Molière, Tartuffe

History of Drama AU 303
STUDY
PLAY

Terms in this set (...)

Molière, the stage
Jean-Baptiste Poquelin
L'Illustre Théâtre
Moliere's failed 1st company in Paris in 1644.
Moliere first success
L'Ecole des Maris (School for Husbands)--an early testimonial to the wilfulness of women.
How is the audience prepared for the entrance of Tartuffe?
Almost every character gives their personalized description of him.
What is the function of the Dorine, the maid?
To convince the cast and the audience of Tartuffe's hypocritical nature. -- she service somewhat the wise fool/servant that are frequently found in Shakespeare.
Are there any variations of the commedia dell'arte characters in Tartuffe?
In Tartuffe, Molière draws on the stock characters from commedia dell'Arte
—Pantalone -Orgon -(the authoritative, unreasonable father),
the young lovers, — Valere & Mariane
Colombina (the wily servant).clever maid—Dorine
Is Tartuffe a comic figure?
Yes- Tartuffe is the unredeemable villain of the play. He is also highly entertaining. According to Anthony Sher, who played the role in a Royal Shakespeare Company production in 1983, he "is a great improviser who thinks on his feet" ("The Secret Life of a Con Man" 670). "Tartuffe" is a role that a con man is playing:

And because it's a role he's playing, it doesn't have to be too fixed; he's a chameleon, constantly changing, he can go from full Rasputic powers to a lost little boy. He's got to have the ability to change and swop and surprise people at a rate of knots. (Sher 671)
What is the dramatic function of disguise in Tartuffe?
Ironically disguises reveal the true natures of the wears. -- See Comedy of Manners --
Tartuffe may be the most obvious pretender, but others also resort to pretence in order to get what they want: Dorine manipulates Orgon by pretending to agree with him; Mariane and Valère pretend indifference as a defence in their lover's quarrel; Elmire pretends interest in Tartuffe just to expose him.
In what respects is Cléante the antithesis of Orgon?
Antithesis may be a harder word than necessary - Cleante is not caught up in religious zeal and see's things through clear eyes as they really are.
How is young love characterized?
Through the relationship of Valere and Mariane
What political implications are there in the play?
The Box holds secrets, The Church should not be your only guide.
Molière's audience was a worldly sector of the social elite in Paris. Indeed, Tartuffe was first performed for Louis XIV's court at Versailles.
Orgon abnegates his authority by assigning it to an imposter; the protests of his family, then, are justifiable, until Orgon returns to his senses. His behaviour is a model of bad kingship, and his household a model for "a kingdom in which the king surrenders his judgment to a bad counsellor" (Baker).
As Baker points out: "Despite the fact that divine right of kings is a theologically grounded theory of political legitimacy, the play implicitly insists that the monarch must never make his conscience the prisoner of his confessor or even the pope. Even the religious policy of the nation he must determine on the basis of sober and humane reason (which is faculty of the natural constitution of man) rather than on the basis of intensity of faith (which is to be suspected as an expression of irrational passion).
How effective is the dramatic reversal at the end of the play?
If you do not know when the ending is to come the reversal is quite effective
Molière defends Tartuffe as a 'moral' comedy:
In his preface and three petitions, by explaining "the function of comedy is to correct men's vices" (417), and satire is a more effective method than direct statement—laughing men out of their follies and vices.
sententious
(adj.) self-righteous, characterized by moralizing; given to use of maxims or adages; saying much in few words, pithy
Molière's plays, inform by
a sympathetic intelligence—a "thoughtful laughter" "that elicits a moral judgement, while never losing the serenity that is grounded in mature humanity" (Nurse 77).
"comedy of manners"
form of comedy which acknowledges that social interaction is a necessary game with its own rules is -- it recognizes that society

is based on a strict code of manners which permits individuals to erect structures of illusions for themselves. The venture must be cooperative, for each one must offer some aid or at least tolerance to the efforts of the other people engaged in the process. If some one person refuses the token acceptance of the mask of another, then the whole scheme of society is threatened, and the total group has to deal severely with the offender to make him conform or to isolate him in harmlessness.

(Walker 116)
characteristics of farce
According to critic Eric Bentley, "farce is a more anarchic comedy, which is characterized by physical violence and aggression, but which provides a release for the emotions." Consider the other characteristics of farce in relation to Tartuffe
Farce is escapist.
-In farce fantasies are indulged, and tendencies towards violence are released in laughter.
-- In TarTuffe Moliere When Tartuff seduces Elmire while Orgon hides under the table
Farce combines gaiety and gravity
. It shatters false appearances, and shocks the audience into a recognition of human absurdities.
-- In Tartuffe -- Tartuffe himself causes each to look at their own hypocracies
Farce makes extensive use of coincidence,
showing the illogical juxtaposition of events in life.
It proceeds at a rapid pace.
-- in Tartuffe -- Single Daughter to marry -- beautiful tempting wife ??
Much of its humour derives from body movement and improvisation.
-- In Tartuffe -- Pomp of Tartuffe, walk of Orgon
A Farce It makes use of stock characters
It makes use of stock characters, such as the knave and the fool, the exploiter and the dupe.
Farce makes Humanity appears generally to be vain and ridiculous.
Simplicity to Orgon
A Farces Its subject is often marriage,
particularly the marriage customs of the overstuffed bourgeoisie.
Irony because of the part Moliere played
Molière played the part of Orgon himself. Orgon's admonition to Cléante, that his "free-thinking" will get him into trouble, is particularly ironic, then, as it was Molière's free-thinking that brought down the wrath of the clergy and aristocracy on him:

Too much free-thinking's made your faith unsteady,
And as I've warned you many times already,
'Twill get you into trouble before you're through.

