Tartuffe

Definition

Theater

  • Molière's comedy about religious hypocrisy, firstperformed in 1664 before Louis XIV at Versailles. Molière'syoung wife, Armande Béjart (1641 - 1700), played Elmirewhile he himself played Orgon (wearing a black satin cloak lined withshot silk trimmed in English lace and with lace on his shoes and garters).When Molière revised the play for public performance, it wasimmediately banned following protests by the Church. The chief judge of Paris told the author, "You are an honour and a glory to France, but it is not the theater's business to dabble in religion." The king was baffled by the strength of feeling aroused by the play, which does not directly attack Christianity or the Church, until a member of his court explained: "Molière mocks the men themselves. That's what they cannot bear." Molière, who was determined that the comedy should be staged, revised it twice and added a final speech praising the king. When finally produced in 1669, it was an instant success.

    In the story, Tartuffe uses a show of religion to worm his way into the household of the gullible merchant Orgon. While feigning abstinence, he is eating, drinking, and even stealing from his supporter. When Tartuffe is finally caught trying to seduce his wife, Elmire, Orgon throws him out. Having been totally discredited, Tartuffe resorts to blackmail but is finally arrested on the orders of the King.

    The word tartuffe is still used in France to mean asanctimonious hypocrite. There have been numerous modern adaptationsin which the character is reinterpreted to stand for some more contemporaryform of hypocrisy.

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