History of Literature


"Tartuffe Or, the Hypocrite"

"The Misanthrope"

"The Impostures of Scapin"

"The Imaginary Invalid"






French dramatist
original name Jean-Baptiste Poquelin

baptized Jan. 15, 1622, Paris, France
died Feb. 17, 1673, Paris

French actor and playwright, the greatest of all writers of French comedy.

Although the sacred and secular authorities of 17th-century France often combined against him, the genius of Molière finally emerged to win him acclaim. Comedy had a long history before Molière, who employed most of its traditional forms, but he succeeded in inventing a new style that was based on a double vision of normal and abnormal seen in relation to each other—the comedy of the true opposed to the specious, the intelligent seen alongside the pedantic. An actor himself, Molière seems to have been incapable of visualizing any situation without animating and dramatizing it, often beyond the limits of probability; though living in an age of reason, his own good sense led him not to proselytize but rather to animate the absurd, as in such masterpieces as Tartuffe, L’École des femmes, Le Misanthrope, and many others. It is testimony to the freshness of his vision that the greatest comic artists working centuries later in other media, such as Charlie Chaplin, are still compared to Molière.

Beginnings in theatre
Molière was born (and died) in the heart of Paris. His mother died when he was 10 years old; his father, one of the appointed furnishers of the royal household, gave him a good education at the Collège de Clermont (the school that, as the Lycée Louis-le-Grand, was to train so many brilliant Frenchmen, including Voltaire). Although his father clearly intended him to take over his royal appointment, the young man renounced it in 1643, apparently determined to break with tradition and seek a living on the stage. That year he joined with nine others to produce and play comedy as a company under the name of the Illustre-Théâtre. His stage name, Molière, is first found in a document dated June 28, 1644. He was to give himself entirely to the theatre for 30 years and to die exhausted at the age of 51.

A talented actress, Madeleine Béjart, persuaded Molière to establish a theatre, but she could not keep the young company alive and solvent. In 1645 Molière was twice sent to prison for debts on the building and properties. The number of theatregoers in 17th-century Paris was small, and the city already had two established theatres, so that a continued existence must have seemed impossible to a young company. From the end of 1645, for no fewer than 13 years, the troupe sought a living touring the provinces. No history of these years is possible, though municipal registers and church records show the company emerging here and there: in Nantes in 1648, in Toulouse in 1649, and so on. They were in Lyon intermittently from the end of 1652 to the summer of 1655 and again in 1657, at Montpellier in 1654 and 1655, and at Béziers in 1656. Clearly they had their ups as well as downs. These unchronicled years must have been of crucial importance to Molière’s career, forming as they did a rigorous apprenticeship to his later work as actor-manager and teaching him how to deal with authors, colleagues, audiences, and authorities. His rapid success and persistence against opposition when he finally got back to Paris is inexplicable without these years of training. His first two known plays date from this time: L’Étourdi ou les contretemps (The Blunderer, 1762), performed at Lyon in 1655, and Le Dépit amoureux (The Amorous Quarrel, 1762), performed at Béziers in 1656.

The path to fame opened for him on the afternoon of October 24, 1658, when, in the guardroom of the Louvre and on an improvised stage, the company presented Corneille’s Nicomède before the king, Louis XIV, and followed it with what Molière described as one of those little entertainments which had won him some reputation with provincial audiences. This was Le Docteur amoureux (“The Amorous Doctor”); whether it was in the form still extant is doubtful. It apparently was a success and secured the favour of the King’s brother Philippe, duc d’Orléans. It is difficult to know the extent of the Duc’s patronage, which lasted seven years, until the King himself took over the company known as “Troupe du roi.” No doubt the company gained a certain celebrity and prestige, invitations to great houses, and subsidies (usually unpaid) to actors, but not much more.

From the time of his return to Paris in 1658, all the reliable facts about Molière’s life have to do with his activity as author, actor, and manager. Some French biographers have done their best to read his personal life into his works, but at the cost of misconstruing what might have happened as what did happen. The truth is that there is little information except legend and satire. The fact that authors like Montaigne, Plutarch, Julius Caesar, and Seneca may have been in his library (according to a legal inventory of 1708), for example, does not mean that his plays should be read with the doctrines of such authors in mind.

Although unquestionably a great writer, Molière was not an author in the usual sense: he wrote little that could be called literature or even that was meant to be published—some poems and a translation of the ancient Latin writings of Lucretius, incomplete. His plays were made for the stage, and his early prefaces complain that he had to publish to avoid exploitation. (Two of them were in fact pirated.) He left seven of his plays unpublished, never issued any collected edition, and never (so far as is known) read proofs or took care with his text. Comedies, in his view, were made to be acted. This fact was forgotten in the 19th century. It took such 20th-century actors as Louis Jouvet, Charles Dullin, Jean-Louis Barrault, and Jean Vilar to present a new and exact sense of his dramatic genius.

Nor was he at all a classical author, with leisure to plan and write as he would. Competition, the fight for existence, was the keynote of Molière’s whole career. To keep his actors and his audiences was an unremitting struggle against other theatres. He won this contest almost single-handed. He held his company together by his technical competence and force of personality.

Molière’s first Paris play, Les Précieuses ridicules (The Affected Young Ladies), prefigured what was to come. It centres on two provincial girls who are exposed by valets masquerading as masters in scenes that contrast, on the one hand, the girls’ desire for elegance coupled with a lack of common sense and, on the other, the valets’ plain speech seasoned with cultural clichés. The girls’ fatuities, which they consider the height of wit, suggest their warped view of culture in which material things are of no account. The fun at the expense of these affected people is still refreshing and must have been even more so for the first spectators.

Les Précieuses, as well as Sganarelle (first performed in October, 1660), probably had its premiere at the Théâtre du Petit-Bourbon, a great house adjacent to the Louvre. The Petit-Bourbon was demolished (apparently without notice), and the company moved early in 1661 to a hall in the Palais-Royal, built as a theatre by Richelieu. Here it was that all Molière’s “Paris” plays were staged, starting with Dom Garcie de Navarre, ou le prince jaloux in February 1661, a heroic comedy of which much was hoped; it failed on the stage and succeeded only in inspiring Molière to work on Le Misanthrope. Such failures were rare and eclipsed by successes greater than the Paris theatre had known.

Nicolas Mignard
Portrait of Molière as Julius Cesar

Scandals and successes
The first night of L’École des femmes (The School for Wives), December 26, 1662, caused a scandal as if people suspected that here was an emergence of a comic genius that regarded nothing as sacrosanct. Some good judges have thought this to be Molière’s masterpiece, as pure comedy as he ever attained. Based on Paul Scarron’s version (La Précaution inutile, 1655) of a Spanish story, it presents a pedant, Arnolphe, who is so frightened of femininity that he decides to marry a girl entirely unacquainted with the ways of the world. The delicate portrayal in this girl of an awakening temperament, all the stronger for its absence of convention, is a marvel of comedy. Molière crowns his fantasy by showing his pedant falling in love with her, and his elephantine gropings toward lovers’ talk are both his punishment and the audience’s delight.

From 1662 onward the Palais-Royal theatre was shared by Italian actors, each company taking three playing days in each week. Molière also wrote plays that were privately commissioned and thus first performed elsewhere: Les Fâcheux (The Impertinents, 1732) at Vaux in August 1661; the first version of Tartuffe at Versailles in 1664; Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme at Chambord in 1670; and Psyché in the Tuileries Palace in 1671.

On February 20, 1662, Molière married Armande Béjart. It is not certain whether she was Madeleine’s sister, as the documents state, or her daughter, as some contemporaries suggest. There were three children of the marriage; only a daughter survived to maturity. It was not a happy marriage; flirtations of Armande are indicated in hostile pamphlets, but there is almost no reliable information.

Molière cleverly turned the outcry produced by L’École des femmes to the credit of the company by replying to his critics on the stage. La Critique de L’École des femmes in June 1663 and L’Impromptu de Versailles in October were both single-act discussion plays. In La Critique Molière allowed himself to express some principles of his new style of comedy, and in the other play he made theatre history by reproducing with astonishing realism the actual greenroom, or actors’ lounge, of the company and the backchat involved in rehearsal.

The quarrel of L’École des femmes was itself outrun in violence and scandal by the presentation of the first version of Tartuffe in May 1664. The history of this great play sheds much light on the conditions in which Molière had to work and bears a quite remarkable testimony to his persistence and capacity to show fight. He had to wait five years and risk the livelihood of his actors before his reward, which proved to be the greatest success of his career. Most men would surely have given up the struggle: from the time of the first performance of what was probably the first three acts of the play as it is now known, many must have feared that the Roman Catholic Church would never allow its public performance.

Undeterred, Molière made matters worse by staging a version of Dom Juan, ou le festin de Pierre with a spectacular ending in which an atheist is committed to hell—but only after he had amused and scandalized the audience. Dom Juan was meant to be a quick money raiser, but it was a costly failure, mysteriously removed after 15 performances and never performed again or published by Molière. It is a priceless example of his art. The central character, Dom Juan, carries the aristocratic principle to its extreme by disclaiming all types of obligation, either to parents or doctors or tradesmen or God. Yet he assumes that others will fulfill their obligations to him. His servant, Sganarelle, is imagined as his opposite in every point, earthy, timorous, superstitious. These two form the perfect French counterpart to Don Quixote and Sancho.

Harassment by the authorities
While engaged in his battles against the authorities, Molière continued to hold his company together single-handedly. He made up for lack of authors by writing more plays himself. He could never be sure either of actors or authors. In 1664 he put on the first play of Jean Racine, La Thébaïde, but the next year Racine transferred his second play, Alexandre le Grand, to a longer established theatre while Molière’s actors were actually performing it. He was constantly harassed by the authorities. These setbacks may have been offset in part by the royal favour conferred upon Molière, but royal favour was capricious. Pensions were often promised and not paid. The court wanted more light plays than great works. The receipts of his theatre were uncertain and fluctuating. In his 14 years in Paris, Molière wrote 31 of the 95 plays that were presented on his stage. To meet the cumulative misfortunes of his own illness, the closing of the theatre for seven weeks upon the death of the Queen Mother, and the proscription of Tartuffe and Dom Juan, he wrote five plays in one season (1666–67). Of the five, only one, Le Médecin malgré lui (The Doctor in Spite of Himself, 1914), was a success.

In the preceding season, however, Le Misanthrope, almost from the start, was treated as a masterpiece by discerning playgoers, if not by the entire public. It is a drawing-room comedy, without known sources, constructed from the elements of Molière’s own company. Molière himself played the role of Alceste, a fool of a new kind, with high principles and rigid standards, yet by nature a blind critic of everybody else. Alceste is in love with Célimène (played by Molière’s wife, Armande), a superb comic creation, equal to any and every occasion, the incarnate spirit of society. The structure of the play is as simple as it is poetic. Alceste storms moodily through the play, finding no “honest” men to agree with him, always ready to see the mote in another’s eye, blind to the beam in his own, as ignorant of his real nature as a Tartuffe.

The church nearly won its battle against Molière: it prevented public performance, both of Tartuffe for five years and of Dom Juan for the whole of Molière’s life. A five-act version of Tartuffe was played in 1667, but once only: it was banned by the President of Police and by the Archbishop on pain of excommunication. Molière’s reply was to lobby the King repeatedly, even in a military camp, and to publish a defense of his play called Lettre sur la comédie de l’Imposteur. He kept his company together through 1668 with Amphitryon (January 13), George Dandin (Versailles, July 18), and L’Avare (September 9). Sooner or later so original an author of comedy as Molière was bound to attempt a modern sketch of the ancient comic figure of the miser. The last of his three 1668 plays, L’Avare, is composed in prose that reads like verse; the stock situations are all recast, but the spirit is different from Molière’s other works and not to everyone’s taste. His miser is a living paradox, inhuman in his worship of money, all too human in his need of respect and affection. In breathtaking scenes his mania is made to suggest cruelty, pathological loneliness, even insanity. The play is too stark for those who expect laughter from comedy; Goethe started the dubious fashion of calling it tragic. Yet, as before, forces of mind and will are made to serve inhuman ends and are opposed by instinct and a very “human” nature. The basic comic suggestion is one of absurdity and incongruity rather than of gaiety.

His second play of 1668, George Dandin, often dismissed as a farce, may be one of Molière’s greatest creations. It centres on a fool, who admits his folly while suggesting that wisdom would not help him because, if things in fact go against us, it is pointless to be wise. As it happens he is in the right, but he can never prove it. The subject of the play is trivial, the suggestion is limitless; it sketches a new range of comedy altogether. In 1669, permission was somehow obtained, and the long run of Tartuffe at last began. More than 60 performances were given that year alone. The theme for this play, which brought Molière more trouble than any other, may have come to him when a local hypocrite seduced his landlady. Of the three versions of the play, only the last has survived; the first (presented in three acts played before the King in 1664) probably portrayed a pious crook so firmly established in a bourgeois household that the master promises him his daughter and disinherits his son. At the time it was common for lay directors of conscience to be placed in families to reprove and reform conduct. When this “holy” man is caught making love to his employer’s wife, he recovers by masterly self-reproach and persuades the master not only to pardon him but also to urge him to see as much of his wife as possible. Molière must have seen even greater comic possibilities in this theme, for he made five acts out of it. The final version contains two seduction scenes and a shift of interest to the comic paradox in Tartuffe himself, posing as an inhuman ascetic while by nature he is an all-too-human lecher. It is difficult to think of a theme more likely to offend pious minds. Like Arnolphe in L’École des femmes, Tartuffe seems to have come to grief because he trusted in wit and forgot instinct.

Jean-Léon Gérôme
Louis XIV and Moliere

Last plays
The struggle over Tartuffe probably exhausted Molière to the point that he was unable to stave off repeated illness and supply new plays; he had, in fact, just four years more to live. Yet he produced in 1669 Monsieur de Pourceaugnac for the King at Chambord and in 1670 Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme.

Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme treated a contemporary theme—social climbing among the bourgeois, or upper middle class—but it is perhaps the least dated of all his comedies. The protagonist Jourdain, rather than being an unpleasant sycophant, is as delightful as he is fatuous, as genuine as he is naïve; his folly is embedded in a bountiful disposition, which he of course despises. This is comedy in Molière’s happiest vein: the fatuity of the masculine master is offset by the common sense of wife and servant.

Continuing to write despite his illness, he produced Psyché and Les Fourberies de Scapin (The Cheats of Scapin, 1677) in 1671. Les Femmes savantes (The Blue-Stockings, 1927) followed in 1672; in rougher hands this subject would have been (as some have thought it) a satire on bluestockings, but Molière has imagined a sensible bourgeois who goes in fear of his masterful and learned wife. Le Malade imaginaire (Eng. trans., The Imaginary Invalid), about a hypochondriac who fears death and doctors, was performed in 1673 and was Molière’s last work. It is a powerful play in its delineation of medical jargon and professionalism, in the fatuity of a would-be doctor with learning and no sense, in the normality of the young and sensible lovers, as opposed to the superstition, greed, and charlatanry of other characters. During the fourth performance of the play, on February 17, Molière collapsed on stage and was carried back to his house in the rue de Richelieu to die. As he had not been given the sacraments or the opportunity of formally renouncing the actor’s profession, he was buried without ceremony and after sunset on February 21.

