Tartuffe is referred to as "The Imposter" or "The Hypocrite" in the various editions of the play. He can mimic any pose and become a master of it. As a staunchly religious person, he can set himself out as a humble man to Orgon and Madame Pernelle; his hypocrisy is however known by both the reader and audience (Borgerhoff, 17). Tartuffe's strong points are brought to light by the fact that he can identify the weak points of his victims thereby exploiting these flaws for his own self -interest. His alertness and constant hypocrisy propel him to achieve his success. Tartuffe is eventually faced with his downfall which is caused by his lust as propounded by Moliere; he finally lowers his mask thereby revealing his hypocrisy.
In detail, Tartuffe's character can be construed to constitute an act of hypocrisy through despair. He is described as "... no more a simple swindler, a greedy and dishonest pleasure seeker." (Hilgar, 386) His acts have the effect of changing the colors of an innocent bourgeois family who are accustomed to their order and morality. The play shows the extent to which Tartuffe had convinced Orgon specifically in Scene 4 of the Play when Dorine was telling Orgon of Madame's fever with a terrible headache and that she could not eat. All that Orgon did was inquire about Tarfutte who was constantly happy and kept eating; Orgon's reply to each of Tarfutte's act was "the poor fellow" (Moliere, 15).
Tarfutte through his hypocritical has been able to win Orgon's affection. This is seen by the move taken by Orgon to defend him when his brother, Cleante tries to tell him that Tarfutte is laughing in his face. He goes on to put a defense on his behalf and states that he is a humble man and prays fervently; he even goes ahead to urge his brother to listen to his teachings as this would give him profound peace and that once he knew him, his admiration of him would be endless. It is clear from this that Tarfutte had indeed camouflaged himself in hypocrisy such that he had managed to manipulate Orgon and was even offered shelter and food at the bourgeoisie house.
Tarfutte has mastered the art of hypocrisy that it is no longer a struggle to convince one of his gentle and kind nature, not forgetting the religious ascetic that he claims to be. This is evident from the play where Tarfutte is spotted by Orgon in church, and he made sure to secure a seat near Orgon after which he begins to pray and makes sure everyone notices him in the act; he went as far as kissing the ground.
He was also quick to return the alms given by Orgon to him stating that he was not worthy of his compassion and when Orgon refused to take some of it back, he quickly rushed to the poor and gave them. This in itself was also another hypocritical act that worn Orgon. The fact that he branded every least thing as being sinful and always passing himself out as being "high-minded" as stated by Orgon also showed the level he could go to have his way with his selfish acts. He goes further to defend Tartuffe.
He even acted like he felt sorry for accidentally squeezing and killing a louse while praying that it even affected him. He could also warn Orgon to be careful of the men who could flirt with the wife and Orgon is even happily stating that the all humble and calm individual only wants the best for him and that he is even more jealous when it comes to other people flirting with the wife than he is. Tartuffe's character in this scenario could be regarded as a "liar, scoundrel, informer and a spy-hypocrite."(David, 3)From this, one could realize how Orgon has been brainwashed by the ways of the 'servant of God' and that he even likes them for he talks about Tarfutte with a lot of admiration and respect.
Tartuffe's imposter character is further brought out in the play, he poses as someone he is not, and this act even makes Orgon want to give his daughter's hand in marriage to the imposter. He does not know that Tartuffe is only after a financial gain from him and that his intentions are not sincere. This is seen in Act II of the play, Orgon is having a conversation with his daughter Mariene who is engaged to a different person. Orgon tells his daughter of the excellent work done by Tartuffe which shines everywhere and even concludes that the daughter will be pleased to have him as her husband. He also defends his poor state and says that he is only unfortunate because he was intensely concentrated with the ways of the Lord that he did not pay attention to global wealth. He is, therefore, a manipulator for he was able to manipulate Orgon and led him into believing that he was someone of the commendable attribute. (Evans, 107)
Tartuffe's hypocrisy is also brought to light with the lust he has towards Orgon's wife, Elmire. He does this by expressing his feelings towards her and yet he knows very well that she is a married woman. He is at one point found in the act by Orgon's son, Damis who eventually tells his father about it but Tartuffe employs his trickster ways and manages to Orgon one more time. His mask, however, falls when the wife tells Orgon to hide so he could see for himself the kind of a man Tartuffe is; he obliges, , and as usual, Tartuffe comes to try his luck with the wife. This time Orgon sees it for himself and realizes that Tartuffe has been making a fool of him and that he is not who he claims to be. (Philips, 750).
Borgerhoff, E.B.O., "Tartuffe" L'Espirit Createur 11 (1971) 16-18. Accessed from https://www.jstor.org /stable / 26279608
Poquelin de, Jean-Baptiste, Moliere. Tartuffe. Indiana: Hackett Publishing Company Inc. 2008. Print. Accessed from https://b-ok.cc/book/919226/a19aa2
Hilgar, Marie-France. "Modern and Post Modern Interpretations of Tartuffe" Theatre Journal 34 (1982): 384-388. Accessed from https//www.jstor.org/stable/3206927
Partikan, David. "Critical Essay on Tarfutte" Literature Resouce Centre 18 (2003):1-4. Accessed from https:/go.galegroup.com/ps/start.do?p=LitRC&u=k12_litrc>
Philips, Henry. "Moliere and Tartuffe: Recrimination and Reconciliation" French Review 62 (1989): 749-763. Accessed from https://www.jstor.org/stable/395031
Evan, James, E. "Blifill as Tartuffe: The Dialogue Comedy of Tom Jones" Comparative Literature Studies 27 (1990): 101-112. Accessed from https://www.jstor.org/stable/40246440
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