Political satire in Tartuffe dissertation paper


In the play, Jean-Baptiste Poquelin Moliere narrates the story of how a scoundrel and a hypocrite disguises himself as a pious man of religion. By affecting religious behavior, Tartuffe charms his way into the house and the favors of Orgon, a local rich man. Orgon is unfortunately unable to see through Tartuffe’s duplicity, and in the process almost loses all his possessions to the scoundrel Tartuffe. Only the fortuitous intervention of the king saves Orgon’s family from the machinations of the unscrupulous Tartuffe (“Tartuffe’s Plot”).

This paper argues that Tartuffe is best read as a satire against the hypocrisy of political and religious authority figures of Moliere’s day.

The satire contained in this play made its author a target of 17th century religious authorities. After all, the main audience of this play was the Parisian elite in the late 17th century. This audience would have understood that Tartuffe had an underlying critique of both bad kingship and lying religious leaders (Baker, “Tartuffe as political parable”). The authority figures evidently understood this as well. When Moliere died, he was originally denied burial on consecrated ground. Only through the intervention of the king swayed the Archbishop of Paris’s mind, smoothing the playwright’s burial in holy ground (Bloom, “Chronology,” p. 208).

The first part of this paper examines Tartuffe as a political satire. It looks at the symbolisms of Orgon and other characters in criticizing ineffectual political authority. The next part then looks at the play’s content as a satire against religious figures, with a particular influence on Moliere’s criticism of the Jesuits. It examines the religious activities that gave rise to Moliere’s ire, and looks at how Moliere depicts these activities symbolically throughout the play Tartuffe.

Political satire in Tartuffe

Because Tartuffe is often read as a criticism of religious authority, the political content of the play is often glossed over. After all, Moliere himself alludes to the support of the king in the play’s 1669 preface. Moliere was also well aware of the fact that his career as a playwright would have been over if the King had caved in to religious authority and banned the play (Calder 188).

However, Moliere also needed to revise the play at least twice before receiving permission to freely stage Tartuffe in public. It took five years of work before the wording of the play was sufficiently changed to gain the approval of the king (Calder 188).

Analysts like Lyman Baker observe that in Tartuffe, many of the political mores of the day are mirrored in the depiction of Orgon’s household. Seventeenth century France was a patriarchal era, where only men served as heads of households and exercised authority over all their dependents (Baker, “Tartuffe as Political Parable”).

Thus, even though not every family member was deceived, it was enough for Tartuffe to deceive Orgon.

In the very first scene, Moliere introduces the audience to Orgon’s family — a prosperous household that is capitalizing on its political connections with the king.

The audience learns about the social rankings in this relatively small household, from the “saucy” servant girl to the “dunce” Orgon, the ostensible head of the household. The audience also learns of the two tradition of thought that were battling for ascendancy in King Louis XIV’s court.

The first tradition, seen in Orgon’s mother Madame Pernelle, represents the “stodgy, old-fashioned mindset” (Brody 176) of the previous regime and of older 17th century French society. The dour Madame Pernelle is critical of the lifestyle of her family’s younger members, ascribing their behavior to the bad example set by their elders.

Through Madame Pernelle, Moliere gives voice to the concerns of the “older” court members, who were critical of how younger aristocrats behaved scandalously even as they maintained an air of respectability.

The second tradition is embodied in the character of Elmire, Madame Pernelle’s daughter-in-law and Orgon’s much-younger second wife. Elmire has earned her mother-in-law’s ire through her many qualities. For example, Madame Pernelle castigates her daughter-in-law for dressing “like a princess.” To older Parisians, such a mode of dress implies indulgent behavior and a desire to attract other, perhaps younger, men (Brody 176).

Through the mother-in-law’s diatribe, the audience also gets a glimpse into the household’s social status and lifestyle in general and Elmire’s social orientation in particular. Orgon’s family is clearly a member of France’s upper social crust. Though the family is not aristocratic, Moliere establishes Orgon’s political connections with the king early in the play, by setting up how Orgon had “served his King” during the wars of the Fronde.

Elmire clearly benefits from these political connections, as seen in her 17th century Parisian “yuppie” lifestyle. Aside from dressing like a “princess,” Elmire also has a line of carriages waiting at her front door. Her household always has a parade of lackeys, ready for a party and endless socializing.

These “costly fripperies” are the mark of a family that, though not aristocratic, is still upwardly-mobile.

Because of their wealth, Orgon’s family was considered important members of French society.

These parallels were not lost on the original audience of Tartuffe, who would have readily recognized the symbolisms.