Molière as actor and as playwright
Molière’s acting had been both his disappointment and his glory. He aspired to be a tragic actor, but contemporary taste was against him. His public seemed to favour a tragic style that was pompous, with ranting and roaring, strutting and chanting. Molière had the build, the elasticity, the india-rubber face, as it has been called, of the born comedian. Offstage he was neither a great talker nor particularly merry, but he would mime and copy speech to the life. He had the tireless energy of the actor. He was always ready to make a scene out of an incident, to put himself on a stage. He gave one of his characters his own cough and another his own moods, and he made a play out of actual rehearsals. The characters of his greatest plays are like the members of his company. It was quite appropriate that he should die while playing the part of the sick man that he really was.

The actor in him influenced his writing, since he wrote (at speed) what he could most naturally act. He gave himself choleric parts, servants’ parts, a henpecked husband, a foolish bourgeois, and a superstitious old man who cursed “that fellow Molière.” (The comparison with Charlie Chaplin recurs constantly.) Something more than animal energy and a talent for mime was at work in him, a quality that can only be called intensity of dramatic vision. Here again actors have helped to recover an aspect of his genius that the scholars had missed, his stage violence. To take his plays as arguments in favour of reason is to miss their vitality. His sense of reason leads him to animate the absurd. His characters are imagined as excitable and excited to the point of incoherence. He sacrifices plot to drama, vivacity, a sense of life. He is a classical writer, yet he is ready to defy all rules of writing.

To think of Molière as a cool apostle of reason, sharing the views of the more rational men of his plays, is a heresy that dies hard; but careful scrutiny of the milieu in which Molière had to work makes it impossible to believe. The comedies are not sermons; such doctrine as may be extracted from them is incidental and at the opposite pole from didacticism. Ideas are expressed to please a public, not to propagate the author’s view. If asked what he thought of hypocrisy or atheism, he would have marvelled at the question and evaded it with the observation that the theatre is not the place for “views.” There is no documentary evidence that Molière ever tried to convey his own opinions on marriage, on the church, on hell, or on class distinctions. Strictly speaking, his views of these things are unknown. All that is known is that he worked for and in the theatre and used his amazing power of dramatic suggestion to vivify any imagined scene. If he has left a sympathetic picture of an atheist, it was not to recommend free thought: his picture of the earthy serving man is no less vivid, no less sympathetic. Scholars who have tried to make his plays prove things or to convey lessons have made little sense of his work and have been blind to its inherent fantasy and imaginative power.

Since the power of Molière’s writing seems to lie in its creative vigour of language, the traditional divisions of his works into comedies of manners, comedies of character, and farce are not helpful: he does not appear to have set out in any instance to write a certain kind of play. He starts from an occasion in Le Mariage forcé (1664; The Forced Marriage, 1762) from doubts about marriage expressed by Rabelais’s character Panurge, and in Le Médecin malgré lui he starts from a medieval fable, or fabliau, of a woodcutter who, to avoid a beating, pretends he is a doctor. On such skeleton themes Molière animates figures or arranges discussion in which one character exposes another or the roles are first expressed and then reversed. It is intellectual rhythm rather than what happens, the discussion more than the story, that conveys the charm, so that to recount the plot may be to omit the essential.

His unique sense of the comic
The attacks on Molière gave him the chance in his responses to state some aesthetic home truths. Thus, in La Critique de L’École des femmes, he states that tragedy might be heroic, but comedy must hold the mirror up to nature: “You haven’t achieved anything in comedy unless your portraits can be seen to be living types . . . making decent people laugh is a strange business.” And as for the rules that some were anxious to impose on writers: “I wonder if the golden rule is not to give pleasure and if a successful play is not on the right track.”

The attacks on L’École des femmes were child’s play in comparison with the storm raised by Tartuffe and Dom Juan. The attacks on them also drew from the poet a valuable statement of artistic principle. On Dom Juan he made no public reply since it was never officially condemned. The documents in defense of Tartuffe are two placets, or petitions, to the King, the preface to the first edition of 1669 (all these published over Molière’s own name), and the Lettre sur la comédie de l’Imposteur of 1667. The placets and preface are aesthetically disappointing, since Molière was forced to fight on ground chosen by his opponents and to admit that comedy must be didactic. (There is no other evidence that Molière thought this, so it is not unfair to assume that he used the argument only when forced.) The Lettre is much more important. It expresses in a few pregnant lines the aesthetic basis not only of Tartuffe but of Molière’s new concept of comedy:

The comic is the outward and visible form that nature’s bounty has attached to everything unreasonable, so that we should see, and avoid, it. To know the comic we must know the rational, of which it denotes the absence and we must see wherein the rational consists . . . incongruity is the heart of the comic . . . it follows that all lying, disguise, cheating, dissimulation, all outward show different from the reality, all contradiction in fact between actions that proceed from a single source, all this is in essence comic.

Molière seems here to put his finger on what was new in his notion of what is comic: a comedy, only incidentally funny, that is based on a constant double vision of wise and foolish, right and wrong seen together, side by side. This is his invention and his glory.

A main feature of Molière’s technique is a mixing of registers, or of contexts. Characters are made to play a part, then forget it, speak out of turn, overplay their role, so that those who watch this byplay constantly have the suggestion of mixed registers. The starting point of Le Médecin malgré lui, the idea of beating a man to make him pretend he is a doctor, is certainly not subtle, but Molière plays with the idea, makes his woodcutter enjoy his new experience, master the jargon, and then not know what to do with it. He utters inanities about Hippocrates, is overjoyed to find a patient ignorant of Latin, so that he need not bother about meaning. He looks for the heart on the wrong side and, undeterred by having his error recognized, sweeps aside the protest with the immortal: “We have changed all that.” The miser robbed of his money is pathetic, but he does not arouse emotions because his language leads him to the absurd “ . . . it’s all over . . . I’m dying, I’m dead, I’m buried.” He demands justice with such intemperance that his language exceeds all reason and he threatens to put the courts in the court. Molière’s Misanthrope is even more suggestive in his confusion of justice as an ideal and as a social institution: “I have justice on my side and I lose my case!” What to him is a scandal of world order is to others just proof that he is wrongheaded. Such concision does Molière’s dramatic speech achieve.

A French genius
When Voltaire described Molière as “the painter of France,” he suggested the range of French attitudes found in the plays, and this may explain why the French have developed a proprietary interest in a writer whom they seem to regard in a special sense as their own. They stress aspects of his work that others tend to overlook. Three of these are noteworthy.

First, formality permeates all his works. He never gives realism—life as it is—alone, but always within a pattern and a form that fuse light and movement, music and dance and speech. Modern productions that omit the interludes in his plays stray far from the original effect. Characters are grouped, scenes and even speeches are arranged, comic repartee is rounded off in defiance of realism.

Second, the French stress the poetry where foreigners see psychology. They take the plays not as studies of social mania but as patterns of fantasy that take up ideas, only to drop them when a point has been made. Le Misanthrope is not considered as a case study or a French Hamlet but as a subtly arranged chorus of voices and attitudes that convey a critique of individualism. The play charms by its successive evocations of its central theme. The tendency to speak one’s mind is seen to be many things: idealistic or backbiting or rude or spiteful or just fatuous. It is in this fantasy playing on the mystery of self-centredness in society that Molière is in the eyes of his own people unsurpassed.

A third quality admired in France is his intellectual penetration in distinguishing the parts of a man from the whole man. Montaigne, the 16th-century essayist who deeply influenced Molière, divided qualities that are acquired, such as learning or politeness or skills, from those that are natural, such as humanity or animality, what might be called “human nature” without other attributes. Molière delighted in opposing his characters in this way; often in his plays a social veneer peels off, revealing a real man. Many of his dialogues start with politeness and end in open insults.

Molière opposed wit to nature in many forms. His comedy embraces things within the mind and beyond it; reason and fact seldom meet. As the beaten servant in Amphitryon observes: “That conflicts with common sense. But it is so, for all that.”

Will G. Moore




Type of work: Drama
Author: Moliere (Jean Baptiste Poquelin, 1622-1673)
Type of plot: Comedy
Locale: Paris
First presented: 1664


When Tartuffe: Or, the Hypocrite was originally produced, Moliere was attacked by critics for undermining the very basis of religion: instead, his comedy was meant to satirize false piety, not true devotion. The famous portrait of the hypocrite has been the ancestor of similar types, from Dickens' Mr. Pecksniff to Sinclair Lewis' Elmer Gantry.


Principal Characters

Tartuffe (tar-tiif), a religious hypocrite and impostor who uses religious cant and practices to play on the credulity of a wealthy man who befriends him. To gain money and cover deceit, he talks of his hair shirt and scourge, of prayers and distributing alms; and he disapproves of immodest dress. Before his first appearance, he is reported by some to be a good man of highest worth, by others to be a glutton, a drinker, and a hypocrite. Deciding that he wants his patron's daughter as his wife, he uses his seeming piety to convince his host to break his daughter's marriage plans. He then endeavors to seduce his host's wife by holding her hand, patting her knee, fingering her lace collar, and making declarations of love to her. When his conduct is reported to the husband by his wife and their son, the foolish man forgives Tartuffe and gives the hypocrite all his property. Another attempted seduction fails when the husband, hidden, overhears all that happens and orders Tartuffe out of the house. Tartuffe, boasting that the entire property is now his, has an eviction order served on his former patron. When a police officer arrives to carry out the eviction order, the tables are turned. Tartuffe is arrested at the order of the king, who declares him to be a notorious rogue.
Orgon (or-gon'), a credulous, wealthy man taken in by Tartuffe, whom he befriends, invites into his home, and proposes as a husband for his daughter, already promised to another. Defending Tartuffe against the accusations of his family and servants, he refuses to believe charges that the scoundrel has attempted to seduce his wife. He then disowns his children and signs over all his property to Tartuffe. Only later, when he hides under the table, at the urging of his wife, and overhears Tartuffe's second attempt at seduction, is he convinced that he is harboring a hypocrite and scheming rascal. Orgon is saved from arrest and eviction when Tartuffe is taken away by police officers.
Elmire (el-meV), Orgon's wife. Aware of the wickedness of Tartuffe, she is unable to reveal the hypocrite's true nature to her husband. When she finds herself the object of Tartuffe's wooing, she urges the son not to make the story public, for she believes a discreet and cold denial to be more effective than violent cries of deceit. Finally, by a planned deception of Tartuffe, she convinces her husband of that scoundrel's wickedness.
Dorine (do-ren'), a maid and a shrewd, outspoken, witty girl who takes an active part in exposing Tartuffe and assisting the lovers in their plot against him. Much of the humor of the play results from her impertinence. She objects straightforwardly to the forced marriage of Tartuffe to Mariane, and she prevents a misunderstanding between the true lovers.
Damis (da-me'), Orgon's son, regarded as a fool by his grandmother. His temper and indiscretion upset Tar-tuffe's carefully laid plans, as when, for example, he suddenly comes out of the closet in which he has listened to Tartuffe's wooing of Elmire and naively reports the story to his father. He is outwitted by Tartuffe's calm admission of the charge and his father's belief in Tartuffe's innocence, despite the confession.
Valere (va-ler'), Mariane's betrothed. He quarrels with her, after hearing that Orgon intends to marry the girl to Tartuffe, because she seems not to object to the proposal with sufficient force. In a comedy scene the maid, running alternately between the lovers, reconciles the pair, and Valere determines that they will be married. He loyally offers to help Orgon flee after the eviction order is served on him by the court.
Madame Pernelle (per-neT), Orgon's mother, an outspoken old woman. Like her son, she believes in the honesty and piety of Tartuffe, and she hopes that his attitude and teachings may reclaim her grandchildren and brother-in-law from their social frivolity. She defends Tartuffe even after Orgon turns against him. She admits her mistake only after the eviction order has been delivered.
Cleante (kla-ant'), Orgon's brother-in-law. He talks in pompous maxims and makes long tiresome speeches of advice to Orgon and Tartuffe. Both disregard him.
Monsieur Loyal (lwa-уаГ), a tipstaff of the court. He serves the eviction order on Orgon.
A Police Officer, brought in by Tartuffe to arrest Orgon. Instead, he arrests Tartuffe by order of the king.
Filipote (fe-le-pot'), Madame Pernelle's servant.


The Story

Orgon's home was a happy one. He himself was married to Elmire, a woman much younger than he, who adored him. His two children by a former marriage were fond of their stepmother, and she of them. Mariane, the daughter, was engaged to be married to Valere, a very eligible young man, and Damis, the son, was in love with Valere's sister.
Then Tartuffe came to live in the household. Tartuffe was a penniless scoundrel whom the trusting Orgon had found praying in church. Taken in by his cant and his pose of fervent religiousness, Orgon had invited the hypocrite into his home. As a consequence, the family was soon demoralized. Once established, Tartuffe proceeded to change their normal happy mode of life to a strictly moral one. He set up a rigid puritan regimen for the family, and persuaded Orgon to force his daughter to break her engagement to Valere in order to marry Tartuffe. He said she needed a pious man to lead her in a righteous life.
Valere was determined that Mariane would marry no one but himself, but unfortunately Mariane was too spineless to resist Tartuffe and her father. Confronted by her father's orders, she remained silent and remonstrated only weakly. As a result, Tartuffe was cordially hated by every member of the family, including Dorine, the saucy, outspoken servant, who did everything in her power to break the hold that the hypocrite had secured over her master. Dorine hated not only Tartuffe but also his valet, Laurent, for the servant imitated the master in everything. In fact, the only person besides Orgon who liked and approved of Tartuffe was Orgon's mother, Madame Pernelle, who was the type of puritan who wished to withhold from others pleasures she herself could not enjoy. Madame Pernelle highly disapproved of Elmire, maintaining that in her love for clothes and amusements she was setting her family a bad example which Tartuffe was trying to correct. Actually, Elmire was merely full of the joy of living, a fact that her mother-in-law was unable to perceive. Orgon himself was little better. When Elmire fell ill, and he was informed of this fact, his sole concern was for the health of Tartuffe. Tartuffe, however, was in fine fettle, stout and ruddy cheeked. For his evening meal, he consumed two partridges, half a leg of mutton and four flasks of wine. He then retired to his warm and comfortable bed and slept soundly until morning.
Tartuffe's designs were not really for the daughter, Mariane, but for Elmire herself. One day, after Orgon's wife had recovered from her illness, Tartuffe appeared before her. He complimented Elmire on her beauty, and even went so far as to lay his fat hand on her knee. Damis, Orgon's son, observed all that went on from the cabinet where he was hidden. Furious, he determined to reveal to his father all that he had seen. Orgon refused to believe him. Wily Tartuffe had so completely captivated Orgon that he ordered Damis to apologize to Tartuffe. When his son refused, Orgon, violently angry, drove him from the house and disowned him. Then to show his confidence in Tartuffe's honesty and piety, Orgon signed a deed of trust turning his estate over to Tartuffe's management, and announced his daughter's betrothal to Tartuffe.
Elmire, embittered by the behavior of this impostor in her house, resolved to unmask him. She persuaded Orgon to hide under a cloth-covered table and see and hear for himself the real Tartuffe. Then she enticed Tartuffe to make love to her, disarming him with the assurance that her foolish husband would suspect nothing. Emboldened, Tartuffe poured out his heart to her, leaving no doubt as to his intention of making her his mistress. Disillusioned and outraged when Tartuffe asserted that Orgon was a complete dupe, the husband emerged from his hiding place, denounced the hypocrite, and ordered him from the house. Tartuffe defied him, reminding him that the house was now his according to Orgon's deed of trust.
Another matter made Orgon even more uneasy than the possible loss of his property. This was a casket given him by a friend, Argas, a political criminal now in exile. It contained important state secrets, the revelation of which would mean a charge of treason against Orgon and certain death for his friend. Orgon had foolishly entrusted the casket to Tartuffe, and he feared the use that villain might make of it. He informed his brother-in-law Cleante that he would have nothing further to do with pious men: that in the future he would shun them like the plague. But Cleante pointed out that such rushing to extremes was the sign of an unbalanced mind. Because a treacherous vagabond was masquerading as a religious man was no good reason to suspect religion.
The next day Tartuffe made good this threat, using his legal right to force Orgon and his family from their house. Madame Pernelle could not believe Tartuffe guilty of such villainy, and she reminded her son that in this world virtue is often misjudged and persecuted. But when the sheriff's officer arrived with the notice for evacuation, even she believed that Tartuffe was a villain.
The crowning indignity came when Tartuffe took to the king the casket containing the state secrets. Orders were issued for Orgon's immediate arrest. But fortunately the king recognized Tartuffe as an impostor who had committed crimes in another city. Therefore, because of Orgon's loyal service in the army, the king annulled the deed Orgon had made covering his property and returned the casket unopened.


