Enlightenment-Era, Neo-Classical Works With Romantic Overtones 'Tartuffe, Term Paper

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Enlightenment-era, Neo-Classical works with Romantic overtones 'Tartuffe," Candide, and Frankenstein all use unnatural forms of character representation to question the common conceptions of what is natural and of human and environmental 'nature.' Moliere uses highly artificial ways of representing characters in dramatic forms to show the unnatural nature of an older man becoming attracted to a younger woman. Voltaire uses unnatural and absurd situations to question the unnatural belief of Professor Pangloss that this is the best of all possible worlds. Mary Shelley creates a fantastic or unnatural scenario to show the unnatural nature of a human scientist's attempt to turn himself into a kind of God-like creator through the use of reason and science alone.

"Tartuffe" is the most obviously unnatural of the three works in terms of its style. It is a play, and the characters do not really develop as human beings because of the compressed nature of the plot. The characters talk to the audience, and speak in rhyme. It is obvious, because of the constructed and comedic nature of the play, that the hypocrisy of the title character will eventually be revealed and the man he is taking advantage of is a fool. The character of Tartuffe is unnatural, not simply because of his religious pretensions, but also because of his designs upon his host's daughter and wife. Only through a distrust of social hierarchies does this comeuppance take place, however. Here,
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the Enlightenment trust in reason and democracy is clear, because the maid is actually wiser than the man of the house, and the woman is wiser than her husband. Women were presumably 'lower beings' in conventional understandings of the relationship of men and women, but in Moliere's understanding, the most reasonable rather than the most traditionally powerful should hold sway in a positive, natural, democratic governance of a household.

The Neo-Classical trust that reason and examination will produce just results is validated by the end of Moliere's play, as the young lovers come together and Tartuffe is expelled from the house. However, Tartuffe's declaration of his passion, for all of its self-interest, still makes him a compelling and almost Romantic character. Even in the artificial and constructed nature of the play, there is some Romantic, or inner feeling exhibited that is not revealed by the outer character of Tartuffe. Even though what Tartuffe does in unnatural in his pretence and his designs upon the younger daughter of his host to gain money, Tartuffe's inner feeling for a married woman seems to be natural or unforced in a way that the carefully constructed social forms of the play cannot fully reveal -- after all, the character would simply pursue the daughter's hand in marriage, if social advancement were his only goal, and not the satisfaction of his passion.

Candide is a satire, and its characters do not speak to the audience -- rather, the author Voltaire narrates what occurs with a distanced,…

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