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Molière: Tartuffe (1664)

Moliere wrote this comedy about religious hypocrisy. In this scene, Orgon is asking his daughter's maid about his family, as his brother-in-law, Cléante, arrives.

ORGON. Ah, good morning, brother.

CLÉANTE. I was just going. I'm glad to see you back again. There isn't much life in the countryside just now.

ORGON. Dorine - [to CLÉANTE] a moment brother, please excuse me if I ask the news of the family first and set my mind at rest. [to DORINE] Has everything gone well the few days I've been away? What have you been doing? How is everyone?

DORINE. The day before yesterday the mistress was feverish all day. She had a dreadful headache.

ORGON. And Tartuffe?

DORINE. Tartuffe? He's very well: hale and hearty; in the pink.

ORGON. Poor fellow!

DORINE. In the evening she felt faint and couldn't touch anything, her headache was so bad.

ORGON . And Tartuffe?

DORINE. He supped with her. She ate nothing but he very devoutly devoured a couple of partridges and half a hashed leg of mutton.

ORGON. Poor fellow!

DORINE. She never closed her eyes all through the night She was too feverish to sleep and we had to sit up with her until morning.

ORGON. And Tartuffe?

DORINE. Feeling pleasantly drowsy, he went straight to his room, jumped into a nice warm bed, and slept like a top until morning.

ORGON . Poor fellow!

DORINE. Eventually she yielded to our persuasions, allowed herself to be bled, and soon felt much relieved.

ORGON. And Tartuffe?

DORINE. He dutifully kept up his spirits, and took three a four good swigs of wine at breakfast to fortify himself against the worst that might happen and to make up for the blood the mistress had lost.

ORGON. Poor fellow!

DORINE. They are both well again now so I'll go ahead and tell the mistress how glad you are to hear that she's better. [Exits.]

CLÉANTE. She's laughing at you openly, brother, and, although I don't want to anger you, I must admit that she's right. Did anyone ever hear of such absurd behaviour? Can the man really have gained such influence over you to make you forget everything else, so that after having rescued him from poverty you should be ready to . . .

ORGON. Enough brother! You don't know the man you are talking about.

CLÉANTE. I grant you I don't know him, but then, to see that sort of fellow he is, one need only . . .

ORGON. Brother, you would be charmed with him if you knew him. You would be delighted beyond measure . . . he's a man who . . . who . . . ah! A man . . . in short, a man! Whoever follows his precepts enjoys a profound peace of mind and looks upon the world as so much ordure. Yes, under his influence I'm becoming another man. He's teaching me how to forgo affection and free myself from human ties. I could see brother, children, mother, wife, I perish without caring that much

CLÉANTE. Very humane sentiments, I must say, brother!

ORGON. Ah! Had you seen how I first met him you would have come to feel for him as I do. Every day he used to come to church and modestly fall on his knees just beside me. He would draw the eyes of the whole congregation the fervour with which he poured forth his prayers, sighing, groaning, kissing the ground in transports of humility. When I went out he would step in front of me to offer me the Holy water at the door. Having learned from his servant - a man who follows his example in every way -- who he was and how needy his condition, I offered him alms, but he would always modestly return a part. 'Too much,' he'd say, 'too much by half. I'm not worthy of your pity.' When I wouldn't have it back he'd go and bestow it on the poor before my very eyes. At length Heaven inspired me to give him shelter in my house, since when all things seem to prosper here. He keeps a reproving eye upon everything and, mindful of my honour, his concern for my interests extends even to my wife. He warns me of those who make eyes at her and is ten times more jealous for her than I am myself. You wouldn't believe the lengths to which his piety extends: the most trivial failing on his own part he accounts a sin: the slightest thing may suffice to shock his conscience - so much so that the other day he was full of self-reproach for having caught a flea while at his prayers and killed it with too much vindictiveness.

Question: What in this passage demonstrates that Tartuffe is a hypocrite?