Critical Evaluation

Tartuffe was first produced in 1664 but was immediately censured by fanatical religious groups who viewed the play as an attack on religion. Despite three petitions to the king, Moliere was unable to have the ban on the play lifted until 1669. Were the attacks on the play valid? According to Moliere and to generations of readers and viewers since the seventeenth century, they were not.
In the preface to the 1669 edition of the play, Moliere pointed out that he was not attacking religion, but took "every possible precaution to distinguish the hypocrite from the truly devout man." This is evident from Tartuffe's behavior throughout the play.
Tartuffe is not truly religious but an extreme example of false piety. His hypocrisy (or "imposture," as the subtitle to the 1669 version of the play depicts him) is evident from his first appearance on stage, when he asks his valet to hang up his hair shirt. His hypocrisy is further emphasized by his lusting after Elmire (act 3). Although Tartuffe's language is couched in religious terms, his earthly desires are plainly discernible. His hypocrisy is most clearly revealed at the end of the play when he betrays Orgon, exposing Orgon's political secrets, and utilizing Orgon's gifts to destroy the entire family.
Religious hypocrisy, however, is not the only source of comic criticism in the play. Lack of moderation in other areas of human behavior is also under attack. Both Orgon and his mother exhibit extreme behavior in their inability to see through Tartuffe's imposture. Their absurd devotion to Tartuffe is illustrated in two important scenes. The first (act 1) exposes Orgon's foolish devotion when he returns from a trip and is oblivious to Donne's accounts of his wife's illness; his only concern is for the health and welfare of Tartuffe. When middle-aged Orgon, feeling jealous and resentful over the youth, passion, and high spirits of the other members of his family, establishes Tartuffe as the household's moral adviser, his admiration of that scoundrel reaches idolatrous proportions. Under Tartuffe's auspices, Orgon wildly distorts the spirit of Christianity to suit his own spiteful ends; as he so outrageously asserts to Cleante, "My mother, children, brother, and wife could die/ And I'd not feel a single moment's pain." A comic reversal of this situation is presented in act 5. After Orgon's eyes have seen Tartuffe's hypocrisy (in a scene in which Tartuffe attempts to seduce Elmire), he attempts to open his mother's eyes, only to be countered by her persistent devotion to Tartuffe.
Against the extreme comic figures of Tartuffe, Orgon, and Madame Pernelle, Moliere opposes those who see through hypocrisy because they view the world through the eyes of reason. Dorine, Elmire, and, above all, Cleante represent Moliere's examples of moderation triumphing over excess. It is Cleante who clearly points out in act 1 the distinction between false religious posturing and truly devout religious people. He cautions Orgon to distinguish between "artifice and sincerity . . . appearance and reality. . . false and true." He offers examples of "gentle and humane" religious people, particularly those who refrain from censuring others. When Orgon finally sees through Tartuffe's false appearance and is ready to condemn all "godly men," Cleante again warns him to learn to distinguish between "genuinely good men" and scoundrels like Tartuffe.
Cleante's advice indicates that the seventeenth century zealots who attacked the play were in error. Moliere is not condemning true religion, only false piety.










Translated By Curtis Hidden Page







  MADAME PERNELLE, mother of Orgon
  ORGON, husband of Elmire
  ELMIRE, wife of Orgon
  DAMIS, son of Orgon
  MARIANE, daughter of Orgon, in love with Valere
  CLEANTE, brother-in-law of Orgon
  TARTUFFE, a hypocrite
  DORINE, Mariane's maid
  M. LOYAL, a bailiff
  A Police Officer
  FLIPOTTE, Madame Pernelle's servant

The Scene is at Paris




  Come, come, Flipotte, and let me get away.

  You hurry so, I hardly can attend you.

  Then don't, my daughter-in law. Stay where you are.
  I can dispense with your polite attentions.

  We're only paying what is due you, mother.
  Why must you go away in such a hurry?

  Because I can't endure your carryings-on,
  And no one takes the slightest pains to please me.
  I leave your house, I tell you, quite disgusted;
  You do the opposite of my instructions;
  You've no respect for anything; each one
  Must have his say; it's perfect pandemonium.

  If …

  You're a servant wench, my girl, and much
  Too full of gab, and too impertinent
  And free with your advice on all occasions.

  But …

  You're a fool, my boy—f, o, o, l
  Just spells your name. Let grandma tell you that
  I've said a hundred times to my poor son,
  Your father, that you'd never come to good
  Or give him anything but plague and torment.

  I think …

  O dearie me, his little sister!
  You're all demureness, butter wouldn't melt
  In your mouth, one would think to look at you.
  Still waters, though, they say … you know the proverb;
  And I don't like your doings on the sly.

  But, mother …

  Daughter, by your leave, your conduct
  In everything is altogether wrong;
  You ought to set a good example for 'em;
  Their dear departed mother did much better.
  You are extravagant; and it offends me,
  To see you always decked out like a princess.
  A woman who would please her husband's eyes
  Alone, wants no such wealth of fineries.

  But, madam, after all …

  Sir, as for you,
  The lady's brother, I esteem you highly,
  Love and respect you. But, sir, all the same,
  If I were in my son's, her husband's, place,
  I'd urgently entreat you not to come
  Within our doors. You preach a way of living
  That decent people cannot tolerate.
  I'm rather frank with you; but that's my way—
  I don't mince matters, when I mean a thing.

  Mr. Tartuffe, your friend, is mighty lucky …

  He is a holy man, and must be heeded;
  I can't endure, with any show of patience,
  To hear a scatterbrains like you attack him.

  What! Shall I let a bigot criticaster
  Come and usurp a tyrant's power here?
  And shall we never dare amuse ourselves
  Till this fine gentleman deigns to consent?

  If we must hark to him, and heed his maxims,
  There's not a thing we do but what's a crime;
  He censures everything, this zealous carper.

  And all he censures is well censured, too.
  He wants to guide you on the way to heaven;
  My son should train you all to love him well.

  No, madam, look you, nothing—not my father
  Nor anything—can make me tolerate him.
  I should belie my feelings not to say so.
  His actions rouse my wrath at every turn;
  And I foresee that there must come of it
  An open rupture with this sneaking scoundrel.

  Besides, 'tis downright scandalous to see
  This unknown upstart master of the house—
  This vagabond, who hadn't, when he came,
  Shoes to his feet, or clothing worth six farthings,
  And who so far forgets his place, as now
  To censure everything, and rule the roost!

  Eh! Mercy sakes alive! Things would go better
  If all were governed by his pious orders.

  He passes for a saint in your opinion.
  In fact, he's nothing but a hypocrite.

  Just listen to her tongue!

  I wouldn't trust him,
  Nor yet his Lawrence, without bonds and surety.

  I don't know what the servant's character
  May be; but I can guarantee the master
  A holy man. You hate him and reject him
  Because he tells home truths to all of you.
  'Tis sin alone that moves his heart to anger,
  And heaven's interest is his only motive.

  Of course. But why, especially of late,
  Can he let nobody come near the house?
  Is heaven offended at a civil call
  That he should make so great a fuss about it?
  I'll tell you, if you like, just what I think;
  (Pointing to Elmire)
  Upon my word, he's jealous of our mistress.

  You hold your tongue, and think what you are saying.
  He's not alone in censuring these visits;
  The turmoil that attends your sort of people,
  Their carriages forever at the door,
  And all their noisy footmen, flocked together,
  Annoy the neighbourhood, and raise a scandal.
  I'd gladly think there's nothing really wrong;
  But it makes talk; and that's not as it should be.

  Eh! madam, can you hope to keep folk's tongues
  From wagging? It would be a grievous thing
  If, for the fear of idle talk about us,
  We had to sacrifice our friends. No, no;
  Even if we could bring ourselves to do it,
  Think you that everyone would then be silenced?
  Against backbiting there is no defence
  So let us try to live in innocence,
  To silly tattle pay no heed at all,
  And leave the gossips free to vent their gall.

  Our neighbour Daphne, and her little husband,
  Must be the ones who slander us, I'm thinking.
  Those whose own conduct's most ridiculous,
  Are always quickest to speak ill of others;
  They never fail to seize at once upon
  The slightest hint of any love affair,
  And spread the news of it with glee, and give it
  The character they'd have the world believe in.
  By others' actions, painted in their colours,
  They hope to justify their own; they think,
  In the false hope of some resemblance, either
  To make their own intrigues seem innocent,
  Or else to make their neighbours share the blame
  Which they are loaded with by everybody.

  These arguments are nothing to the purpose.
  Orante, we all know, lives a perfect life;
  Her thoughts are all of heaven; and I have heard
  That she condemns the company you keep.

  O admirable pattern! Virtuous dame!
  She lives the model of austerity;
  But age has brought this piety upon her,
  And she's a prude, now she can't help herself.
  As long as she could capture men's attentions
  She made the most of her advantages;
  But, now she sees her beauty vanishing,
  She wants to leave the world, that's leaving her,
  And in the specious veil of haughty virtue
  She'd hide the weakness of her worn-out charms.
  That is the way with all your old coquettes;
  They find it hard to see their lovers leave 'em;
  And thus abandoned, their forlorn estate
  Can find no occupation but a prude's.
  These pious dames, in their austerity,
  Must carp at everything, and pardon nothing.
  They loudly blame their neighbours' way of living,
  Not for religion's sake, but out of envy,
  Because they can't endure to see another
  Enjoy the pleasures age has weaned them from.

  There! That's the kind of rigmarole to please you,
  Daughter-in-law. One never has a chance
  To get a word in edgewise, at your house,
  Because this lady holds the floor all day;
  But none the less, I mean to have my say, too.
  I tell you that my son did nothing wiser
  In all his life, than take this godly man
  Into his household; heaven sent him here,
  In your great need, to make you all repent;
  For your salvation, you must hearken to him;
  He censures nothing but deserves his censure.
  These visits, these assemblies, and these balls,
  Are all inventions of the evil spirit.
  You never hear a word of godliness
  At them—but idle cackle, nonsense, flimflam.
  Our neighbour often comes in for a share,
  The talk flies fast, and scandal fills the air;
  It makes a sober person's head go round,
  At these assemblies, just to hear the sound
  Of so much gab, with not a word to say;
  And as a learned man remarked one day
  Most aptly, 'tis the Tower of Babylon,
  Where all, beyond all limit, babble on.
  And just to tell you how this point came in …

  (To Cleante)
  So! Now the gentlemen must snicker, must he?
  Go find fools like yourself to make you laugh
  And don't …

  (To Elmire)
  Daughter, good-bye; not one word more.
  As for this house, I leave the half unsaid;
  But I shan't soon set foot in it again,

  (Cuffing Flipotte)
  Come, you! What makes you dream and stand agape,
  Hussy! I'll warm your ears in proper shape!
  March, trollop, march!



  I won't escort her down,
  For fear she might fall foul of me again;
  The good old lady …

  Bless us! What a pity
  She shouldn't hear the way you speak of her!
  She'd surely tell you you're too "good" by half,
  And that she's not so "old" as all that, neither!

  How she got angry with us all for nothing!
  And how she seems possessed with her Tartuffe!

  Her case is nothing, though, beside her son's!
  To see him, you would say he's ten times worse!
  His conduct in our late unpleasantness [1]
  Had won him much esteem, and proved his courage
  In service of his king; but now he's like
  A man besotted, since he's been so taken
  With this Tartuffe. He calls him brother, loves him
  A hundred times as much as mother, son,
  Daughter, and wife. He tells him all his secrets
  And lets him guide his acts, and rule his conscience.
  He fondles and embraces him; a sweetheart
  Could not, I think, be loved more tenderly;
  At table he must have the seat of honour,
  While with delight our master sees him eat
  As much as six men could; we must give up
  The choicest tidbits to him; if he belches,
  ('tis a servant speaking) [2]
  Master exclaims: "God bless you!"—Oh, he dotes
  Upon him! he's his universe, his hero;
  He's lost in constant admiration, quotes him
  On all occasions, takes his trifling acts
  For wonders, and his words for oracles.
  The fellow knows his dupe, and makes the most on't,
  He fools him with a hundred masks of virtue,
  Gets money from him all the time by canting,
  And takes upon himself to carp at us.
  Even his silly coxcomb of a lackey
  Makes it his business to instruct us too;
  He comes with rolling eyes to preach at us,
  And throws away our ribbons, rouge, and patches.
  The wretch, the other day, tore up a kerchief
  That he had found, pressed in the Golden Legend,
  Calling it a horrid crime for us to mingle
  The devil's finery with holy things.

  [Footnote 1: Referring to the rebellion called La Fronde, during the
  minority of Louis XIV.]

[Footnote 2: Moliere's note, inserted in the text of all the old editions. It is a curious illustration of the desire for uniformity and dignity of style in dramatic verse of the seventeenth century, that Moliere feels called on to apologize for a touch of realism like this. Indeed, these lines were even omitted when the play was given.]



  ELMIRE (to Cleante)
  You're very lucky to have missed the speech
  She gave us at the door. I see my husband
  Is home again. He hasn't seen me yet,
  So I'll go up and wait till he comes in.

  And I, to save time, will await him here;
  I'll merely say good-morning, and be gone.



  I wish you'd say a word to him about
  My sister's marriage; I suspect Tartuffe
  Opposes it, and puts my father up
  To all these wretched shifts. You know, besides,
  How nearly I'm concerned in it myself;
  If love unites my sister and Valere,
  I love his sister too; and if this marriage
  Were to …

  He's coming.



  Ah! Good morning, brother.

  I was just going, but am glad to greet you.
  Things are not far advanced yet, in the country?

  Dorine …

  (To Cleante)
  Just wait a bit, please, brother-in-law.
  Let me allay my first anxiety
  By asking news about the family.

  (To Dorine)
  Has everything gone well these last two days?
  What's happening? And how is everybody?

  Madam had fever, and a splitting headache
  Day before yesterday, all day and evening.