Madame Pernelle, for example, embodies the values of the older court of Louis XIII.

This older generation was generally more religious and conservative. They believed in the values of frugality and discipline. To them, the “freewheeling” social values of the new court were seen as a breakdown of social values (Brody 177).

Elmire, on the other hand, is the representative of the new leisure class. Her pastimes and leisure pursuits are more in line with those of King Louis XIV’s younger court. After all, the king was only 26 years old at this time, and with a much-younger mistress (Brody 176). This younger court was also known for its excesses rather than its frugality.

Orgon is also an important character in Tartuffe’s political satire. Because he is male, Orgon is the de-facto head of the household. This is despite the fact that Orgon is not very intelligent and is in fact, easily fooled.

The Orgon household is clearly representative of 17th century French society. Orgon serves as the figurative head of state. Despite his bumbling nature (his own mother labels him a “dunce”), Orgon is the head-of-household and retains authority over all his dependants. As Baker observes, Orgon is “a head-of-household (who) counts as a metaphorical king” (Baker, “Tartuffe as political parable”).

It is therefore significant that Elmire and the rest of the household sees through Tartuffe’s machinations, while Orgon and his “old guard” mother fall easily under the scoundrel’s spell. To an audience familiar with the prevailing social climate in 17th century France, Orgon would emerge as an ineffectual leader. By clinging to antiquated mores (symbolized by Madame Pernelle) and ignoring the advise of more knowledgeable people (such as Elmire), Orgon thus risked losing the wealth he had worked hard to accumulate.

Religious satire

While the political contexts of Tartuffe is subtle and may need teasing out particularly for a modern audience, the religious context of this play is clearer.

Since Tartuffe is a religious confidence man, the play is often read as a slap on religious authority. After all, in 17th century Catholic France, religious authority underlay all forms of leadership and government.

Many analysts doubt, however, if Moliere intended Tartuffe as an attack on religious leaders. Alfred Bates, for example, notes that the first private reading of the play was held before the Pole and a group of prelates. Tartuffe was interpreted as an attack on the Jansenists. Bates maintains that his idea was wrong, but Moliere himself did not dispel this idea (Bates).

The character of Tartuffe is himself a fraud. More specifically, he is a man who commits fraud under the auspices of religion. Different analysts have interpreted Tartuffe as representative of various religious traditions. Calder, for example, writes that Moliere showed a “hostile view of the Jesuits” (187). The Jesuits clashed with the traditional religious orders because of their lax casuistry. During this time, the Jesuits had taken over most of the Catholic religious centers around the world. Jesuits were now the confessors to the most powerful families in Europe, including Henry IV, Louis XIII and Louis XIV.

However, though the play is named after the scoundrel, Moliere’s thrust in writing the play is not a direct attack on the likes of Tartuffe. Rather, much of the play’s power derives from the way the audience laughs at the bumbling Orgon. Tartuffe, after all, is a comedy. The interplay between the trickster Tartuffe and the fool Orgon stimulates laughter for the audience (Walker 154).

However, in addition to laughter, the recognition of Orgon’s stupidity also forces the audience to examine their own tendencies to be fooled by religious hucksters. It is on this level that Tartuffe succeeds admirably as a religious satire. In other words, instead of asking themselves “Am I a scoundrel like Tartuffe,” most members of the audience would ask: “Am I food like Orgon?”

For Baker, the religious critique in Tartuffe lies in Orgon’s willingness to believe the religious confidence man. The analyst argues that Moliere finds Tartuffe’s version of Christianity as “insane.” This form of Christianity involves blind devotion to an authoritarian church and a misanthropic orientation to the rest of society (Baker, “Moliere’s Tartuffe as a satire on religious fanaticism”).

As a result, Orgon isolates his family from the rest of society.

Thus, even when the character of Cleante argues against Tartuffe’s view of Christianity, Orgon appears beyond reason. Cleante rightly points out that God would expect His followers to enjoy their “earthly existence.” Furthermore, Cleante points out that Orgon is being silly in his devotion to Tartuffe’s religious promises, a fact that Orgon chooses to ignore.

As a religious satire, Tartuffe works best not because it attacks the character of Tartuffe, but because it holds Orgon in a ridiculous light. Orgon, and to a lesser extent his Madame Pernelle, represent an uncritical devotion to religious authority. This leads Orgon to ignore the warnings of the more reasonable members of his household. In this way, Moliere could be warning the more gullible members of society against uncritical religious devotion.


