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Tartuffe

play, orgon, moliere, house, acts, daughter, molieres and played

TARTUFFE, a comedy of Moliere in five acts in rhymed verse, the first three acts of which were presented for the first time before the king and queen at Versailles, 12 May 1664, when the author was 38 years old. The play made enemies everywhere. There were those among the Jansenists and Jesuits who each thought that the others were aimed at, and a violent attack was written by the curate Pierre Roulle under the title °Le Roy glorieux au (Paris 1664), which upon Moliere's protest was censured by the king. The latter nevertheless forbade the play to be presented again until finished. On 5 Aug. 1667, a second version of the play was presented at the Palais-Royal under the title °L'Imposteur.) Moliere, apparently upon the suggestion of the papal legate and his entourage, had softened it in several respects; for instance, the original Tartuffe was no longer in ecclesiastical garb. Nevertheless its presentation was stopped, in the king's absence, by the first president of Parliament and interdicted by the archbishop of Paris. The king, despite his prohibition, had shown his favor by taking Moliere's play ers under his patronage in 1665. It was only on 5 Feb. 1669, however, that a third version, the only one known to us now, was acted at the Palais-Royal by the king's permission under the original title, and the poet's long years of waiting for a hearing were rewarded by extraordinary success. The of the play, which is masterly in its simplicity and logic, concerns the entrance of one Tartuffe (or Tartufe or Tartufle), a self-seeking ad venturer hiding his greed behind the mask of piety, into the house of Orgon, a well-to-do burgher, whose docile daughter, Mariane, has been affianced to Valere. Orgon (played by Moliere) and his opinionated old mother, Ma dame Pernelle, fall completely under the sway of Tartuffe over the protest of the rest of the family, including a rather hot-headed son, Damis, and a sensible and even-tempered brother-in-law, Cleante. Orgon goes even so far as to make a deed of gift to Tartuffe and to promise his daughter to him, despite a pre vious promise to Valere. It was not on the daughter, however, but on Orgon's second wife, Elmire, young and comely, that Tartuffe had cast longing eyes. To save her step-children, Elmire (played by Moliere's wife) consents to lure Tartuffe into an avowal which her hus band in hiding may overhear. This scheme be ing successful, the impostor throws off the mask and impudently claims the house under the deed of gift. Orgon's ruin is narrowly

averted by the intervention of Louis XIV, a veritable dens ex machina, whose messenger restores the house to Orgon and hales the villain off to prison. It is not only for the singularity and boldness of the subject or the skill in with which it is treated that this play - merits approval. The first scene is as happy as it is new, as full of simplicity as of life. Instead of those mutual confidences which are so commonly made use of in this place, an old grandmother, offended at what she has seen amiss in her granddaughter, is introduced giv ing a severe lecture to those who belong to the house, in which she draws the'characters of them all; for we distinguish the truth even through the language of prejudice. From this moment everything is in motion and the action gradually increases to the end. The fine raillery of Dorine (played by Madeleine Be jart), a maid, in the scene with her master, gives us a clear idea of Orgon and prepares us for Tartuffe in the picture of hypocrite, which Cleante opposes to that of the truly devout. Tartuffe, who is only talked of in the first two acts, makes his appearance in the third, when the plot being then more animated receives equal vivacity from the new schemes employed against this villain and from the address with which he turns everything attempted against him to his own advantage. The infatuation of Orgon, which increases in proportion to the measures taken to cure it. gives occasion to that singular and admirable scene of the fourth act, which the necessity of unmasking a vice so abominable as that of hy pocrisy renders indispensable. The panegy ric of Louis XIV, put in the mouth of the exempt at the end of the play, could not justify the fault of the unraveling in the eyes of the critics. Here indeed is the insuperable diffi culty. It is impossible to set on the stage a religious hypoctite and not lend him the lan guage of piety. Consequently an attempt to tear the mask off religious hypocrisy must necessarily take on the occasional aspect of an assault on religion itself. This was the basis of the opposition to the play, and that it was in a measurejustified is borne out by the sub sequent use of by aggressive enemies of any form of ecclesiasticism as though it were an assault on religion itself. There is an extremely clever translation of (Tartuffe.' with the French text en regard, in the fifth volume of the works of Moliere published by John Watts (London 1748).