  And how about Tartuffe?

  Tartuffe? He's well;
  He's mighty well; stout, fat, fair, rosy-lipped.

  Poor man!

  At evening she had nausea
  And couldn't touch a single thing for supper,
  Her headache still was so severe.

  And how
  About Tartuffe?

  He supped alone, before her,
  And unctuously ate up two partridges,
  As well as half a leg o' mutton, deviled.

  Poor man!

  All night she couldn't get a wink
  Of sleep, the fever racked her so; and we
  Had to sit up with her till daylight.

  About Tartuffe?

  Gently inclined to slumber,
  He left the table, went into his room,
  Got himself straight into a good warm bed,
  And slept quite undisturbed until next morning.

  Poor man!

  At last she let us all persuade her,
  And got up courage to be bled; and then
  She was relieved at once.

  And how about

  He plucked up courage properly,
  Bravely entrenched his soul against all evils,
  And to replace the blood that she had lost,
  He drank at breakfast four huge draughts of wine.

  Poor man!

  So now they both are doing well;
  And I'll go straightway and inform my mistress
  How pleased you are at her recovery.



  Brother, she ridicules you to your face;
  And I, though I don't want to make you angry,
  Must tell you candidly that she's quite right.
  Was such infatuation ever heard of?
  And can a man to-day have charms to make you
  Forget all else, relieve his poverty,
  Give him a home, and then … ?

  Stop there, good brother,
  You do not know the man you're speaking of.

  Since you will have it so, I do not know him;
  But after all, to tell what sort of man
  He is …

  Dear brother, you'd be charmed to know him;
  Your raptures over him would have no end.
  He is a man … who … ah! … in fact …a man
  Whoever does his will, knows perfect peace,
  And counts the whole world else, as so much dung.
  His converse has transformed me quite; he weans
  My heart from every friendship, teaches me
  To have no love for anything on earth;
  And I could see my brother, children, mother,
  And wife, all die, and never care—a snap.

  Your feelings are humane, I must say, brother!

  Ah! If you'd seen him, as I saw him first,
  You would have loved him just as much as I.
  He came to church each day, with contrite mien,
  Kneeled, on both knees, right opposite my place,
  And drew the eyes of all the congregation,
  To watch the fervour of his prayers to heaven;
  With deep-drawn sighs and great ejaculations,
  He humbly kissed the earth at every moment;
  And when I left the church, he ran before me
  To give me holy water at the door.
  I learned his poverty, and who he was,
  By questioning his servant, who is like him,
  And gave him gifts; but in his modesty
  He always wanted to return a part.
  "It is too much," he'd say, "too much by half;
  I am not worthy of your pity." Then,
  When I refused to take it back, he'd go,
  Before my eyes, and give it to the poor.
  At length heaven bade me take him to my home,
  And since that day, all seems to prosper here.
  He censures everything, and for my sake
  He even takes great interest in my wife;
  He lets me know who ogles her, and seems
  Six times as jealous as I am myself.
  You'd not believe how far his zeal can go:
  He calls himself a sinner just for trifles;
  The merest nothing is enough to shock him;
  So much so, that the other day I heard him
  Accuse himself for having, while at prayer,
  In too much anger caught and killed a flea.

  Zounds, brother, you are mad, I think! Or else
  You're making sport of me, with such a speech.
  What are you driving at with all this nonsense … ?

  Brother, your language smacks of atheism;
  And I suspect your soul's a little tainted
  Therewith. I've preached to you a score of times
  That you'll draw down some judgment on your head.

  That is the usual strain of all your kind;
  They must have every one as blind as they.
  They call you atheist if you have good eyes;
  And if you don't adore their vain grimaces,
  You've neither faith nor care for sacred things.
  No, no; such talk can't frighten me; I know
  What I am saying; heaven sees my heart.
  We're not the dupes of all your canting mummers;
  There are false heroes—and false devotees;
  And as true heroes never are the ones
  Who make much noise about their deeds of honour,
  Just so true devotees, whom we should follow,
  Are not the ones who make so much vain show.
  What! Will you find no difference between
  Hypocrisy and genuine devoutness?
  And will you treat them both alike, and pay
  The self-same honour both to masks and faces
  Set artifice beside sincerity,
  Confuse the semblance with reality,
  Esteem a phantom like a living person,
  And counterfeit as good as honest coin?
  Men, for the most part, are strange creatures, truly!
  You never find them keep the golden mean;
  The limits of good sense, too narrow for them,
  Must always be passed by, in each direction;
  They often spoil the noblest things, because
  They go too far, and push them to extremes.
  I merely say this by the way, good brother.

  You are the sole expounder of the doctrine;
  Wisdom shall die with you, no doubt, good brother,
  You are the only wise, the sole enlightened,
  The oracle, the Cato, of our age.
  All men, compared to you, are downright fools.

  I'm not the sole expounder of the doctrine,
  And wisdom shall not die with me, good brother.
  But this I know, though it be all my knowledge,
  That there's a difference 'twixt false and true.
  And as I find no kind of hero more
  To be admired than men of true religion,
  Nothing more noble or more beautiful
  Than is the holy zeal of true devoutness;
  Just so I think there's naught more odious
  Than whited sepulchres of outward unction,
  Those barefaced charlatans, those hireling zealots,
  Whose sacrilegious, treacherous pretence
  Deceives at will, and with impunity
  Makes mockery of all that men hold sacred;
  Men who, enslaved to selfish interests,
  Make trade and merchandise of godliness,
  And try to purchase influence and office
  With false eye-rollings and affected raptures;
  Those men, I say, who with uncommon zeal
  Seek their own fortunes on the road to heaven;
  Who, skilled in prayer, have always much to ask,
  And live at court to preach retirement;
  Who reconcile religion with their vices,
  Are quick to anger, vengeful, faithless, tricky,
  And, to destroy a man, will have the boldness
  To call their private grudge the cause of heaven;
  All the more dangerous, since in their anger
  They use against us weapons men revere,
  And since they make the world applaud their passion,
  And seek to stab us with a sacred sword.
  There are too many of this canting kind.
  Still, the sincere are easy to distinguish;
  And many splendid patterns may be found,
  In our own time, before our very eyes
  Look at Ariston, Periandre, Oronte,
  Alcidamas, Clitandre, and Polydore;
  No one denies their claim to true religion;
  Yet they're no braggadocios of virtue,
  They do not make insufferable display,
  And their religion's human, tractable;
  They are not always judging all our actions,
  They'd think such judgment savoured of presumption;
  And, leaving pride of words to other men,
  'Tis by their deeds alone they censure ours.
  Evil appearances find little credit
  With them; they even incline to think the best
  Of others. No caballers, no intriguers,
  They mind the business of their own right living.
  They don't attack a sinner tooth and nail,
  For sin's the only object of their hatred;
  Nor are they over-zealous to attempt
  Far more in heaven's behalf than heaven would have 'em.
  That is my kind of man, that is true living,
  That is the pattern we should set ourselves.
  Your fellow was not fashioned on this model;
  You're quite sincere in boasting of his zeal;
  But you're deceived, I think, by false pretences.

  My dear good brother-in-law, have you quite done?


  I'm your humble servant.

(Starts to go.)

  Just a word.
  We'll drop that other subject. But you know
  Valere has had the promise of your daughter.


  You had named the happy day.

  'Tis true.

  Then why put off the celebration of it?

  I can't say.

  Can you have some other plan
  In mind?


  You mean to break your word?

  I don't say that.

  I hope no obstacle
  Can keep you from performing what you've promised.

  Well, that depends.

  Why must you beat about?
  Valere has sent me here to settle matters.

  Heaven be praised!

  What answer shall I take him?

  Why, anything you please.

  But we must know
  Your plans. What are they?

  I shall do the will
  Of Heaven.

  Come, be serious. You've given
  Your promise to Valere. Now will you keep it?


  CLEANTE (alone)
  His love, methinks, has much to fear;
  I must go let him know what's happening here.




  Now, Mariane.

  Yes, father?

  Come; I'll tell you
  A secret.

  Yes … What are you looking for?

  ORGON (looking into a small closet-room)
  To see there's no one there to spy upon us;
  That little closet's mighty fit to hide in.
  There! We're all right now. Mariane, in you
  I've always found a daughter dutiful
  And gentle. So I've always love you dearly.

  I'm grateful for your fatherly affection.

  Well spoken, daughter. Now, prove you deserve it
  By doing as I wish in all respects.

  To do so is the height of my ambition.

  Excellent well. What say you of—Tartuffe?

  Who? I?

  Yes, you. Look to it how you answer.

  Why! I'll say of him—anything you please.


  ORGON, MARIANE, DORINE (coming in quietly and standing behind
  Orgon, so that he does not see her)

  Well spoken. A good girl. Say then, my daughter,
  That all his person shines with noble merit,
  That he has won your heart, and you would like
  To have him, by my choice, become your husband.


  What say you?

  Please, what did you say?


  Surely I mistook you, sir?

  How now?

  Who is it, father, you would have me say
  Has won my heart, and I would like to have
  Become my husband, by your choice?


  But, father, I protest it isn't true!
  Why should you make me tell this dreadful lie?

  Because I mean to have it be the truth.
  Let this suffice for you: I've settled it.

  What, father, you would … ?

  Yes, child, I'm resolved
  To graft Tartuffe into my family.
  So he must be your husband. That I've settled.
  And since your duty ..

  (Seeing Dorine)
  What are you doing there?
  Your curiosity is keen, my girl,
  To make you come eavesdropping on us so.

  Upon my word, I don't know how the rumour
  Got started—if 'twas guess-work or mere chance
  But I had heard already of this match,
  And treated it as utter stuff and nonsense.

  What! Is the thing incredible?

  So much so
  I don't believe it even from yourself, sir.

  I know a way to make you credit it.

  No, no, you're telling us a fairly tale!

  I'm telling you just what will happen shortly.


  Daughter, what I say is in good earnest.

  There, there, don't take your father seriously;
  He's fooling.

  But I tell you …

  No. No use.
  They won't believe you.

  If I let my anger …

  Well, then, we do believe you; and the worse
  For you it is. What! Can a grown-up man
  With that expanse of beard across his face
  Be mad enough to want …?

  You hark me:
  You've taken on yourself here in this house
  A sort of free familiarity
  That I don't like, I tell you frankly, girl.

  There, there, let's not get angry, sir, I beg you.
  But are you making game of everybody?
  Your daughter's not cut out for bigot's meat;
  And he has more important things to think of.
  Besides, what can you gain by such a match?
  How can a man of wealth, like you, go choose
  A wretched vagabond for son-in-law?

  You hold your tongue. And know, the less he has,
  The better cause have we to honour him.
  His poverty is honest poverty;
  It should exalt him more than worldly grandeur,
  For he has let himself be robbed of all,
  Through careless disregard of temporal things
  And fixed attachment to the things eternal.
  My help may set him on his feet again,
  Win back his property—a fair estate
  He has at home, so I'm informed—and prove him
  For what he is, a true-born gentleman.

  Yes, so he says himself. Such vanity
  But ill accords with pious living, sir.
  The man who cares for holiness alone
  Should not so loudly boast his name and birth;
  The humble ways of genuine devoutness
  Brook not so much display of earthly pride.
  Why should he be so vain? … But I offend you:
  Let's leave his rank, then,—take the man himself:
  Can you without compunction give a man
  Like him possession of a girl like her?
  Think what a scandal's sure to come of it!
  Virtue is at the mercy of the fates,
  When a girl's married to a man she hates;
  The best intent to live an honest woman
  Depends upon the husband's being human,
  And men whose brows are pointed at afar
  May thank themselves their wives are what they are.
  For to be true is more than woman can,
  With husbands built upon a certain plan;
  And he who weds his child against her will
  Owes heaven account for it, if she do ill.
  Think then what perils wait on your design.

  ORGON (to Mariane)
  So! I must learn what's what from her, you see!

  You might do worse than follow my advice.

  Daughter, we can't waste time upon this nonsense;
  I know what's good for you, and I'm your father.
  True, I had promised you to young Valere;
  But, first, they tell me he's inclined to gamble,
  And then, I fear his faith is not quite sound.
  I haven't noticed that he's regular
  At church.

  You'd have him run there just when you do.
  Like those who go on purpose to be seen?

  I don't ask your opinion on the matter.
  In short, the other is in Heaven's best graces,
  And that is riches quite beyond compare.
  This match will bring you every joy you long for;
  'Twill be all steeped in sweetness and delight.
  You'll live together, in your faithful loves,
  Like two sweet children, like two turtle-doves;
  You'll never fail to quarrel, scold, or tease,
  And you may do with him whate'er you please.

  With him? Do naught but give him horns, I'll warrant.

  Out on thee, wench!

  I tell you he's cut out for't;
  However great your daughter's virtue, sir,
  His destiny is sure to prove the stronger.

  Have done with interrupting. Hold your tongue.
  Don't poke your nose in other people's business.

  DORINE (She keeps interrupting him, just as he turns and starts
  to speak to his daughter).
  If I make bold, sir, 'tis for your own good.

  You're too officious; pray you, hold your tongue.

  'Tis love of you …

  I want none of your love.

  Then I will love you in your own despite.

  You will, eh?

  Yes, your honour's dear to me;
  I can't endure to see you made the butt
  Of all men's ridicule.

  Won't you be still?

  'Twould be a sin to let you make this match.

  Won't you be still, I say, you impudent viper!

  What! you are pious, and you lose your temper?

  I'm all wrought up, with your confounded nonsense;
  Now, once for all, I tell you hold your tongue.

  Then mum's the word; I'll take it out in thinking.

  Think all you please; but not a syllable
  To me about it, or … you understand!

  (Turning to his daughter.)
  As a wise father, I've considered all
  With due deliberation.

  I'll go mad
  If I can't speak.
  (She stops the instant he turns his head.)

  Though he's no lady's man,
  Tartuffe is well enough …

  A pretty phiz!

  So that, although you may not care at all
  For his best qualities …

  A handsome dowry!

  (Orgon turns and stands in front of her, with arms folded, eyeing
  Were I in her place, any man should rue it
  Who married me by force, that's mighty certain;
  I'd let him know, and that within a week,
  A woman's vengeance isn't far to seek.

  ORGON (to Dorine)
  So—nothing that I say has any weight?

  Eh? What's wrong now? I didn't speak to you.

  What were you doing?

  Talking to myself.

  Oh! Very well. (Aside.) Her monstrous impudence
  Must be chastised with one good slap in the face.

  (He stands ready to strike her, and, each time he speaks to his
  daughter, he glances toward her; but she stands still and says not a
  word.) [3]

[Footnote 3: As given at the Comedie francaise, the action is as follows: While Orgon says, "You must approve of my design," Dorine is making signs to Mariane to resist his orders; Orgon turns around suddenly; but Dorine quickly changes her gesture and with the hand which she had lifted calmly arranges her hair and her cap. Orgon goes on, "Think of the husband …" and stops before the middle of his sentence to turn and catch the beginning of Dorine's gesture; but he is too quick this time, and Dorine stands looking at his furious countenance with a sweet and gentle expression. He turns and goes on, and the obstinate Dorine again lifts her hand behind his shoulder to urge Mariane to resistance: this time he catches her; but just as he swings his shoulder to give her the promised blow, she stops him by changing the intent of her gesture, and carefully picking from the top of his sleeve a bit of fluff which she holds carefully between her fingers, then blows into the air, and watches intently as it floats away. Orgon is paralysed by her innocence of expression, and compelled to hide his rage.—Regnier, Le Tartuffe des Comediens.]

