The characters in Tartuffe are utterly absorbed with the manipulation and conservation of appearance, and hypocrisy is their instrument of choice. Their desire to control how others perceive them motivates their actions throughout the play.
The cast of this production were charged with the task of articulating what they thought to be the hypocrisy that most encompassed the content of the character they portrayed.
Here is our
Portrait of Hypocrisy
Orgon’s hypocrisy is based around his love of propriety and authority. He acts like he’s the one in charge, but everyone works around him to get things done. He’s got a hair-trigger temper and is easily flustered, but he tries to convince everyone that he’s calm and in control of the situation.
Tartuffe is the master hypocrite of the show. He accepts his inconsistencies and, rather than be controlled by them, he uses them to his advantage. Let the audience judge whether or not this practice works in his favor.
Dorine is very good at pointing out the hypocrisies of all the other characters in her world. Her hypocrisy, on top of being a lazy maid, is that she lives the hypocrisies she condemns in everyone else. “It’s always the most ludicrously guilty who are the first in line accusing others,” she says. She is the classic example of “When you point a finger at someone else, there are three fingers pointing back at you.”
Elmire is indignant toward characters who attempt to manipulate and control others by abusing power. What she doesn’t recognize is that she employs the same tactics, using her feminine influence to deceive Tartuffe. She also condemns the vanity in others while indulging in her own.
Cléante loves hearing the sound of his own voice. While he encourages Orgon to avoid people who “display such intolerable pride,” he often overlooks the pride within himself.
Damis‘ hypocrisy is all ‘bark and no bite’. He is a coward, but also a narcissist. He often says he will do something, but never follows through because he either becomes distracted, or scared. And when he accidentally falls into a winning circumstance, he takes all the credit. He is an exaggerated version of the lion in The Wizard of Oz.
Mariane is happy to play the part of the dutiful, obedient daughter… when it gets her what she wants. But as soon as things stop going her way, Mariane manipulates and complains. One face appears with her father, another with her maid, and another with her fiancée. Love is a self-serving hobby to her. She is quick to respond and impulsive in crises, but she refuses to take responsibility for the grief she causes herself.
Valére’s hypocrisy lies in his love for Mariane. He wants her love so desperately but when problems arise he complains selfishly about his own plight instead of showing love to her. He wants Mariane to take action, but takes no initiative himself.
Madam Pernelle approaches pious living more for appearance and show than for genuine faith. She values her ardent opinions and her influence more than the golden rule. Her stiff-necked nature and her dominant demeanor leaves little room for compassion. Surrounded by people in need of compassion, she only belittles them, which makes her far less pious than she claims to be.
Madame Loyale works within the justice system, yet she brings nothing but injustice to Orgon and his family. In her mind, she’s doing everyone a huge favor. She’s sure that her instra-grin and enthusiasm will make the news more bearable, when in reality it only ads irritation to injury.
Flipote is an observer to the drama of Orgon’s family, but she learns nothing from their misfortunes. Instead, she ignores everything that is going on and goofs off until something inturrupts her. She continues to behave like a young girl when she should be growing in maturity.
Laurent’s hypocrisy lies in the fact that he lives a life of crime to make his dead father proud. He is seeking justification from his earthly father by pursuing God’s approval, wanting to know he is proud. And yet his pursuit of fulfillment for a God-given desire leads him to stray from the real fulfillment of that need and turn to unfulfilling pride and cheap desires.
The Officers acts as agents of the King, intent on righting the wrongs of hypocrisy. The Officers derive so much pleasure from tricking the trickster, they force Orgon’s family to undergo prolonged discomfort in order to enhance the drama of the eventual deliverance.