Tartuffe "Let's Not Descend to Such Indignities. Essay

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"Let's not descend to such indignities. / Leave the poor wretch to his unhappy fate, / And don't say anything to aggravate / His present woes; but rather hope that he / Will soon embrace an honest piety, / And mend his ways, and by a true repentance," states Cleante at the final scene of Moliere's Tartuffe. The fact that Cleante offers forgiveness in a most noble manner reveals that Moliere is doing more than merely satirizing French society. The playwright offers distinct pathways to psychological and social growth. Satire is the catalyst by which an individual can see through the problems in the society, motivating a person to change. The primary problem in French society according to Moliere is hypocrisy. Moliere pokes fun of the fact that many French people continued to be wooed by the promises of religion, when religion brings nothing but empty promises and platitudes. Cleante's act of compassion and forgiveness, including his plea for clemency to "move our just King to moderate his sentence" are shown to be the more genuine forms of religious conviction.

Tartuffe is a character that symbolizes all that was believed to be rotten in 17th century French society, especially among the
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wealthy classes. The noble people the audience becomes familiar with on stage either love or hate Tartuffe. Those who love Tartuffe believe him to be a genuinely pious individual who would make a wonderful addition to the family. Orgon and Madame Pernell are the primary characters who love Tartuffe and feel he can do no wrong. For them, Tartuffe is wise and they are "blessed" to have him as a guest. Orgon finally pledges his daughter to him and eventually his entire estate.

Orgon's pledge has embedded within it many additional layers of satire. Moliere is, for example, making fun of the patriarchal social structure that governs French society in the 17th century. Dorine is the one character most outspoken on the issue of patriarchy and its impact on women's freedom. She sarcastically counsels the timid Mariane, "Oh no, a dutiful daughter must obey / Her father, even if he weds her to an ape. / You've a bright future; why struggle to escape?" What Dorine really means is what she said to Mariane several lines prior: "Tell him one cannot love at a father's whim; / That you shall marry for yourself, not him; / That since…

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Work Cited

Moliere, Jean-Baptiste Poquellin. Tartuffe. Trans. Richard Wilbur. Retrieved online: http://faculty.mdc.edu/dmcguirk/LIT2480/tartuffe.htm

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