In summary, the play Tartuffe could be read as a microcosm portrayal of 17th century France. In the first scene, Moliere clearly articulates the two social traditions vying for supremacy. There are the older court of King Louis XIII and the younger, more “modern” court of King Louis XIV. The author clearly differentiates between their two very different cultures, beliefs and attitudes. As a political satire, Tartuffe works when the audience understands the dynamics of 17th century French society.

Moliere further takes pains to point out that it is the younger generation (Elmire) who sees through Tartuffe’s schemes while the older generation (Orgon and Madame Pernell) remain blind and devout.

As a religious satire, on the other hand, Tartuffe works because the audience laughs at the stupidity and bumbling of Orgon. Through comedy, Moliere places the onus of guarding against religious hucksterism on the potential targets.

The implication is that the character of Orgon, when transposed to a greater context, represents how easily credulous ordinary citizens can be duped by frauds using religious language. By recognizing how silly this behavior is, Moliere warns the audiences to remain rational and critical.

Works Cited

Baker, Lyman. “Moliere’s Tartuffe as a satire on religious fanaticism.” English 233: Introduction to Western Humanities – Baroque & Enlightenment. http://www-personal.ksu.edu/~lyman/english233/Tartuffe-religion.htm

Baker, Lyman. “Tartuffe as political parable.” Introduction to Western Humanities – Baroque & Enlightenment. available online at http://www-personal.ksu.edu/~lyman/english233/Tartuffe-politics.htm

Bates, Alfred. “Tartuffe.” A History of the Play by Moliere. available at http://www.theatrehistory.com/french/tartuffe001.html.

Bloom, Harold. “Introduction.” Moliere. Harold Bloom, ed. Philadelphia: Chelsea House Publishers, 2002.

Brody, Jules. “Love in Tartuffe, Tartuffe in Love.” Moliere. Harold Bloom, ed. Philadelphia: Chelsea House Publishers, 2002.

Calder, Andrew. “Le Tartuffe.” Moliere. Harold Bloom, ed. Philadelphia: Chelsea House Publishers, 2002.

Tartuffe’s Plot.” available online at http://www.thejammer.net/tartuf1.htm

Walker, Hallam. Moliere. New York: Twayne Publishers, 1990.

Get Professional Assignment Help Cheaply

Buy Custom Essay

Are you busy and do not have time to handle your assignment? Are you scared that your paper will not make the grade? Do you have responsibilities that may hinder you from turning in your assignment on time? Are you tired and can barely handle your assignment? Are your grades inconsistent?

Whichever your reason is, it is valid! You can get professional academic help from our service at affordable rates. We have a team of professional academic writers who can handle all your assignments.

Why Choose Our Academic Writing Service?

  • Plagiarism free papers
  • Timely delivery
  • Any deadline
  • Skilled, Experienced Native English Writers
  • Subject-relevant academic writer
  • Adherence to paper instructions
  • Ability to tackle bulk assignments
  • Reasonable prices
  • 24/7 Customer Support
  • Get superb grades consistently

Online Academic Help With Different Subjects


Students barely have time to read. We got you! Have your literature essay or book review written without having the hassle of reading the book. You can get your literature paper custom-written for you by our literature specialists.


Do you struggle with finance? No need to torture yourself if finance is not your cup of tea. You can order your finance paper from our academic writing service and get 100% original work from competent finance experts.

Computer science

Computer science is a tough subject. Fortunately, our computer science experts are up to the match. No need to stress and have sleepless nights. Our academic writers will tackle all your computer science assignments and deliver them on time. Let us handle all your python, java, ruby, JavaScript, php , C+ assignments!


While psychology may be an interesting subject, you may lack sufficient time to handle your assignments. Don’t despair; by using our academic writing service, you can be assured of perfect grades. Moreover, your grades will be consistent.


Engineering is quite a demanding subject. Students face a lot of pressure and barely have enough time to do what they love to do. Our academic writing service got you covered! Our engineering specialists follow the paper instructions and ensure timely delivery of the paper.


In the nursing course, you may have difficulties with literature reviews, annotated bibliographies, critical essays, and other assignments. Our nursing assignment writers will offer you professional nursing paper help at low prices.


Truth be told, sociology papers can be quite exhausting. Our academic writing service relieves you of fatigue, pressure, and stress. You can relax and have peace of mind as our academic writers handle your sociology assignment.


We take pride in having some of the best business writers in the industry. Our business writers have a lot of experience in the field. They are reliable, and you can be assured of a high-grade paper. They are able to handle business papers of any subject, length, deadline, and difficulty!