  Daughter, you must approve of my design….
  Think of this husband … I have chosen for you…

  (To Dorine)
  Why don't you talk to yourself?

  Nothing to say.

  One little word more.

  Oh, no, thanks. Not now.

  Sure, I'd have caught you.

  Faith, I'm no such fool.

  So, daughter, now obedience is the word;
  You must accept my choice with reverence.

  DORINE (running away)
  You'd never catch me marrying such a creature.

  ORGON (swinging his hand at her and missing her)
  Daughter, you've such a pestilent hussy there
  I can't live with her longer, without sin.
  I can't discuss things in the state I'm in.
  My mind's so flustered by her insolent talk,
  To calm myself, I must go take a walk.



  Say, have you lost the tongue from out your head?
  And must I speak your role from A to Zed?
  You let them broach a project that's absurd,
  And don't oppose it with a single word!

  What can I do? My father is the master.

  Do? Everything, to ward off such disaster.

  But what?

  Tell him one doesn't love by proxy;
  Tell him you'll marry for yourself, not him;
  Since you're the one for whom the thing is done,
  You are the one, not he, the man must please;
  If his Tartuffe has charmed him so, why let him
  Just marry him himself—no one will hinder.

  A father's rights are such, it seems to me,
  That I could never dare to say a word.

  Came, talk it out. Valere has asked your hand:
  Now do you love him, pray, or do you not?

  Dorine! How can you wrong my love so much,
  And ask me such a question? Have I not
  A hundred times laid bare my heart to you?
  Do you know how ardently I love him?

  How do I know if heart and words agree,
  And if in honest truth you really love him?

  Dorine, you wrong me greatly if you doubt it;
  I've shown my inmost feelings, all too plainly.

  So then, you love him?

  Yes, devotedly.

  And he returns your love, apparently?

  I think so.

  And you both alike are eager
  To be well married to each other?


  Then what's your plan about this other match?

  To kill myself, if it is forced upon me.

  Good! That's a remedy I hadn't thought of.
  Just die, and everything will be all right.
  This medicine is marvellous, indeed!
  It drives me mad to hear folk talk such nonsense.

  Oh dear, Dorine you get in such a temper!
  You have no sympathy for people's troubles.

  I have no sympathy when folk talk nonsense,
  And flatten out as you do, at a pinch.

  But what can you expect?—if one is timid?—

  But what is love worth, if it has no courage?

  Am I not constant in my love for him?
  Is't not his place to win me from my father?

  But if your father is a crazy fool,
  And quite bewitched with his Tartuffe? And breaks
  His bounden word? Is that your lover's fault?

  But shall I publicly refuse and scorn
  This match, and make it plain that I'm in love?
  Shall I cast off for him, whate'er he be,
  Womanly modesty and filial duty?
  You ask me to display my love in public … ?

  No, no, I ask you nothing. You shall be
  Mister Tartuffe's; why, now I think of it,
  I should be wrong to turn you from this marriage.
  What cause can I have to oppose your wishes?
  So fine a match! An excellent good match!
  Mister Tartuffe! Oh ho! No mean proposal!
  Mister Tartuffe, sure, take it all in all,
  Is not a man to sneeze at—oh, by no means!
  'Tis no small luck to be his happy spouse.
  The whole world joins to sing his praise already;
  He's noble—in his parish; handsome too;
  Red ears and high complexion—oh, my lud!
  You'll be too happy, sure, with him for husband.

  Oh dear! …

  What joy and pride will fill your heart
  To be the bride of such a handsome fellow!

  Oh, stop, I beg you; try to find some way
  To help break off the match. I quite give in,
  I'm ready to do anything you say.

  No, no, a daughter must obey her father,
  Though he should want to make her wed a monkey.
  Besides, your fate is fine. What could be better!
  You'll take the stage-coach to his little village,
  And find it full of uncles and of cousins,
  Whose conversation will delight you. Then
  You'll be presented in their best society.
  You'll even go to call, by way of welcome,
  On Mrs. Bailiff, Mrs. Tax-Collector,
  Who'll patronise you with a folding-stool.
  There, once a year, at carnival, you'll have
  Perhaps—a ball; with orchestra—two bag-pipes;
  And sometimes a trained ape, and Punch and Judy;
  Though if your husband …

  Oh, you'll kill me. Please
  Contrive to help me out with your advice.

  I thank you kindly.

  Oh! Dorine, I beg you …

  To serve you right, this marriage must go through.

  Dear girl!


  If I say I love Valere …

  No, no. Tartuffe's your man, and you shall taste him.

  You know I've always trusted you; now help me …

  No, you shall be, my faith! Tartuffified.

  Well, then, since you've no pity for my fate
  Let me take counsel only of despair;
  It will advise and help and give me courage;
  There's one sure cure, I know, for all my troubles.

(She starts to go.)

  There, there! Come back. I can't be angry long.
  I must take pity on you, after all.

  Oh, don't you see, Dorine, if I must bear
  This martyrdom, I certainly shall die.

  Now don't you fret. We'll surely find some way.
  To hinder this … But here's Valere, your lover.



  Madam, a piece of news—quite new to me—
  Has just come out, and very fine it is.

  What piece of news?

  Your marriage with Tartuffe.

  'Tis true my father has this plan in mind.

  Your father, madam …

  Yes, he's changed his plans,
  And did but now propose it to me.


  Yes, he was serious,
  And openly insisted on the match.

  And what's your resolution in the matter,

  I don't know.

  That's a pretty answer.
  You don't know?



  What do you advise?

  I? My advice is, marry him, by all means.

  That's your advice?


  Do you mean it?

  A splendid choice, and worthy of your acceptance.

  Oh, very well, sir! I shall take your counsel.

  You'll find no trouble taking it, I warrant.

  No more than you did giving it, be sure.

  I gave it, truly, to oblige you, madam.

  And I shall take it to oblige you, sir.

  Dorine (withdrawing to the back of the stage)
  Let's see what this affair will come to.

  That is your love? And it was all deceit
  When you …

  I beg you, say no more of that.
  You told me, squarely, sir, I should accept
  The husband that is offered me; and I
  Will tell you squarely that I mean to do so,
  Since you have given me this good advice.

  Don't shield yourself with talk of my advice.
  You had your mind made up, that's evident;
  And now you're snatching at a trifling pretext
  To justify the breaking of your word.

  Exactly so.

  Of course it is; your heart
  Has never known true love for me.

  You're free to think so, if you please.

  Yes, yes,
  I'm free to think so; and my outraged love
  May yet forestall you in your perfidy,
  And offer elsewhere both my heart and hand.

  No doubt of it; the love your high deserts
  May win …

  Good Lord, have done with my deserts!
  I know I have but few, and you have proved it.
  But I may find more kindness in another;
  I know of someone, who'll not be ashamed
  To take your leavings, and make up my loss.

  The loss is not so great; you'll easily
  Console yourself completely for this change.

  I'll try my best, that you may well believe.
  When we're forgotten by a woman's heart,
  Our pride is challenged; we, too, must forget;
  Or if we cannot, must at least pretend to.
  No other way can man such baseness prove,
  As be a lover scorned, and still in love.

  In faith, a high and noble sentiment.

  Yes; and it's one that all men must approve.
  What! Would you have me keep my love alive,
  And see you fly into another's arms
  Before my very eyes; and never offer
  To someone else the heart that you had scorned?

  Oh, no, indeed! For my part, I could wish
  That it were done already.

  What! You wish it?


  This is insult heaped on injury;
  I'll go at once and do as you desire.

(He takes a step or two as if to go away.)

  Oh, very well then.

  VALERE (turning back)
  But remember this.
  'Twas you that drove me to this desperate pass.

  Of course.

  VALERE (turning back again)
  And in the plan that I have formed
  I only follow your example.


  VALERE (at the door)
  Enough; you shall be punctually obeyed.

  So much the better.

  VALERE (coming back again)
  This is once for all.

  So be it, then.

  VALERE (He goes toward the door, but just as he reaches it, turns


  You didn't call me?

  I? You are dreaming.

  Very well, I'm gone. Madam, farewell.

(He walks slowly away.)

  Farewell, sir.

  I must say
  You've lost your senses and both gone clean daft!
  I've let you fight it out to the end o' the chapter
  To see how far the thing could go. Oho, there,
  Mister Valere!

  (She goes and seizes him by the arm, to stop him. He makes a great
  show of resistance.)

  What do you want, Dorine?

  Come here.

  No, no, I'm quite beside myself.
  Don't hinder me from doing as she wishes.


  No. You see, I'm fixed, resolved, determined.


  MARIANE (aside)
  Since my presence pains him, makes him go,
  I'd better go myself, and leave him free.

  DORINE (leaving Valere, and running after Mariane)
  Now t'other! Where are you going?

  Let me be.

  Come back.

  No, no, it isn't any use.

  VALERE (aside)
  'Tis clear the sight of me is torture to her;
  No doubt, t'were better I should free her from it.

  DORINE (leaving Mariane and running after Valere)
  Same thing again! Deuce take you both, I say.
  Now stop your fooling; come here, you; and you.

(She pulls first one, then the other, toward the middle of the stage.)

  VALERE (to Dorine)
  What's your idea?

  MARIANE (to Dorine)
  What can you mean to do?

  Set you to rights, and pull you out o' the scrape.

  (To Valere)
  Are you quite mad, to quarrel with her now?

  Didn't you hear the things she said to me?

  DORINE (to Mariane)
  Are you quite mad, to get in such a passion?

  Didn't you see the way he treated me?

  Fools, both of you.

  (To Valere)
  She thinks of nothing else
  But to keep faith with you, I vouch for it.

  (To Mariane)
  And he loves none but you, and longs for nothing
  But just to marry you, I stake my life on't.

  MARIANE (to Valere)
  Why did you give me such advice then, pray?

  VALERE (to Mariane)
  Why ask for my advice on such a matter?

  You both are daft, I tell you. Here, your hands.

  (To Valere)
  Come, yours.

  VALERE (giving Dorine his hand)
  What for?

  DORINE (to Mariane)
  Now, yours.

  MARIANE (giving Dorine her hand)
  But what's the use?

  Oh, quick now, come along. There, both of you—
  You love each other better than you think.

  (Valere and Mariane hold each other's hands some time without looking
  at each other.)

  VALERE (at last turning toward Mariane)
  Come, don't be so ungracious now about it;
  Look at a man as if you didn't hate him.

(Mariane looks sideways toward Valere, with just a bit of a smile.)

  My faith and troth, what fools these lovers be!

  VALERE (to Mariane)
  But come now, have I not a just complaint?
  And truly, are you not a wicked creature
  To take delight in saying what would pain me?

  And are you not yourself the most ungrateful … ?

  Leave this discussion till another time;
  Now, think how you'll stave off this plaguy marriage.

  Then tell us how to go about it.

  We'll try all sorts of ways.

  (To Mariane)
  Your father's daft;

  (To Valere)
  This plan is nonsense.

  (To Mariane)
  You had better humour
  His notions by a semblance of consent,
  So that in case of danger, you can still
  Find means to block the marriage by delay.
  If you gain time, the rest is easy, trust me.
  One day you'll fool them with a sudden illness,
  Causing delay; another day, ill omens:
  You've met a funeral, or broke a mirror,
  Or dreamed of muddy water. Best of all,
  They cannot marry you to anyone
  Without your saying yes. But now, methinks,
  They mustn't find you chattering together.

  (To Valere)
  You, go at once and set your friends at work
  To make him keep his word to you; while we
  Will bring the brother's influence to bear,
  And get the step-mother on our side, too.

  VALERE (to Mariane)
  Whatever efforts we may make,
  My greatest hope, be sure, must rest on you.

  MARIANE (to Valere)
  I cannot answer for my father's whims;
  But no one save Valere shall ever have me.

  You thrill me through with joy! Whatever comes …

  Oho! These lovers! Never done with prattling!
  Now go.

  VALERE (starting to go, and coming back again)
  One last word …

  What a gabble and pother!
  Be off! By this door, you. And you, by t'other.

(She pushes them off, by the shoulders, in opposite directions.)




  May lightning strike me dead this very instant,
  May I be everywhere proclaimed a scoundrel,
  If any reverence or power shall stop me,
  And if I don't do straightway something desperate!

  I beg you, moderate this towering passion;
  Your father did but merely mention it.
  Not all things that are talked of turn to facts;
  The road is long, sometimes, from plans to acts.

  No, I must end this paltry fellow's plots,
  And he shall hear from me a truth or two.

  So ho! Go slow now. Just you leave the fellow—
  Your father too—in your step-mother's hands.
  She has some influence with this Tartuffe,
  He makes a point of heeding all she says,
  And I suspect that he is fond of her.
  Would God 'twere true!—'Twould be the height of humour
  Now, she has sent for him, in your behalf,
  To sound him on this marriage, to find out
  What his ideas are, and to show him plainly
  What troubles he may cause, if he persists
  In giving countenance to this design.
  His man says, he's at prayers, I mustn't see him,
  But likewise says, he'll presently be down.
  So off with you, and let me wait for him.

  I may be present at this interview.

  No, no! They must be left alone.

  I won't
  So much as speak to him.

  Go on! We know you
  And your high tantrums. Just the way to spoil things!
  Be off.

  No, I must see—I'll keep my temper.

  Out on you, what a plague! He's coming. Hide!

(Damis goes and hides in the closet at the back of the stage.)



  TARTUFFE (speaking to his valet, off the stage, as soon as he sees
  Dorine is there)
  Lawrence, put up my hair-cloth shirt and scourge,
  And pray that Heaven may shed its light upon you.
  If any come to see me, say I'm gone
  To share my alms among the prisoners.

  DORINE (aside)
  What affectation and what showing off!

  What do you want with me?

  To tell you …

  TARTUFFE (taking a handkerchief from his pocket)
  Before you speak, pray take this handkerchief.


  Cover up that bosom, which I can't
  Endure to look on. Things like that offend
  Our souls, and fill our minds with sinful thoughts.

  Are you so tender to temptation, then,
  And has the flesh such power upon your senses?
  I don't know how you get in such a heat;
  For my part, I am not so prone to lust,
  And I could see you stripped from head to foot,
  And all your hide not tempt me in the least.

  Show in your speech some little modesty,
  Or I must instantly take leave of you.

  No, no, I'll leave you to yourself; I've only
  One thing to say: Madam will soon be down,
  And begs the favour of a word with you.

  Ah! Willingly.

  DORINE (aside)
  How gentle all at once!
  My faith, I still believe I've hit upon it.

  Will she come soon?

  I think I hear her now.
  Yes, here she is herself; I'll leave you with her.



  May Heaven's overflowing kindness ever
  Give you good health of body and of soul,
  And bless your days according to the wishes
  And prayers of its most humble votary!

  I'm very grateful for your pious wishes.
  But let's sit down, so we may talk at ease.

  TARTUFFE (after sitting down)
  And how are you recovered from your illness?

  ELMIRE (sitting down also)
  Quite well; the fever soon let go its hold.

  My prayers, I fear, have not sufficient merit
  To have drawn down this favour from on high;
  But each entreaty that I made to Heaven
  Had for its object your recovery.

