to tell him what transpired but the reverse psychology used by Tartuffe, results in Damis being thrown out of the house by his father. Elmire convinces her husband to witness another scene of Tartuffe’s advances to prove he is not a pious man. This turns out to be successful and Tartuffe is ordered out of the house. Tartuffe tries to retaliate Orgon’s act of throwing him out of the house but his attempt fails. He ends up getting arrested instead for treachery towards Orgon.
Critics arose from the church leadership and the play was revised with the character of Tartuffe as L’Imposteur. Moliere garnered support from the King and the play continued to be performed privately. With time his detractors lost influence and Moliere was allowed to perform the final version of the play. Unfortunately, due to the controversy that arose from Tartuffe, Moliere avoided writing such incisive plays again. The play has continued to receive productions over time until the 21st century through films, stage performances, television, audio and opera. This indicates that Moliere successfully won over both sides without suffering any twinges in his conscience.