Tartuffe Study Guide

Tartuffe Study Guide

Original title:
Le Tartuffe, ou L’Imposteur

Tartuffe is a classical satire written by Moliere that shows us the story of the aforementioned Tartuffe - a con artist pretending to be a saint and entering the happy and jovial family to parasite on it.

We see the characters, complicated enough to fit not only the satirical novel, that is unusual - mostly the writers use sketchy, flat characters to present the virtues and vices they want to show in their work. In Tartuffe we see the main conflict between the prudish people who forgot the art of enjoying life and the light-hearted, opened ones who love the life and all the joys it gives to them. The author is clearly on the side of the latter.

Tartuffe uses the prudish and Puritan worldview of the family matriarch, pretending to be a holy person. His self-righteousness forbids the family to enjoy life but to pray and think solemn thoughts to become closer to God. At first the main character, the son of the matriarch, agrees, seeing it as the way to become less “sinful”, but his wife - who clearly sees that their family is on the edge of disrupting - starts her own investigation, discovering that Tartuffe’s holier-than-thou attitude is just a cover, under which he enjoys the resources taken away from her family and seems to take even more - her own young daughter, who is going to marry the man she loves…

In Tartuffe we see the classical instruments of engaging people into cults long before they were studied and described by the psychologists. Tartuffe turns the family life into the complete absurdity, turning the concept of happiness upside down. The only thing that can wake the family members up from these delusions is the imminent danger of sexual assault and innate desire to live happily and not suffer forever for the greater goal, sacrificing the dearest ones to the cult.

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