Tartuffe (Hypocrite) became public in the year 1664 for the first time as a three act play that, when produced, attracted unfavorable denigration from religious factions. In this paper, I am going to analyze the religious instinct of the play with examples and citations from the play in addition to critical analysis from scholarly sources.
In the play, the writer Moliere derided unnecessary godliness that he opinionates as being a true from of hypocrisy whereby he did not condemn the actions of the pious people, but those who appears to be religious and thus are hypocrites.
Thus, the hypocrisy that is evidently ridiculed in the play is specifically related to religious hypocrites. In fact, the theme and message of the play is convened to the public by means of satire and comedy in the play. If we go in to the history of the play, the time and the situation when it was written, we come to know that the play was directed most probably at the Company of the Holy reparation. This was a furtive society that was instituted in the year 1627 and the main aims of the society was to oppress unorthodoxy and religious opposition, where other aims concerned with spreading the extreme religious faiths by means of charity as well as other missionary work, in addition to improvement of its well defined standards ethics and morals. In effect, the society was a sort of a representation of a pious police from whom the private lives of the people were no secret.
Thus, the play portrays a lesson for the general public and criticizes the missionary secret motives and elucidates on the matter of how a true religious life could be led. With the help of the main character of the play, the Tartuffe, Moliere represents the soul of St. Augustine and the Christian teachings that he put forth to follow. The soul, Tartuffe, is then followed and adapted, but in an extremist manner, by the character of Orgon and subsequently by Madame Pernelle, Organ's mother.
Relatively, Cleante and other characters in the play articulate a more positive as well as tolerant interpretation of the ideology and beliefs of the Bible. With the help of Cleante and other positivistic characters and their logical and reasonable opinions, the writer captures the sympathy of the audience. At the same time, the writer without a doubt express disapproval of extreme devoutness, however, he does not negate a rational and logical faith in God. Tartuffe's character was shown to negate the extremism views on the religion and the writer condemns the extremist opinions and overly religious enthusiast as compared to the positivistic and optimistic approach followed by Cleante and other characters. The writer shows that extremism is not true faith but a contradiction to the true faith. The true faith represents and protects the individuals' rights, while the extremism represses and oppresses the rights of the individuals by forcing them to breath in a closed lid cylinder.
Tartuffe is the role that is portrayed by Moliere as a depiction of religious extremism, where the soul of St. Augustine is reflected but in a very contradictory manner. On one hand, Tartuffe represents a pious character who follows the teachings of St. Augustine, while on the other hand, he contradicts the teachings and the inscriptions in the bible that every person ought to live his own life according to his own wishes but remaining within the boundaries prescribed by the God himself, not by the men in the society, though even religious one. The religious society is making people follow what they think is the right interpretation of the Bible and the teachings of the Christian faith. Where the situation is otherwise. If the true Christian faith is followed and if the Bible were truly interpreted then it would be evident the rights of the individuals are safeguarded in every matter, and the relative importance of marring out of choice is one of them. Moliere also gives forceful opposition on forced marriages and marriages for matchmaking and apposes the oppression of both women and men while they are compelled to tie in the nuptial bond without their wishes.
Moliere also negates the philosophy of the secret society and the overly pious people that God made them the savoir on earth, however the otherwise is true as God, according to the teaches of St. Augustine chose only a few people to convey His messages and those are few. Similarly, the character of Tartuffe propagates the message and makes excuses for the evil in his nature as of "human weakness [and] human imperfection" (Slater, 140). Then Tartuffe carries on to vindicate himself from allegations while Damis defies Orgon as regards to the real character of Tartuffe as he explains that that Tartuffe is a "wicked" person as well as a "wretched sinner" (Slater, 141). Similar to St. Augustine, Tartuffe also feels that he is worthy of chastisement for the reason that he has committed sins and made many mistakes in his life. But his condemnation of himself is a political gesture that intends to make Orgon feel compassion for him and hampers the comprehension of the reality that Damis was showing to him. Manipulation and deception goes far in the play as Tartuffe uses his tactics to deceive Orgon and his mother and inflicts his own personal thoughts of overzealous piety towards faith.
Orgon and his mother thus absorb the color of extremism and they believe that this indeed, taught by Tartuffe, is the true religion as has been preached by St. Augustine. And while he was deeply indebted to the hypocrite and believes him to be the source for the true faith that he has confessed, he engaged his daughter with Tartuffe, thinking Tartuffe as a heavenly blessing. And when he did engage his daughter to Tartuffe, he did not hear the opposition from his daughter that marriage ought to take place with love not with indebt ness of faith. Marianne, his daughter, believed that marriage should take place between people who love one another, not as a decision to regard someone who has influence, may that be of faith alone, over the parents. In fact, Orgon's mother considers the thought that marriage of love is nothing but sin that is inflicted with the intervention of devil in our lives. The worldly enjoyment, as they perceive, is nothing but a deviation from the true path and that true path is not in enjoying parties or going to the ball room for dances, but in accepting a great manner who is honored by God to convey his message and that we should do everything to please that one person.
Orgon and his mother see the indulgences in the worldly pleasures, as a sin and an act that is against the Christian faith and the will of God. Portrayal of these characters and there interaction with each other is very impressive and interesting. The whole story revolves around how different people in the same household think and behave with relation to the religion. While Orgon and his mother regard the worldly pleasures as sin, his other family members, his wife and children, enjoy these worldly pleasures and considers as them as an expression of joy and happiness. Social gathering and social interactions to these people have utmost importance in their lives and without these joys of life, they believe, that the world would be a bore place to live in. If the people live in a society they need to interact, where as if they do not they would live in seclusion and solitude. Then they would be separated from the society and the social system that is built on the interaction of the people living in the society. Moliere, very brilliantly portrays the two extremes of religion, one that profess that life is nothing but a system to follow the Christian faith, worship, marry, give birth and die, where as the other extreme explains that live is more than just living it. For the other extreme, the life is something that is expressed from virtues, views and sensitivity and expressiveness of acts and actions. And if life is spent on these lines, then it is also possible that the sensitivity of the religion is realized and the worldly pleasures are explored without crossing the boundaries. However, the other extreme proposes a boundary within a boundary, as explained by the author of the play, that is meant not to explain what the Christian faith is, but to repress the people to take up the values of the Christian faith.
Moliere makes Tartuffe a "fraud" (Frame, 242) and depicts it through the insensitiveness that he shows towards the society. With the help of Cleante, Moliere shows how a true religious life can be led, and that is not by the values but the doctrine of faith. At many occasions Moliere shows Cleante as the reasonable one, who does not negate the insensitiveness of the extremism…