  You're too solicitous on my behalf.

  We could not cherish your dear health too much;
  I would have given mine, to help restore it.

  That's pushing Christian charity too far;
  I owe you many thanks for so much kindness.

  I do far less for you than you deserve.

  There is a matter that I wished to speak of
  In private; I am glad there's no one here
  To listen.

  Madam, I am overjoyed.
  'Tis sweet to find myself alone with you.
  This is an opportunity I've asked
  Of Heaven, many a time; till now, in vain.

  All that I wish, is just a word from you,
  Quite frank and open, hiding nothing from me.

(DAMIS, without their seeing him, opens the closet door halfway.)

  I too could wish, as Heaven's especial favour,
  To lay my soul quite open to your eyes,
  And swear to you, the trouble that I made
  About those visits which your charms attract,
  Does not result from any hatred toward you,
  But rather from a passionate devotion,
  And purest motives …

  That is how I take it,
  I think 'tis my salvation that concerns you.

  TARTUFFE (pressing her finger tips)
  Madam, 'tis so; and such is my devotion …

  Ouch! but you squeeze too hard.

  Excess of zeal.
  In no way could I ever mean to hurt you,
  And I'd as soon …

(He puts his hand on her knee.)

  What's your hand doing there?

  Feeling your gown; the stuff is very soft.

  Let be, I beg you; I am very ticklish.

(She moves her chair away, and Tartuffe brings his nearer.)

  TARTUFFE (handling the lace yoke of Elmire's dress)
  Dear me how wonderful in workmanship
  This lace is! They do marvels, nowadays;
  Things of all kinds were never better made.

  Yes, very true. But let us come to business.
  They say my husband means to break his word.
  And marry Mariane to you. Is't so?

  He did hint some such thing; but truly, madam,
  That's not the happiness I'm yearning after;
  I see elsewhere the sweet compelling charms
  Of such a joy as fills my every wish.

  You mean you cannot love terrestrial things.

  The heart within my bosom is not stone.

  I well believe your sighs all tend to Heaven,
  And nothing here below can stay your thoughts.

  Love for the beauty of eternal things
  Cannot destroy our love for earthly beauty;
  Our mortal senses well may be entranced
  By perfect works that Heaven has fashioned here.
  Its charms reflected shine in such as you,
  And in yourself, its rarest miracles;
  It has displayed such marvels in your face,
  That eyes are dazed, and hearts are rapt away;
  I could not look on you, the perfect creature,
  Without admiring Nature's great Creator,
  And feeling all my heart inflamed with love
  For you, His fairest image of Himself.
  At first I trembled lest this secret love
  Might be the Evil Spirit's artful snare;
  I even schooled my heart to flee your beauty,
  Thinking it was a bar to my salvation.
  But soon, enlightened, O all lovely one,
  I saw how this my passion may be blameless,
  How I may make it fit with modesty,
  And thus completely yield my heart to it.
  'Tis I must own, a great presumption in me
  To dare make you the offer of my heart;
  My love hopes all things from your perfect goodness,
  And nothing from my own poor weak endeavour.
  You are my hope, my stay, my peace of heart;
  On you depends my torment or my bliss;
  And by your doom of judgment, I shall be
  Blest, if you will; or damned, by your decree.

  Your declaration's turned most gallantly;
  But truly, it is just a bit surprising.
  You should have better armed your heart, methinks,
  And taken thought somewhat on such a matter.
  A pious man like you, known everywhere …

  Though pious, I am none the less a man;
  And when a man beholds your heavenly charms,
  The heart surrenders, and can think no more.
  I know such words seem strange, coming from me;
  But, madam, I'm no angel, after all;
  If you condemn my frankly made avowal
  You only have your charming self to blame.
  Soon as I saw your more than human beauty,
  You were thenceforth the sovereign of my soul;
  Sweetness ineffable was in your eyes,
  That took by storm my still resisting heart,
  And conquered everything, fasts, prayers, and tears,
  And turned my worship wholly to yourself.
  My looks, my sighs, have spoke a thousand times;
  Now, to express it all, my voice must speak.
  If but you will look down with gracious favour
  Upon the sorrows of your worthless slave,
  If in your goodness you will give me comfort
  And condescend unto my nothingness,
  I'll ever pay you, O sweet miracle,
  An unexampled worship and devotion.
  Then too, with me your honour runs no risk;
  With me you need not fear a public scandal.
  These court gallants, that women are so fond of,
  Are boastful of their acts, and vain in speech;
  They always brag in public of their progress;
  Soon as a favour's granted, they'll divulge it;
  Their tattling tongues, if you but trust to them,
  Will foul the altar where their hearts have worshipped.
  But men like me are so discreet in love,
  That you may trust their lasting secrecy.
  The care we take to guard our own good name
  May fully guarantee the one we love;
  So you may find, with hearts like ours sincere,
  Love without scandal, pleasure without fear.

  I've heard you through—your speech is clear, at least.
  But don't you fear that I may take a fancy
  To tell my husband of your gallant passion,
  And that a prompt report of this affair
  May somewhat change the friendship which he bears you?

  I know that you're too good and generous,
  That you will pardon my temerity,
  Excuse, upon the score of human frailty,
  The violence of passion that offends you,
  And not forget, when you consult your mirror,
  That I'm not blind, and man is made of flesh.

  Some women might do otherwise, perhaps,
  But I am willing to employ discretion,
  And not repeat the matter to my husband;
  But in return, I'll ask one thing of you:
  That you urge forward, frankly and sincerely,
  The marriage of Valere to Mariane;
  That you give up the unjust influence
  By which you hope to win another's rights;
  And …



  DAMIS (coming out of the closet-room where he had been hiding)
  No, I say! This thing must be made public.
  I was just there, and overheard it all;
  And Heaven's goodness must have brought me there
  On purpose to confound this scoundrel's pride
  And grant me means to take a signal vengeance
  On his hypocrisy and arrogance,
  And undeceive my father, showing up
  The rascal caught at making love to you.

  No, no; it is enough if he reforms,
  Endeavouring to deserve the favour shown him.
  And since I've promised, do not you belie me.
  'Tis not my way to make a public scandal;
  An honest wife will scorn to heed such follies,
  And never fret her husband's ears with them.

  You've reasons of your own for acting thus;
  And I have mine for doing otherwise.
  To spare him now would be a mockery;
  His bigot's pride has triumphed all too long
  Over my righteous anger, and has caused
  Far too much trouble in our family.
  The rascal all too long has ruled my father,
  And crossed my sister's love, and mine as well.
  The traitor now must be unmasked before him:
  And Providence has given me means to do it.
  To Heaven I owe the opportunity,
  And if I did not use it now I have it,
  I should deserve to lose it once for all.

  Damis …

  No, by your leave; I'll not be counselled.
  I'm overjoyed. You needn't try to tell me
  I must give up the pleasure of revenge.
  I'll make an end of this affair at once;
  And, to content me, here's my father now.



  Father, we've news to welcome your arrival,
  That's altogether novel, and surprising.
  You are well paid for your caressing care,
  And this fine gentleman rewards your love
  Most handsomely, with zeal that seeks no less
  Than your dishonour, as has now been proven.
  I've just surprised him making to your wife
  The shameful offer of a guilty love.
  She, somewhat over gentle and discreet,
  Insisted that the thing should be concealed;
  But I will not condone such shamelessness,
  Nor so far wrong you as to keep it secret.

  Yes, I believe a wife should never trouble
  Her husband's peace of mind with such vain gossip;
  A woman's honour does not hang on telling;
  It is enough if she defend herself;
  Or so I think; Damis, you'd not have spoken,
  If you would but have heeded my advice.



  Just Heaven! Can what I hear be credited?

  Yes, brother, I am wicked, I am guilty,
  A miserable sinner, steeped in evil,
  The greatest criminal that ever lived.
  Each moment of my life is stained with soilures;
  And all is but a mass of crime and filth;
  Heaven, for my punishment, I see it plainly,
  Would mortify me now. Whatever wrong
  They find to charge me with, I'll not deny it
  But guard against the pride of self-defence.
  Believe their stories, arm your wrath against me,
  And drive me like a villain from your house;
  I cannot have so great a share of shame
  But what I have deserved a greater still.

  ORGON (to his son)
  You miscreant, can you dare, with such a falsehood,
  To try to stain the whiteness of his virtue?

  What! The feigned meekness of this hypocrite
  Makes you discredit …

  Silence, cursed plague!

  Ah! Let him speak; you chide him wrongfully;
  You'd do far better to believe his tales.
  Why favour me so much in such a matter?
  How can you know of what I'm capable?
  And should you trust my outward semblance, brother,
  Or judge therefrom that I'm the better man?
  No, no; you let appearances deceive you;
  I'm anything but what I'm thought to be,
  Alas! and though all men believe me godly,
  The simple truth is, I'm a worthless creature.

  (To Damis)
  Yes, my dear son, say on, and call me traitor,
  Abandoned scoundrel, thief, and murderer;
  Heap on me names yet more detestable,
  And I shall not gainsay you; I've deserved them;
  I'll bear this ignominy on my knees,
  To expiate in shame the crimes I've done.

  ORGON (to Tartuffe)
  Ah, brother, 'tis too much!

  (To his son)
  You'll not relent,
  You blackguard?

  What! His talk can so deceive you …

  Silence, you scoundrel!

  (To Tartuffe)
  Brother, rise, I beg you.

  (To his son)
  Infamous villain!

  Can he …


  What …

  Another word, I'll break your every bone.

  Brother, in God's name, don't be angry with him!
  I'd rather bear myself the bitterest torture
  Than have him get a scratch on my account.

  ORGON (to his son)
  Ungrateful monster!

  Stop. Upon my knees
  I beg you pardon him …

  ORGON (throwing himself on his knees too, and embracing Tartuffe)
  Alas! How can you?

  (To his son)
  Villain! Behold his goodness!

  So …

  Be still.

  What! I …

  Be still, I say. I know your motives
  For this attack. You hate him, all of you;
  Wife, children, servants, all let loose upon him,
  You have recourse to every shameful trick
  To drive this godly man out of my house;
  The more you strive to rid yourselves of him,
  The more I'll strive to make him stay with me;
  I'll have him straightway married to my daughter,
  Just to confound the pride of all of you.

  What! Will you force her to accept his hand?

  Yes, and this very evening, to enrage you,
  Young rascal! Ah! I'll brave you all, and show you
  That I'm the master, and must be obeyed.
  Now, down upon your knees this instant, rogue,
  And take back what you said, and ask his pardon.

  Who? I? Ask pardon of that cheating scoundrel … ?

  Do you resist, you beggar, and insult him?
  A cudgel, here! a cudgel!

  (To Tartuffe)
  Don't restrain me.

  (To his son)
  Off with you! Leave my house this instant, sirrah,
  And never dare set foot in it again.

  Yes, I will leave your house, but …

  Leave it quickly.
  You reprobate, I disinherit you,
  And give you, too, my curse into the bargain.



  What! So insult a saintly man of God!

  Heaven, forgive him all the pain he gives me! [4]

[Footnote 4: Some modern editions have adopted the reading, preserved by tradition as that of the earliest stage version: Heaven, forgive him even as I forgive him! Voltaire gives still another reading: Heaven, forgive me even as I forgive him! Whichever was the original version, it appears in none of the early editions, and Moliere probably felt forced to change it on account of its too close resemblance to the Biblical phrase.]

  (To Orgon)
  Could you but know with what distress I see
  Them try to vilify me to my brother!


  The mere thought of such ingratitude
  Makes my soul suffer torture, bitterly …
  My horror at it … Ah! my heart's so full
  I cannot speak … I think I'll die of it.

  ORGON (in tears, running to the door through which he drove away his
  Scoundrel! I wish I'd never let you go,
  But slain you on the spot with my own hand.

  (To Tartuffe)
  Brother, compose yourself, and don't be angry.

  Nay, brother, let us end these painful quarrels.
  I see what troublous times I bring upon you,
  And think 'tis needful that I leave this house.

  What! You can't mean it?

  Yes, they hate me here,
  And try, I find, to make you doubt my faith.

  What of it? Do you find I listen to them?

  No doubt they won't stop there. These same reports
  You now reject, may some day win a hearing.

  No, brother, never.

  Ah! my friend, a woman
  May easily mislead her husband's mind.

  No, no.

  So let me quickly go away
  And thus remove all cause for such attacks.

  No, you shall stay; my life depends upon it.

  Then I must mortify myself. And yet,
  If you should wish …

  No, never!

  Very well, then;
  No more of that. But I shall rule my conduct
  To fit the case. Honour is delicate,
  And friendship binds me to forestall suspicion,
  Prevent all scandal, and avoid your wife.

  No, you shall haunt her, just to spite them all.
  'Tis my delight to set them in a rage;
  You shall be seen together at all hours
  And what is more, the better to defy them,
  I'll have no other heir but you; and straightway
  I'll go and make a deed of gift to you,
  Drawn in due form, of all my property.
  A good true friend, my son-in-law to be,
  Is more to me than son, and wife, and kindred.
  You will accept my offer, will you not?

  Heaven's will be done in everything!

  Poor man!
  We'll go make haste to draw the deed aright,
  And then let envy burst itself with spite!




  Yes, it's become the talk of all the town,
  And make a stir that's scarcely to your credit;
  And I have met you, sir, most opportunely,
  To tell you in a word my frank opinion.
  Not to sift out this scandal to the bottom,
  Suppose the worst for us—suppose Damis
  Acted the traitor, and accused you falsely;
  Should not a Christian pardon this offence,
  And stifle in his heart all wish for vengeance?
  Should you permit that, for your petty quarrel,
  A son be driven from his father's house?
  I tell you yet again, and tell you frankly,
  Everyone, high or low, is scandalised;
  If you'll take my advice, you'll make it up,
  And not push matters to extremities.
  Make sacrifice to God of your resentment;
  Restore the son to favour with his father.

  Alas! So far as I'm concerned, how gladly
  Would I do so! I bear him no ill will;
  I pardon all, lay nothing to his charge,
  And wish with all my heart that I might serve him;
  But Heaven's interests cannot allow it;
  If he returns, then I must leave the house.
  After his conduct, quite unparalleled,
  All intercourse between us would bring scandal;
  God knows what everyone's first thought would be!
  They would attribute it to merest scheming
  On my part—say that conscious of my guilt
  I feigned a Christian love for my accuser,
  But feared him in my heart, and hoped to win him
  And underhandedly secure his silence.

  You try to put us off with specious phrases;
  But all your arguments are too far-fetched.
  Why take upon yourself the cause of Heaven?
  Does Heaven need our help to punish sinners?
  Leave to itself the care of its own vengeance,
  And keep in mind the pardon it commands us;
  Besides, think somewhat less of men's opinions,
  When you are following the will of Heaven.
  Shall petty fear of what the world may think
  Prevent the doing of a noble deed?
  No!—let us always do as Heaven commands,
  And not perplex our brains with further questions.

  Already I have told you I forgive him;
  And that is doing, sir, as Heaven commands.
  But after this day's scandal and affront
  Heaven does not order me to live with him.

  And does it order you to lend your ear
  To what mere whim suggested to his father,
  And to accept gift of his estates,
  On which, in justice, you can make no claim?