(426. 57-59)
Cléante's purpose
His reasonable character provides a balance for the extreme behaviour of the others, offering judicious comments and advice to Orgon that are always rejected.
Cléante, is a model for the 'good' counsellor, and his wisdom and common sense do finally prevail, but only after the direct intervention of the king through his messenger. The play reaffirms the indisputable and incorruptible vigilance, justice, and mercy of Louis XIV.
raisonneur
a character who is the level-headed personification of reason.
Cleante is the raisonneur in Molière's plays, and may be taken for the playwright's spokesman. He is the 'straight man' in the play—the moral compass.
Madame Pernelle purpose
offers advice, although it is wholly reactionary and self-serving: she decries the lax standards of behaviour and the frivolousness of the younger generations. Her inflexibility and sanctimoniousness make her a ready dupe for the proselytizing of Tartuffe.
How is Tartuffe usually protrayed?
Typically he is played as a cleric in a black gown, affecting piety and learning, and his portrait was interpreted as sacrilegious by the clerics who saw the first performance.
For a Théâtre du Soleil production in 1995, Parisian director Arianne Mnouchkine interpreted Tartuffe
as a contemporary zealot, who attempts to undermine stable society and citizens' rights—to show the dangers of the excesses of religious fundamentalism.
Tartuffe's most effective antagonist proves to be
Dorine, who has the courage to say what she thinks, and prompts the other family members to go against the unjust decisions of Orgon. Dorine's social status does not impede her tongue or her wits, and she plots ways to overthrow the tyranny of Tartuffe. Rebellion, then, comes from the lower social ranks. Indeed, Dorine is the instigator of most of the action in the play.
Main Theme
hypocrisy. The title is derived from truffe ("deception"),
tartuffe meaning of the name
and was a common name epithet for schemers, connivers, and con men (Greenwald et al. 635).
Tartuffe also dramatizes the consequences of the abuse or misuse of authority
Orgon's obsession is a means by which he attempts to control others; it provides the rationale and the sanctions.
As Lyman Baker points out in his essay,
"Tartuffe as political parable: reason, laughter, and responsible authority in an age of absolutism,"
French society in the last third of the seventeenth century
was structured and authoritarian: husbands and fathers exercised sovereign authority over wives and dependents as did the king over his subjects. The king's authority did not derive from the consent of the governed, but from God. His subjects were considered incapable of governing themselves, just as children were incapable of running a household (Baker).
Like the plays of Racine, Molière's comedies are characterized by their use of
verse. he rhymed hexameter lines (translated into iambic lines in the English version) contribute to the rhythm and lyricism, although the dialogue may appear artificial if attention is drawn to metre and rhyme.
Moliere has an abundant use of
moral maxims or sententiae in this play, an indication of the influence of Roman comedy.
sententiae
wisdom in a brief statement. Illustrates a universal truth.
purpose of sententiae
Sometimes these underscore the theme, sometimes they demonstrate the pomposity of the speaker, sometimes they are the counsel of the devil:

No one shall know our joys, save us alone,
And there's no evil till the act is known;
It's scandal, Madam, which makes it an offense,
And it's no sin to sin in confidence.(439. 117-120)
the dramatic devices of stichomythia and repetition
The style is also characterized by brisk verbal battles and witty exchanges with slight but telling variation, as is the case in the verbal battle between Orgon and Dorine in Act II, scene ii, and the lovers' quarrel in Act II, scene iv. The pace is fast and furious, as each speaker cuts off the other in mid-line.
stichomythia
A dialogue in which the endings and beginnings of each line echo each other, taking on a new meaning with each new line.
physical comedy in Tartuffe,
Valère belies his own words by announcing his departure, and then not leaving, and he and Mariane are hauled back together by a determined Dorine, and then pushed apart when their reconciliation becomes too protracted (Act II, scene iv).
Form
-- Create suspense with the late arrival of the main character
-- 3 unities (one day one place) yet very complicated plot
--like Racine, Molière artfully uses juxtaposition of scenes and events to ironic effect.
-- balancing of characters
deus ex machina.
Events have become too complicated and disastrous for mere mortals to rectify. Fate, in the person of the King's officer, must step in to set things right again. The officer also imposes a strong sense of civil order, and reasserts the authority of the king. The comus, then, is imposed.
comus,
pagan god who waylays travelers and transforms their faces into those of magical beasts
But Tartuffe does satisfy the
human need for social order and harmony: it rewards those who live according to the dictates of social harmony, and punishes those who disrupt the pattern by their egocentricity and desire for possessions or power. The conclusion also presumably saved Molière from the attacks of his enemies.