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Criticism of Religious Hypocrites in Moliere’s Tartuffe

Criticism of Religious Hypocrites in Tartuffe

Moliere rocked the 17th century French world with his comedy “Tartuffe” in 1664. Although, religious factions kept the play banned from theatres from 1664-1669, “Tartuffe” emerged from the controversy as one of the all-time great comedies. Tartuffe is a convincing religious hypocrite. He is a parasite who is sucking Orgon, the rich trusting father, for all he is worth. Orgon does not realize that Tartuffe is a phony, and caters to his every whim. For instance, he reneges on his promise to let his daughter Mariane, marry Valere. Instead he demands that she wed Tartuffe, whom she despises. He also banishes his own son, Damis, from his house for speaking out against Tartuffe and all of his son’s inheritance is promised to Tartuffe.

Tartuffe is nothing more than a traveling confidence man who veils his true wickedness with a mask of piety. Orgon and his mother Madame Pernelle are completely taken in by this charade. On the other hand, Cleante, Elmire, and Dorine see Tartuffe for the fake that he really is. Cleante is Orgon’s wise brother who speaks elegantly about Tartuffe’s hypocrisy. Through Cleante, Moliere most plainly reveals his theme.

Spare me your warnings, Brother; I have no fear

Of speaking out, for you and Heaven to hear,

Against affected zeal and pious knavery.

There’s true and false in piety, as in bravery,

And just as those whose courage shines the most

In battle, are least inclined to boast,

So those whose hearts are truly pure and lowly

Don’t make a flashy show of being holy (Meyer 1466).

In speeches such as these, Moliere wanted to get across the fact that it was false piety he was condemni…

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…rtuffe” historically it becomes clear the courage it took for Moliere to perform this play, knowing that he would be ostracized by the church for the rest of his life. At Moliere’s death, Bishop Bossuet said, “God is showing his anger against Moliere” (Bishop X). However, by using the historical viewpoint, we can see that Moliere actually died a hero, knowing that he had always fought for what he believed.

Works Cited

Bishop, Morris. Eight Plays By Moliere. New York: The Modern Library, 1957.

Fernandez, Ramon. Moliere: The Man Seen Through the Plays. New York: Hill and Wang, 1958.

Gassner, John. Comedies of Moliere. New York: The Book League of America, 1946.

Meyer, Michael. The Bedford Introduction to Literature. Boston: Bedford Books of St. Martin’s Press, 1989.

Walker, Hallam. Moliere. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1990.

The Seriousness of in Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors

The Seriousness of The Comedy of Errors

The Comedy of Errors has often been dismissed as a mere farce, unworthy of any serious attention. Yet, when the author is Shakespeare, even a “farce” is well worth a second look. Shakespeare himself may have takent his comedic work quite seriously, for audiences expected comedy of his day not only to entertain, but also to morally instruct. It is not surprising, therefore, that for one of his earliest comedies, Shakespeare found a model in the plays of Plautus and Terence, which were studied in all Elizabethan Grammar Schools, praised by schoolmasters, and critically respectable. (Muir 3)

The Menaechmi was the first Plautus play to appear in translation, and was a popular school text (Muir 16). Amphitruo, the second Plautus play informing The Comedy of Errors, was available in English translation by 1562-63, and was similarly taught (Miola 22). Plautus and Terence texts served the schools not as entertainment, but as teaching tools for literature and both oral Latin and vernacular languages. Schoolmasters even used prepared study guides to the plays in their instruction:

The academic approbation of Roman comedy in the Renaissance was largely a linguistic, rhetorical, and didactic enterprize: commentators provided lexical and metrical information, expository paraphrase, grammatical analysis, explanatory notes, classical cross references, and the identification of rhetorical figures. (Miola 4)

Richard Bernard, for example, translator of the first complete bilingual edition of Terence, organized from the text a helpful list of Formulae loquendi (phrases useful for Latin conversation) and Sententiae (wise sayings) to accompany each scene (Muir 4). If no w…

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…owever, indicates that Shakespeare meant The Comedy of Errors to provide more than just a good laugh.

Works Cited and Consulted

* Brockett, Oscar G. History of the Theatre. Fifth ed. Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1987.

* Epstein, Norris. The Friendly Shakespeare. New York: Viking, 1993.

* Miola, Robert S. Shakespeare and Classical Comedy: The Influence of Plautus and Terence. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1994.

* Muir, Kenneth. Shakespeare’s Comic Sequence. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 1979.

* Riehle, Wolfgang. Shakespeare, Plautus, and the Humanist Tradition. Cambridge: Brewer, 1990.

* Shaheen, Naseeb. Biblical References in Shakespeare’s Comedies. Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1993.

* Shakespeare, William. The Riverside Shakespeare. Ed. G. Blakemore Evans, et al. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1974.

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