  No one who knows me, sir, can have the thought
  That I am acting from a selfish motive.
  The goods of this world have no charms for me;
  I am not dazzled by their treacherous glamour;
  And if I bring myself to take the gift
  Which he insists on giving me, I do so,
  To tell the truth, only because I fear
  This whole estate may fall into bad hands,
  And those to whom it comes may use it ill
  And not employ it, as is my design,
  For Heaven's glory and my neighbours' good.

  Eh, sir, give up these conscientious scruples
  That well may cause a rightful heir's complaints.
  Don't take so much upon yourself, but let him
  Possess what's his, at his own risk and peril;
  Consider, it were better he misused it,
  Than you should be accused of robbing him.
  I am astounded that unblushingly
  You could allow such offers to be made!
  Tell me—has true religion any maxim
  That teaches us to rob the lawful heir?
  If Heaven has made it quite impossible
  Damis and you should live together here,
  Were it not better you should quietly
  And honourably withdraw, than let the son
  Be driven out for your sake, dead against
  All reason? 'Twould be giving, sir, believe me,
  Such an example of your probity …

  Sir, it is half-past three; certain devotions
  Recall me to my closet; you'll forgive me
  For leaving you so soon.

  CLEANTE (alone)



  DORINE (to Cleante)
  Sir, we beg you
  To help us all you can in her behalf;
  She's suffering almost more than heart can bear;
  This match her father means to make to-night
  Drives her each moment to despair. He's coming.
  Let us unite our efforts now, we beg you,
  And try by strength or skill to change his purpose.



  So ho! I'm glad to find you all together.

  (To Mariane)
  Here is the contract that shall make you happy,
  My dear. You know already what it means.

  MARIANE (on her knees before Orgon)
  Father, I beg you, in the name of Heaven
  That knows my grief, and by whate'er can move you,
  Relax a little your paternal rights,
  And free my love from this obedience!
  Oh, do not make me, by your harsh command,
  Complain to Heaven you ever were my father;
  Do not make wretched this poor life you gave me.
  If, crossing that fond hope which I had formed,
  You'll not permit me to belong to one
  Whom I have dared to love, at least, I beg you
  Upon my knees, oh, save me from the torment
  Of being possessed by one whom I abhor!
  And do not drive me to some desperate act
  By exercising all your rights upon me.

  ORGON (a little touched)
  Come, come, my heart, be firm! no human weakness!

  I am not jealous of your love for him;
  Display it freely; give him your estate,
  And if that's not enough, add all of mine;
  I willingly agree, and give it up,
  If only you'll not give him me, your daughter;
  Oh, rather let a convent's rigid rule
  Wear out the wretched days that Heaven allots me.

  These girls are ninnies!—always turning nuns
  When fathers thwart their silly love-affairs.
  Get on your feet! The more you hate to have him,
  The more 'twill help you earn your soul's salvation.
  So, mortify your senses by this marriage,
  And don't vex me about it any more.

  But what … ?

  You hold your tongue, before your betters.
  Don't dare to say a single word, I tell you.

  If you will let me answer, and advise …

  Brother, I value your advice most highly;
  'Tis well thought out; no better can be had;
  But you'll allow me—not to follow it.

  ELMIRE (to her husband)
  I can't find words to cope with such a case;
  Your blindness makes me quite astounded at you.
  You are bewitched with him, to disbelieve
  The things we tell you happened here to-day.

  I am your humble servant, and can see
  Things, when they're plain as noses on folks' faces,
  I know you're partial to my rascal son,
  And didn't dare to disavow the trick
  He tried to play on this poor man; besides,
  You were too calm, to be believed; if that
  Had happened, you'd have been far more disturbed.

  And must our honour always rush to arms
  At the mere mention of illicit love?
  Or can we answer no attack upon it
  Except with blazing eyes and lips of scorn?
  For my part, I just laugh away such nonsense;
  I've no desire to make a loud to-do.
  Our virtue should, I think, be gentle-natured;
  Nor can I quite approve those savage prudes
  Whose honour arms itself with teeth and claws
  To tear men's eyes out at the slightest word.
  Heaven preserve me from that kind of honour!
  I like my virtue not to be a vixen,
  And I believe a quiet cold rebuff
  No less effective to repulse a lover.

  I know … and you can't throw me off the scent.

  Once more, I am astounded at your weakness;
  I wonder what your unbelief would answer,
  If I should let you see we've told the truth?

  See it?



  Come! If I should find
  A way to make you see it clear as day?

  All rubbish.

  What a man! But answer me.
  I'm not proposing now that you believe us;
  But let's suppose that here, from proper hiding,
  You should be made to see and hear all plainly;
  What would you say then, to your man of virtue?

  Why, then, I'd say … say nothing. It can't be.

  Your error has endured too long already,
  And quite too long you've branded me a liar.
  I must at once, for my own satisfaction,
  Make you a witness of the things we've told you.

  Amen! I take you at your word. We'll see
  What tricks you have, and how you'll keep your promise.

  ELMIRE (to Dorine)
  Send him to me.

  DORINE (to Elmire)
  The man's a crafty codger,
  Perhaps you'll find it difficult to catch him.

  ELMIRE (to Dorine)
  Oh no! A lover's never hard to cheat,
  And self-conceit leads straight to self-deceit.
  Bid him come down to me.

  (To Cleante and Mariane)
  And you, withdraw.



  Bring up this table, and get under it.


  One essential is to hide you well.

  Why under there?

  Oh, dear! Do as I say;
  I know what I'm about, as you shall see.
  Get under, now, I tell you; and once there
  Be careful no one either sees or hears you.

  I'm going a long way to humour you,
  I must say; but I'll see you through your scheme.

  And then you'll have, I think, no more to say.

  (To her husband, who is now under the table.)
  But mind, I'm going to meddle with strange matters;
  Prepare yourself to be in no wise shocked.
  Whatever I may say must pass, because
  'Tis only to convince you, as I promised.
  By wheedling speeches, since I'm forced to do it,
  I'll make this hypocrite put off his mask,
  Flatter the longings of his shameless passion,
  And give free play to all his impudence.
  But, since 'tis for your sake, to prove to you
  His guilt, that I shall feign to share his love,
  I can leave off as soon as you're convinced,
  And things shall go no farther than you choose.
  So, when you think they've gone quite far enough,
  It is for you to stop his mad pursuit,
  To spare your wife, and not expose me farther
  Than you shall need, yourself, to undeceive you.
  It is your own affair, and you must end it
  When … Here he comes. Keep still, don't show yourself.


TARTUFFE, ELMIRE; ORGON (under the table)

  They told me that you wished to see me here.

  Yes. I have secrets for your ear alone.
  But shut the door first, and look everywhere
  For fear of spies.

  (Tartuffe goes and closes the door, and comes back.)
  We surely can't afford
  Another scene like that we had just now;
  Was ever anyone so caught before!
  Damis did frighten me most terribly
  On your account; you saw I did my best
  To baffle his design, and calm his anger.
  But I was so confused, I never thought
  To contradict his story; still, thank Heaven,
  Things turned out all the better, as it happened,
  And now we're on an even safer footing.
  The high esteem you're held in, laid the storm;
  My husband can have no suspicion of you,
  And even insists, to spite the scandal-mongers,
  That we shall be together constantly;
  So that is how, without the risk of blame,
  I can be here locked up with you alone,
  And can reveal to you my heart, perhaps
  Only too ready to allow your passion.

  Your words are somewhat hard to understand,
  Madam; just now you used a different style.

  If that refusal has offended you,
  How little do you know a woman's heart!
  How ill you guess what it would have you know,
  When it presents so feeble a defence!
  Always, at first, our modesty resists
  The tender feelings you inspire us with.
  Whatever cause we find to justify
  The love that masters us, we still must feel
  Some little shame in owning it; and strive
  To make as though we would not, when we would.
  But from the very way we go about it
  We let a lover know our heart surrenders,
  The while our lips, for honour's sake, oppose
  Our heart's desire, and in refusing promise.
  I'm telling you my secret all too freely
  And with too little heed to modesty.
  But—now that I've made bold to speak—pray tell me.
  Should I have tried to keep Damis from speaking,
  Should I have heard the offer of your heart
  So quietly, and suffered all your pleading,
  And taken it just as I did—remember—
  If such a declaration had not pleased me,
  And, when I tried my utmost to persuade you
  Not to accept the marriage that was talked of,
  What should my earnestness have hinted to you
  If not the interest that you've inspired,
  And my chagrin, should such a match compel me
  To share a heart I want all to myself?

  'Tis, past a doubt, the height of happiness,
  To hear such words from lips we dote upon;
  Their honeyed sweetness pours through all my senses
  Long draughts of suavity ineffable.
  My heart employs its utmost zeal to please you,
  And counts your love its one beatitude;
  And yet that heart must beg that you allow it
  To doubt a little its felicity.
  I well might think these words an honest trick
  To make me break off this approaching marriage;
  And if I may express myself quite plainly,
  I cannot trust these too enchanting words
  Until the granting of some little favour
  I sigh for, shall assure me of their truth
  And build within my soul, on firm foundations,
  A lasting faith in your sweet charity.

  ELMIRE (coughing to draw her husband's attention)
  What! Must you go so fast?—and all at once
  Exhaust the whole love of a woman's heart?
  She does herself the violence to make
  This dear confession of her love, and you
  Are not yet satisfied, and will not be
  Without the granting of her utmost favours?

  The less a blessing is deserved, the less
  We dare to hope for it; and words alone
  Can ill assuage our love's desires. A fate
  Too full of happiness, seems doubtful still;
  We must enjoy it ere we can believe it.
  And I, who know how little I deserve
  Your goodness, doubt the fortunes of my daring;
  So I shall trust to nothing, madam, till
  You have convinced my love by something real.

  Ah! How your love enacts the tyrant's role,
  And throws my mind into a strange confusion!
  With what fierce sway it rules a conquered heart,
  And violently will have its wishes granted!
  What! Is there no escape from your pursuit?
  No respite even?—not a breathing space?
  Nay, is it decent to be so exacting,
  And so abuse by urgency the weakness
  You may discover in a woman's heart?

  But if my worship wins your gracious favour,
  Then why refuse me some sure proof thereof?

  But how can I consent to what you wish,
  Without offending Heaven you talk so much of?

  If Heaven is all that stands now in my way,
  I'll easily remove that little hindrance;
  Your heart need not hold back for such a trifle.

  But they affright us so with Heaven's commands!

  I can dispel these foolish fears, dear madam;
  I know the art of pacifying scruples
  Heaven forbids, 'tis true, some satisfactions;
  But we find means to make things right with Heaven.

('Tis a scoundrel speaking.) [5]

[Footnote 5: Moliere's note, in the original edition.]

  There is a science, madam, that instructs us
  How to enlarge the limits of our conscience
  According to our various occasions,
  And rectify the evil of the deed
  According to our purity of motive.
  I'll duly teach you all these secrets, madam;
  You only need to let yourself be guided.
  Content my wishes, have no fear at all;
  I answer for't, and take the sin upon me.

  (Elmire coughs still louder.)
  Your cough is very bad.

  Yes, I'm in torture.

  Would you accept this bit of licorice?

  The case is obstinate, I find; and all
  The licorice in the world will do no good.

  'Tis very trying.

  More than words can say.

  In any case, your scruple's easily
  Removed. With me you're sure of secrecy,
  And there's no harm unless a thing is known.
  The public scandal is what brings offence,
  And secret sinning is not sin at all.

  ELMIRE (after coughing again)
  So then, I see I must resolve to yield;
  I must consent to grant you everything,
  And cannot hope to give full satisfaction
  Or win full confidence, at lesser cost.
  No doubt 'tis very hard to come to this;
  'Tis quite against my will I go so far;
  But since I must be forced to it, since nothing
  That can be said suffices for belief,
  Since more convincing proof is still demanded,
  I must make up my mind to humour people.
  If my consent give reason for offence,
  So much the worse for him who forced me to it;
  The fault can surely not be counted mine.

  It need not, madam; and the thing itself …

  Open the door, I pray you, and just see
  Whether my husband's not there, in the hall.

  Why take such care for him? Between ourselves,
  He is a man to lead round by the nose.
  He's capable of glorying in our meetings;
  I've fooled him so, he'd see all, and deny it.

  No matter; go, I beg you, look about,
  And carefully examine every corner.



  ORGON (crawling out from under the table)
  That is, I own, a man … abominable!
  I can't get over it; the whole thing floors me.

  What? You come out so soon? You cannot mean it!
  Get back under the table; 'tis not time yet;
  Wait till the end, to see, and make quite certain,
  And don't believe a thing on mere conjecture.

  Nothing more wicked e'er came out of Hell.

  Dear me! Don't go and credit things too lightly.
  No, let yourself be thoroughly convinced;
  Don't yield too soon, for fear you'll be mistaken.

(As Tartuffe enters, she makes her husband stand behind her.)



  TARTUFFE (not seeing Orgon)
  All things conspire toward my satisfaction,
  Madam, I've searched the whole apartment through.
  There's no one here; and now my ravished soul …

  ORGON (stopping him)
  Softly! You are too eager in your amours;
  You needn't be so passionate. Ah ha!
  My holy man! You want to put it on me!
  How is your soul abandoned to temptation!
  Marry my daughter, eh?—and want my wife, too?
  I doubted long enough if this was earnest,
  Expecting all the time the tone would change;
  But now the proof's been carried far enough;
  I'm satisfied, and ask no more, for my part.

  ELMIRE (to Tartuffe)
  'Twas quite against my character to play
  This part; but I was forced to treat you so.

  What? You believe … ?

  Come, now, no protestations.
  Get out from here, and make no fuss about it.

  But my intent …

  That talk is out of season.
  You leave my house this instant.

  You're the one
  To leave it, you who play the master here!
  This house belongs to me, I'll have you know,
  And show you plainly it's no use to turn
  To these low tricks, to pick a quarrel with me,
  And that you can't insult me at your pleasure,
  For I have wherewith to confound your lies,
  Avenge offended Heaven, and compel
  Those to repent who talk to me of leaving.



  What sort of speech is this? What can it mean?

  My faith, I'm dazed. This is no laughing matter.


  From his words I see my great mistake;
  The deed of gift is one thing troubles me.

  The deed of gift …

  Yes, that is past recall.
  But I've another thing to make me anxious.

  What's that?

  You shall know all. Let's see at once
  Whether a certain box is still upstairs.




  Whither away so fast?

  How should I know?

  Methinks we should begin by taking counsel
  To see what can be done to meet the case.

  I'm all worked up about that wretched box.
  More than all else it drives me to despair.

  That box must hide some mighty mystery?

  Argas, my friend who is in trouble, brought it
  Himself, most secretly, and left it with me.
  He chose me, in his exile, for this trust;
  And on these documents, from what he said,
  I judge his life and property depend.

  How could you trust them to another's hands?

  By reason of a conscientious scruple.
  I went straight to my traitor, to confide
  In him; his sophistry made me believe
  That I must give the box to him to keep,
  So that, in case of search, I might deny
  My having it at all, and still, by favour
  Of this evasion, keep my conscience clear
  Even in taking oath against the truth.

  Your case is bad, so far as I can see;
  This deed of gift, this trusting of the secret
  To him, were both—to state my frank opinion—
  Steps that you took too lightly; he can lead you
  To any length, with these for hostages;
  And since he holds you at such disadvantage,
  You'd be still more imprudent, to provoke him;
  So you must go some gentler way about.

