Places: Tartuffe

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: 1669 as Tartuffe: Ou, L’Imposteur (English translation, 1732)

First produced: 1664; revision, 1667

Type of work: Drama

Type of plot: Comedy

Time of work: Seventeenth century

Places DiscussedOrgon’s house

Orgon’s Tartuffehouse. Parisian home of Orgon, a wealthy former officer of the King’s Guard, that is the play’s principal setting. The class and wealth of Orgon’s home exist with the craziness and irrationality found inside. The extravagant house where Orgon, the master, and his new younger bride, Elmire, abide is a place where carriages frequently appear at the door, and footmen and lackeys are kept busy. Orgon’s children and loyal maid, Dorine, must share their dwelling with duped Orgon’s new houseguest, the religious hypocrite Tartuffe. The house becomes a battleground between Tartuffe’s supporters, Orgon and his mother, and the more “enlightened” or reasonable personages of Dorine and Elmire, and especially Cleante–Orgon’s wise and temperate brother-in-law.

Closet

Closet. Small and well-hidden enclosed space in one of the sitting rooms in Orgon’s mansion that represents the pivotal point in the play’s plot. In the third act, Orgon’s son Damis, while hiding in the closet, overhears the pious Tartuffe attempting to seduce his father’s wife, Elmire. The closet also serves to heighten the erratic behavior of Orgon, who refuses to believe the accusations against Tartuffe. Orgon even denounces and disinherits his son, forces Mariane to commit herself to Tartuffe, rather than her lover Valere, and then makes the religious imposter his sole heir.

Table

Table. Heavy, long food-serving table that provides a place of thematic importance in the play: true virtue versus its outward appearance. In the fourth act, Elmire’s plan for her husband to hide under a table and to hear the false holy man’s lascivious, adulterous remarks enables Orgon to come to his senses and condemn the liar, who now is the owner of the property and money. Again, the location points to the folly of extreme, nonrational behavior as Orgon comically denounces all future interaction with godly men and holds them all in utter abhorrence.

BibliographyBermel, Albert. Molière’s Theatrical Bounty: A New View of the Plays. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1990. Original interpretations of the plays, partly designed to help actors think about the characters’ motivations. Discusses the possibility of a homosexual relationship between Tartuffe and Orgon; also discusses why Dorine can speak so freely to her master.Hall, H. Gaston. Comedy in Context: Essays on Molière. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1984. Analyzes Molière’s work thematically. Especially useful in examining the historical background of religious issues, as well as social customs, in Tartuffe.Lewis, D. B. Wyndham. Molière: The Comic Mask. New York: Coward-McCann, 1959. Discusses Molière’s life and works; immerses readers in seventeenth century French society. Sees Tartuffe as having a fundamental flaw, Molière’s lack of insight, read or feigned, into religion; as a result, Tartuffe comes across as a convincing villain, but the religious component remains confusing.Mander, Gertrud. Molière. Translated by Diana Stone Peters. New York: Frederick Ungar, 1973. Includes descriptions and analyses of fourteen plays and a usefully detailed chronology of his life. Examines why Molière’s contemporaries found Tartuffe so threatening and disturbing.Walker, Hallam. Molière. Boston: Twayne, 1971. Examines Tartuffe in the context of religious controversies of the period, but also in terms of its artistic antecedents; believes Molière achieved new psychological realism and artistic complexity with this play. Sees Orgon’s willingness to punish himself and his family, which Tartuffe exploits but does not create, as a central theme.
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