Professor Hale Sirin
Due: February 26, 2015
An Essay on Religion
During the late 17th and 18th centuries, a powerful movement spread across Europe that fundamentally changed European society. Widely referred to in hindsight as the Enlightenment, this era in European history showed a great emphasis on the glory of reason and science, dramatically shifting from the emphasis on religious doctrine that empowered Europe for centuries. Through this period of Enlightenment, new ideals were reflected amongst European society. Writers, scholars, and philosophers began writing fondly of the world and man’s capacity to understand the world around him without blindly following ...view middle of the document...
Although it was banned by the archbishop of Paris, it was later unbanned in 1669 by the king, becoming a hit for centuries to come.
The controversy surrounding Tartuffe centered on the character which the play is titled after, Tartuffe, who Molière portrays as a pious and religious man, but is later revealed to be a liar and a manipulative con artist. This is even further exhibited by the play’s secondary names, The Hypocrite and The Impostor. Tartuffe, a self-acclaimed holy man, is taken in by Orgon. Duped by Tartuffe’s feigned piety, Orgon provides Tartuffe with food, clothing, and the offer to marry his daughter Mariane. Molière uses this strong ability to manipulate Orgon with piety and religious zeal as a way to poke fun at the habitual behavior of the French at the time, who have deferred to Catholicism as the only source of right and moral standing in the land. With this, Molière makes a commentary on French society, which has been enamored with the Catholic Church and looks to the church for guidance on all aspects of life.
Within Tartuffe, the audience is introduced to two factions within Orgon’s family: the elder members Orgon and Madame Pernelle, who are stubborn in their trust for Tartuffe, and the younger members, who see through Tartuffe’s plethora of “holy speeches” (Molière, Act I, Scene I). While the children immediately realize Tartuffe’s hypocrisy, Madame Pernelle rebukes them, telling them that Tartuffe is a good man who is “out to save your souls, and all of you must love him as my son would have you do” (Molière, Act I, Scene I). Madame Pernelle continues expressing why she believes Tartuffe deserves their respect, explaining her belief that Tartuffe has come to them to ensure their souls enter heaven, if only the children obey his teachings, “You all regard him with distate and fear, Because he tells you what you’re loath to hear, Condemns your sins, points out your moral flaws, And humbly strives to further Heaven’s cause” (Molière, Act I, Scene I). It is seemingly clear to Madame Pernelle that Tartuffe is a tool of the heavens, an opinion she has deemed true merely due to her overhearing Tartuffe recite religious scripture. Aside from his holy words, however, Madame Pernelle has no grounds to give Tartuffe such praise; a clear commentary of how some are blindly enamored by the words of the religious more than by their actions.
Later, we are introduced to Orgon, who clearly plays the primary role of the fool in this play. Orgon believes that Tartuffe is a religious man of good spirit, blinded solely on him witnessing how loud Tartuffe prays in church, and how it causes all the eyes in the room to focus on him, “He used to come into our church each day, And humbly kneel nearby and start to pray. He’d draw the eyes of everybody there, By the deep fervor of his heartfelt prayer; He’d sigh and weep and sometimes with a sound, Of rapture he would bend and kiss the ground, And when I rose to go, he’d run before, To...