English 233:  Introduction to Western Humanities -- Baroque & Enlightenment

An outline of Molière's Tartuffe -- Act One

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Act One

i. Madame Pernelle takes leave of her brother's household.

She censures the way of life there.

[What's the comic irony in this? (What is her chief complaint about everyone in the family? What consistent pattern of action does she exhibit in her exchanges with each person? Where else in the play do we see a similar pattern of action, with other characters?) What does this comic irony have to do with the phenomenon of "projection"? What do we guess might be the deep source of Madame Pernelle's complaint, insofar as what she mentions is something that distresses her (rather than just the cover for something else she either doesn't realize or can't publicly acknowledge)? ]

She defends Tartuffe and Orgon against the rest.

[The position she adopts establishes an ideological kinship between herself and her son. This suggests that we may be able to read her as a kind of "metaphor" of Orgon. Hence, things (like deeper, unacknowledged, even unconscious motives) that are clear to us about her might throw light on corresponding matters concerning Orgon that we are not so immediately clear about. ]

ii. Cléante and Dorine agree in reflecting on what has just happened.

Cléante expresses disgust with Mme. Pernelle's character.

Dorine summarizes folly of Orgon towards the knavery of Tartuffe and Laurent.

iii. transition — exposition

Elmire announces Orgon is returning.

Damis introduces the marriage issue into the plot.

iv. Orgon's first appearance.

Dorine draws out the pathology of his relative concern with (the welfare of) his wife (Elmire) and his counselor (Tartuffe).

v. Cléante remonstrates with his brother-in-law Orgon

Orgon relates the history of Tartuffe

Cléante delivers 2 sermons on Reason and Religion (the Faith).

Cléante tries to get Orgon explicitly to confirm his promise to give his daughter (Mariane) in marriage to Valère.

• This reveals that Orgon has postponed the date he'd earlier set.

• Orgon waffles, insisting he'll "be guided by Heaven's will."

Copyright (c) 1996 by Lyman Allen Baker.

Permission granted for non-commercial educational use; all other rights reserved.

Revised 23 November 1996.