We boast of having some of the most experienced statistics experts in the industry. Our statistics experts have diverse skills, expertise, and knowledge to handle any kind of assignment. They have access to all kinds of software to get your assignment done.


Writing a law essay may prove to be an insurmountable obstacle, especially when you need to know the peculiarities of the legislative framework. Take advantage of our top-notch law specialists and get superb grades and 100% satisfaction.

What discipline/subjects do you deal in?

We have highlighted some of the most popular subjects we handle above. Those are just a tip of the iceberg. We deal in all academic disciplines since our writers are as diverse. They have been drawn from across all disciplines, and orders are assigned to those writers believed to be the best in the field. In a nutshell, there is no task we cannot handle; all you need to do is place your order with us. As long as your instructions are clear, just trust we shall deliver irrespective of the discipline.

Are your writers competent enough to handle my paper?

Our essay writers are graduates with bachelor's, masters, Ph.D., and doctorate degrees in various subjects. The minimum requirement to be an essay writer with our essay writing service is to have a college degree. All our academic writers have a minimum of two years of academic writing. We have a stringent recruitment process to ensure that we get only the most competent essay writers in the industry. We also ensure that the writers are handsomely compensated for their value. The majority of our writers are native English speakers. As such, the fluency of language and grammar is impeccable.

What if I don’t like the paper?

There is a very low likelihood that you won’t like the paper.

Reasons being:

  • When assigning your order, we match the paper’s discipline with the writer’s field/specialization. Since all our writers are graduates, we match the paper’s subject with the field the writer studied. For instance, if it’s a nursing paper, only a nursing graduate and writer will handle it. Furthermore, all our writers have academic writing experience and top-notch research skills.
  • We have a quality assurance that reviews the paper before it gets to you. As such, we ensure that you get a paper that meets the required standard and will most definitely make the grade.

In the event that you don’t like your paper:

  • The writer will revise the paper up to your pleasing. You have unlimited revisions. You simply need to highlight what specifically you don’t like about the paper, and the writer will make the amendments. The paper will be revised until you are satisfied. Revisions are free of charge
  • We will have a different writer write the paper from scratch.
  • Last resort, if the above does not work, we will refund your money.

Will the professor find out I didn’t write the paper myself?

Not at all. All papers are written from scratch. There is no way your tutor or instructor will realize that you did not write the paper yourself. In fact, we recommend using our assignment help services for consistent results.

What if the paper is plagiarized?

We check all papers for plagiarism before we submit them. We use powerful plagiarism checking software such as SafeAssign, LopesWrite, and Turnitin. We also upload the plagiarism report so that you can review it. We understand that plagiarism is academic suicide. We would not take the risk of submitting plagiarized work and jeopardize your academic journey. Furthermore, we do not sell or use prewritten papers, and each paper is written from scratch.

When will I get my paper?

You determine when you get the paper by setting the deadline when placing the order. All papers are delivered within the deadline. We are well aware that we operate in a time-sensitive industry. As such, we have laid out strategies to ensure that the client receives the paper on time and they never miss the deadline. We understand that papers that are submitted late have some points deducted. We do not want you to miss any points due to late submission. We work on beating deadlines by huge margins in order to ensure that you have ample time to review the paper before you submit it.

Will anyone find out that I used your services?

We have a privacy and confidentiality policy that guides our work. We NEVER share any customer information with third parties. Noone will ever know that you used our assignment help services. It’s only between you and us. We are bound by our policies to protect the customer’s identity and information. All your information, such as your names, phone number, email, order information, and so on, are protected. We have robust security systems that ensure that your data is protected. Hacking our systems is close to impossible, and it has never happened.

How our Assignment  Help Service Works

1.      Place an order

You fill all the paper instructions in the order form. Make sure you include all the helpful materials so that our academic writers can deliver the perfect paper. It will also help to eliminate unnecessary revisions.

2.      Pay for the order

Proceed to pay for the paper so that it can be assigned to one of our expert academic writers. The paper subject is matched with the writer’s area of specialization.

3.      Track the progress

You communicate with the writer and know about the progress of the paper. The client can ask the writer for drafts of the paper. The client can upload extra material and include additional instructions from the lecturer. Receive a paper.

4.      Download the paper

The paper is sent to your email and uploaded to your personal account. You also get a plagiarism report attached to your paper.

smile and order essaysmile and order essay PLACE THIS ORDER OR A SIMILAR ORDER WITH US TODAY AND GET A PERFECT SCORE!!!

order custom essay paper