So, following my modern tradition class, today I present to you a play from the Enlightenment era. I hope you find the review interesting!
Author: Jean-Baptiste Poquelin Moliere
Genre: Play, romance, enlightenment
My Rating: ***
Official Rating: N/A
Age Group: 16+
Summary: Tartuffe is a sneaky man who poses as a religious figure. Through his skillful acting, he manages to wrap a household around his little finger and make a move to take everything from them. Those who see through his disguise are ignored and seen as jealous or childish. But what happens when the man of the house sees Tartuffe approach his wife in an adulterous way? Will he believe Tartuffe's guilt, or is it too late?
Word of Warning
- The story line is a good place to start. Tartuffe is a religious figure who lies and basically steals. He also uses his position to attempt to essentially have a sexual relationship with a married woman.
- A father banishes his son in anger. The father is also blind to Tartuffe's cruelty and will no hear no wrong said of him.
- When Elmire (the wife) is approached by Tartuffe, she does not respond as we expect her to. While she doesn't encourage the man, she doesn't cut him off either. This, we learn later, is simply part of her plot to prove to her husband how evil Tartuffe is. She does not allow Tartuffe to become physically intimate with her.
- The wife sets up a situation in which she suggests to Tartuffe that she does love him. Then, she allows him to continue from there, not really encouraging or discouraging his profession of love. Meanwhile, her husband hides under a table, witnessing the whole thing. Several times she coughs, trying to get her husband to come out and accuse Tartuffe of the crime. When he doesn't, she convinces Tartuffe to check to make sure the situation is clear before they become physically intimate. While he is gone, she tells her husband he should come out, but seeing the doubt he has, tells him not to come out until he is absolutely certain he is seeing what he thinks he is. He comes out a moment later and accuses Tartuffe of inappropriately approaching his wife.
- Tartuffe tricks Orgon (the man of the house) to basically hand over the house, property, and money. This leaves Orgon's family with nothing. (spoiler alert: this is not the end)
In all honesty, I've never been a huge fan of plays or poetry (except epic poetry). This semester, I've encountered a lot of plays (and we've only just begun!). I found Tartuffe to be one of the more interesting ones. It's short, characters are simple, and yet the whole thing has a complexity to it. It shows the ideas of the Enlightenment era, debates about authority and how it should be used, and is driven by that main Enlightenment idea: emotions should be governed by reason. As classmates joked, if it's not, everyone dies (according to Racine's Phaedra). The lesson of Tartuffe is similar, though not as drastic.
Also, the play actually had a bit of an edge-of-your-seat quality to it. It was a fun piece of literature.