DEUS EX MACHINA
At the climax of Tartuffe, Orgon and his family are suddenly saved from certain ruin by an outside influence. This kind of ending in dramaturgical/playwriting terms is called a deus ex machina (or “god from the machine”). In the theatre of the Ancient Greeks, tragedies were often resolved by the entrance of a god who arrived on stage via machinery just in time to save the good or wronged or to punish evil. Today, the term is used to refer to the resolution of a conflict through the intervention of a person or thing from outside of the dramatic action; it is often used critically to suggest an inorganic/artificial or less than dramatically compelling resolution. In the original Molière play, the deus ex machine was present in the form of the King, who came with full sovereignty to absolve Orgon and imprison Tartuffe. In Hampton’s translation, the king is replaced by “officer’s of the court” who speak on the King’s behalf. They come to “save the day” and with them a celebration and freedom for Orgon’s family as the strings of Tartuffe’s control are finally unwound.
~ Professor Tracy Manning
Artistic Director, Taylor University