  What! Can a soul so base, a heart so false,
  Hide neath the semblance of such touching fervour?
  I took him in, a vagabond, a beggar! …
  'Tis too much! No more pious folk for me!
  I shall abhor them utterly forever,
  And henceforth treat them worse than any devil.

  So! There you go again, quite off the handle!
  In nothing do you keep an even temper.
  You never know what reason is, but always
  Jump first to one extreme, and then the other.
  You see your error, and you recognise
  That you've been cozened by a feigned zeal;
  But to make up for't, in the name of reason,
  Why should you plunge into a worse mistake,
  And find no difference in character
  Between a worthless scamp, and all good people?
  What! Just because a rascal boldly duped you
  With pompous show of false austerity,
  Must you needs have it everybody's like him,
  And no one's truly pious nowadays?
  Leave such conclusions to mere infidels;
  Distinguish virtue from its counterfeit,
  Don't give esteem too quickly, at a venture,
  But try to keep, in this, the golden mean.
  If you can help it, don't uphold imposture;
  But do not rail at true devoutness, either;
  And if you must fall into one extreme,
  Then rather err again the other way.



  What! father, can the scoundrel threaten you,
  Forget the many benefits received,
  And in his base abominable pride
  Make of your very favours arms against you?

  Too true, my son. It tortures me to think on't.

  Let me alone, I'll chop his ears off for him.
  We must deal roundly with his insolence;
  'Tis I must free you from him at a blow;
  'Tis I, to set things right, must strike him down.

  Spoke like a true young man. Now just calm down,
  And moderate your towering tantrums, will you?
  We live in such an age, with such a king,
  That violence can not advance our cause.



  What's this? I hear of fearful mysteries!

  Strange things indeed, for my own eyes to witness;
  You see how I'm requited for my kindness,
  I zealously receive a wretched beggar,
  I lodge him, entertain him like my brother,
  Load him with benefactions every day,
  Give him my daughter, give him all my fortune:
  And he meanwhile, the villain, rascal, wretch,
  Tries with black treason to suborn my wife,
  And not content with such a foul design,
  He dares to menace me with my own favours,
  And would make use of those advantages
  Which my too foolish kindness armed him with,
  To ruin me, to take my fortune from me,
  And leave me in the state I saved him from.

  Poor man!

  My son, I cannot possibly
  Believe he could intend so black a deed.


  Worthy men are still the sport of envy.

  Mother, what do you mean by such a speech?

  There are strange goings-on about your house,
  And everybody knows your people hate him.

  What's that to do with what I tell you now?

  I always said, my son, when you were little:
  That virtue here below is hated ever;
  The envious may die, but envy never.

  What's that fine speech to do with present facts?

  Be sure, they've forged a hundred silly lies …

  I've told you once, I saw it all myself.

  For slanderers abound in calumnies …

  Mother, you'd make me damn my soul. I tell you
  I saw with my own eyes his shamelessness.

  Their tongues for spitting venom never lack,
  There's nothing here below they'll not attack.

  Your speech has not a single grain of sense.
  I saw it, harkee, saw it, with these eyes
  I saw—d'ye know what saw means?—must I say it
  A hundred times, and din it in your ears?

  My dear, appearances are oft deceiving,
  And seeing shouldn't always be believing.

  I'll go mad.

  False suspicions may delude,
  And good to evil oft is misconstrued.

  Must I construe as Christian charity
  The wish to kiss my wife!

  You must, at least,
  Have just foundation for accusing people,
  And wait until you see a thing for sure.

  The devil! How could I see any surer?
  Should I have waited till, before my eyes,
  He … No, you'll make me say things quite improper.

  In short, 'tis known too pure a zeal inflames him;
  And so, I cannot possibly conceive
  That he should try to do what's charged against him.

  If you were not my mother, I should say
  Such things! … I know not what, I'm so enraged!

  DORINE (to Orgon)
  Fortune has paid you fair, to be so doubted;
  You flouted our report, now yours is flouted.

  We're wasting time here in the merest trifling,
  Which we should rather use in taking measures
  To guard ourselves against the scoundrel's threats.

  You think his impudence could go far?

  For one, I can't believe it possible;
  Why, his ingratitude would be too patent.

  Don't trust to that; he'll find abundant warrant
  To give good colour to his acts against you;
  And for less cause than this, a strong cabal
  Can make one's life a labyrinth of troubles.
  I tell you once again: armed as he is
  You never should have pushed him quite so far.

  True; yet what could I do? The rascal's pride
  Made me lose all control of my resentment.

  I wish with all my heart that some pretence
  Of peace could be patched up between you two

  If I had known what weapons he was armed with,
  I never should have raised such an alarm,
  And my …

  ORGON (to Dorine, seeing Mr. Loyal come in)
  Who's coming now? Go quick, find out.
  I'm in a fine state to receive a visit!



  MR. LOYAL (to Dorine, at the back of the stage)
  Good day, good sister. Pray you, let me see
  The master of the house.

  He's occupied;
  I think he can see nobody at present.

  I'm not by way of being unwelcome here.
  My coming can, I think, nowise displease him;
  My errand will be found to his advantage.

  Your name, then?

  Tell him simply that his friend
  Mr. Tartuffe has sent me, for his goods …

  DORINE (to Orgon)
  It is a man who comes, with civil manners,
  Sent by Tartuffe, he says, upon an errand
  That you'll be pleased with.

  CLEANTE (to Orgon)
  Surely you must see him,
  And find out who he is, and what he wants.

  ORGON (to Cleante)
  Perhaps he's come to make it up between us:
  How shall I treat him?

  You must not get angry;
  And if he talks of reconciliation
  Accept it.

  MR. LOYAL (to Orgon)
  Sir, good-day. And Heaven send
  Harm to your enemies, favour to you.

  ORGON (aside to Cleante)
  This mild beginning suits with my conjectures
  And promises some compromise already.

  All of your house has long been dear to me;
  I had the honour, sir, to serve your father.

  Sir, I am much ashamed, and ask your pardon
  For not recalling now your face or name.

  My name is Loyal. I'm from Normandy.
  My office is court-bailiff, in despite
  Of envy; and for forty years, thank Heaven,
  It's been my fortune to perform that office
  With honour. So I've come, sir, by your leave
  To render service of a certain writ …

  What, you are here to …

  Pray, sir, don't be angry.
  'Tis nothing, sir, but just a little summons:—
  Order to vacate, you and yours, this house,
  Move out your furniture, make room for others,
  And that without delay or putting off,
  As needs must be …

  I? Leave this house?

  Yes, please, sir
  The house is now, as you well know, of course,
  Mr. Tartuffe's. And he, beyond dispute,
  Of all your goods is henceforth lord and master
  By virtue of a contract here attached,
  Drawn in due form, and unassailable.

  DAMIS (to Mr. Loyal)
  Your insolence is monstrous, and astounding!

  MR. LOYAL (to Damis)
  I have no business, sir, that touches you;

  (Pointing to Orgon)
  This is the gentleman. He's fair and courteous,
  And knows too well a gentleman's behaviour
  To wish in any wise to question justice.

  But …

  Sir, I know you would not for a million
  Wish to rebel; like a good citizen
  You'll let me put in force the court's decree.

  Your long black gown may well, before you know it,
  Mister Court-bailiff, get a thorough beating.

  MR. LOYAL (to Orgon)
  Sir, make your son be silent or withdraw.
  I should be loath to have to set things down,
  And see your names inscribed in my report.

  DORINE (aside)
  This Mr. Loyal's looks are most disloyal.

  I have much feeling for respectable
  And honest folk like you, sir, and consented
  To serve these papers, only to oblige you,
  And thus prevent the choice of any other
  Who, less possessed of zeal for you than I am
  Might order matters in less gentle fashion.

  And how could one do worse than order people
  Out of their house?

  Why, we allow you time;
  And even will suspend until to-morrow
  The execution of the order, sir.
  I'll merely, without scandal, quietly,
  Come here and spend the night, with half a score
  Of officers; and just for form's sake, please,
  You'll bring your keys to me, before retiring.
  I will take care not to disturb your rest,
  And see there's no unseemly conduct here.
  But by to-morrow, and at early morning,
  You must make haste to move your least belongings;
  My men will help you—I have chosen strong ones
  To serve you, sir, in clearing out the house.
  No one could act more generously, I fancy,
  And, since I'm treating you with great indulgence,
  I beg you'll do as well by me, and see
  I'm not disturbed in my discharge of duty.

  I'd give this very minute, and not grudge it,
  The hundred best gold louis I have left,
  If I could just indulge myself, and land
  My fist, for one good square one, on his snout.

  CLEANTE (aside to Orgon)
  Careful!—don't make things worse.

  Such insolence!
  I hardly can restrain myself. My hands
  Are itching to be at him.

  By my faith,
  With such a fine broad back, good Mr. Loyal,
  A little beating would become you well.

  My girl, such infamous words are actionable.
  And warrants can be issued against women.

  CLEANTE (to Mr. Loyal)
  Enough of this discussion, sir; have done.
  Give us the paper, and then leave us, pray.

  Then au revoir. Heaven keep you from disaster!

  May Heaven confound you both, you and your master!



  Well, mother, am I right or am I not?
  This writ may help you now to judge the matter.
  Or don't you see his treason even yet?

  I'm all amazed, befuddled, and beflustered!

  DORINE (to Orgon)
  You are quite wrong, you have no right to blame him;
  This action only proves his good intentions.
  Love for his neighbour makes his virtue perfect;
  And knowing money is a root of evil,
  In Christian charity, he'd take away
  Whatever things may hinder your salvation.

  Be still. You always need to have that told you.

  CLEANTE (to Orgon)
  Come, let us see what course you are to follow.

  Go and expose his bold ingratitude.
  Such action must invalidate the contract;
  His perfidy must now appear too black
  To bring him the success that he expects.



  'Tis with regret, sir, that I bring bad news;
  But urgent danger forces me to do so.
  A close and intimate friend of mine, who knows
  The interest I take in what concerns you,
  Has gone so far, for my sake, as to break
  The secrecy that's due to state affairs,
  And sent me word but now, that leaves you only
  The one expedient of sudden flight.
  The villain who so long imposed upon you,
  Found means, an hour ago, to see the prince,
  And to accuse you (among other things)
  By putting in his hands the private strong-box
  Of a state-criminal, whose guilty secret,
  You, failing in your duty as a subject,
  (He says) have kept. I know no more of it
  Save that a warrant's drawn against you, sir,
  And for the greater surety, that same rascal
  Comes with the officer who must arrest you.

  His rights are armed; and this is how the scoundrel
  Seeks to secure the property he claims.

  Man is a wicked animal, I'll own it!

  The least delay may still be fatal, sir.
  I have my carriage, and a thousand louis,
  Provided for your journey, at the door.
  Let's lose no time; the bolt is swift to strike,
  And such as only flight can save you from.
  I'll be your guide to seek a place of safety,
  And stay with you until you reach it, sir.

  How much I owe to your obliging care!
  Another time must serve to thank you fitly;
  And I pray Heaven to grant me so much favour
  That I may some day recompense your service.
  Good-bye; see to it, all of you …

  Come hurry;
  We'll see to everything that's needful, brother.



  TARTUFFE (stopping Orgon)
  Softly, sir, softly; do not run so fast;
  You haven't far to go to find your lodging;
  By order of the prince, we here arrest you.

  Traitor! You saved this worst stroke for the last;
  This crowns your perfidies, and ruins me.

  I shall not be embittered by your insults,
  For Heaven has taught me to endure all things.

  Your moderation, I must own, is great.

  How shamelessly the wretch makes bold with Heaven!

  Your ravings cannot move me; all my thought
  Is but to do my duty.

  You must claim
  Great glory from this honourable act.

  The act cannot be aught but honourable,
  Coming from that high power which sends me here.

  Ungrateful wretch, do you forget 'twas I
  That rescued you from utter misery?

  I've not forgot some help you may have given;
  But my first duty now is toward my prince.
  The higher power of that most sacred claim
  Must stifle in my heart all gratitude;
  And to such puissant ties I'd sacrifice
  My friend, my wife, my kindred, and myself.

  The hypocrite!

  How well he knows the trick
  Of cloaking him with what we most revere!

  But if the motive that you make parade of
  Is perfect as you say, why should it wait
  To show itself, until the day he caught you
  Soliciting his wife? How happens it
  You have not thought to go inform against him
  Until his honour forces him to drive you
  Out of his house? And though I need not mention
  That he'd just given you his whole estate,
  Still, if you meant to treat him now as guilty,
  How could you then consent to take his gift?

  TARTUFFE (to the Officer)
  Pray, sir, deliver me from all this clamour;
  Be good enough to carry out your order.

  Yes, I've too long delayed its execution;
  'Tis very fitting you should urge me to it;
  So therefore, you must follow me at once
  To prison, where you'll find your lodging ready.

  Who? I, sir?


  By why to prison?

  Are not the one to whom I owe account.
  You, sir (to Orgon), recover from your hot alarm.
  Our prince is not a friend to double dealing,
  His eyes can read men's inmost hearts, and all
  The art of hypocrites cannot deceive him.
  His sharp discernment sees things clear and true;
  His mind cannot too easily be swayed,
  For reason always holds the balance even.
  He honours and exalts true piety,
  But knows the false, and views it with disgust.
  This fellow was by no means apt to fool him,
  Far subtler snares have failed against his wisdom,
  And his quick insight pierced immediately
  The hidden baseness of this tortuous heart.
  Accusing you, the knave betrayed himself,
  And by true recompense of Heaven's justice
  He stood revealed before our monarch's eyes
  A scoundrel known before by other names,
  Whose horrid crimes, detailed at length, might fill
  A long-drawn history of many volumes.
  Our monarch—to resolve you in a word—
  Detesting his ingratitude and baseness,
  Added this horror to his other crimes,
  And sent me hither under his direction
  To see his insolence out-top itself,
  And force him then to give you satisfaction.
  Your papers, which the traitor says are his,
  I am to take from him, and give you back;
  The deed of gift transferring your estate
  Our monarch's sovereign will makes null and void;
  And for the secret personal offence
  Your friend involved you in, he pardons you:
  Thus he rewards your recent zeal, displayed
  In helping to maintain his rights, and shows
  How well his heart, when it is least expected,
  Knows how to recompense a noble deed,
  And will not let true merit miss its due,
  Remembering always rather good than evil.

  Now Heaven be praised!

  At last I breathe again.

  A happy outcome!

  Who'd have dared to hope it?

  ORGON (to Tartuffe, who is being led by the officer)
  There traitor! Now you're …



  Brother, hold!—and don't
  Descend to such indignities, I beg you.
  Leave the poor wretch to his unhappy fate,
  And let remorse oppress him, but not you.
  Hope rather that his heart may now return
  To virtue, hate his vice, reform his ways,
  And win the pardon of our glorious prince;
  While you must straightway go, and on your knees
  Repay with thanks his noble generous kindness.

  Well said! We'll go, and at his feet kneel down,
  With joy to thank him for his goodness shown;
  And this first duty done, with honours due,
  We'll then attend upon another, too.
  With wedded happiness reward Valere,
  And crown a lover noble and sincere.




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