Tartuffe, or the Imposter
by Jean Baptiste Poquelin de Moliere
Translated and adapted from the French by Harold Dixon
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Characters in the play
Madame Pernelle, Orgon’s mother
Orgon, husband of Elmire
Elmire, wife of Orgon
Damis, son of Orgon
Mariane, daughter of Orgon and lover of Valere
Valere, lover of Mariane
Cleante, Elmire’s brother, brother-in-law of Orgon
Tartuffe, a religious hypocrite (faux devot)
Dorine, lady’s maid to Mariane
M. Loyal, a bailiff
Flipote, servant to Mme. Pernelle
Laurent, servant to Tartuffe
The action takes place in Paris, in Orgon’s household, 1669
SAMPLE #1: Act I, Scene 5
Good God, my dear Orgon! I think you’re crazy!
Or are you trying to make a fool of me?
In view of this nonsense, why do you insist…
You’re talking, brother, like an atheist.
You know that you lean that way in your heart.
And just like I told you right from the start,
Trouble’s coming unless you change your mind.
I’ve heard all the arguments of that kind.
If you’re not blind, you’re an infidel.
If you see clearly, you’re going to hell.
What? Would you make no distinction for me
Between hypocrisy and piety?
Do you want to treat them all the same –
Honor the flicker just like the true flame,
Equating artifice with sincerity,
Confusing appearance with verity,
Shadow for substance; if that’s not enough
Take counterfeit money for the real stuff?
Man, for the most part, is a strange creature
Who can’t find the happy medium of nature.
The thought of moderation makes him laugh…
Cleante, it seems you’re too clever by half.
You’re learned, brilliant, from all the great schools,
Compared to you, all other men are fools.
I don’t possess the wisdom of the ages
And I am not a learned sage of sages.
But there is one thing I know very well –
The difference between true and false to tell.
Nothing’s more honorable in society
Than true devotion and zealous piety.
But I know of nothing more fallacious
Than hypocrites whose faith is baseless.
These sanctimonious charlatans with their
Histrionic and heretical glare
Betray real faith and make a laughing stock
Of the pious believers in the flock.
They pray not for grace, but money is fine;
Dressed like monks, they run back to Court to dine.
When they’ve an enemy they wish to libel
They use religion and quote the Bible.
These holier-than-thou types are all about,
But it’s easy to spot the truly devout.
They don’t sing their own praises; just the same
Their virtue is reasonable and humane.
They don’t go around judging everyone;
They know that’s arrogant and shouldn’t be done.
Of preaching and sermons they have no needs;
They show they are Christians by their good deeds.
They don’t pursue a sinner or reprobate;
It’s the sin, not the sinner that they hate.
These are role models, people I admire;
Toward their example we should aspire.
And though you think that he’s faithful and real,
Your man’s not really the model of zeal.
You’ve been dazzled and tricked by him, I stress.
Brother-in-law, are you quite finished?
SAMPLE #2: Act II, Scene 3
Goodness, Dorine! That’s so harsh! You don’t feel
Any pity for my despair that’s so real.
I’ve no sympathy when you get this dizzy.
Tartuffe’s not giving up so easily, is he?
What can I do? You know how shy I get.
True love needs a heart strong and passionate.
My love for Valere’s the same I’ve always had,
But shouldn’t he be the one to deal with Dad?
What? If your father is so crazed and aloof
And so infatuated with his Tartuffe
That all your wedding plans are up in the air,
How’s that possibly the fault of Valere?
If I defy my father and act that mean,
Won’t my deep love for Valere be seen?
Shall I give up, for his charm and beauty,
My modesty, which is a woman’s duty?
Shall I declare my love to the world and flaunt…
No, don’t do anything. I see you want
To be Madame Tartuffe. It would be wrong
For me to divert a desire so strong.
What right do I have to oppose your wish?
Just look at Tartuffe – he is quite a dish.
With that pink complexion, those big red ears,
Think what pleasure you’ll have over the years.
Your soul will know eternal bliss
Wedded to such an ideal man as this.
You’ve got to stop talking like that, Dorine.
Try to be helpful. Stop being so mean.
That’s enough. I give in. Tell me what to do.
No. A daughter must to her father be true,
Even if he gives her to a chimpanzee.
You can’t complain. Oh, the things I can see
In the life that you’ll live…
You’re killing me.
I need your help and not this mockery.
Your servant, mam’selle.
Oh, please, Dorine dear.
This marriage must go through as planned, I fear.
What if I say that I will…
No. Tartuffe’s your man, and you shall have your fill.
You know that in you I’ve always confided…
No. You’re going to be tartuffefided.
SAMPLE #3: Act III, Scene 3
He mentioned it, but I tell you in anguish,
That’s not the happiness for which I languish.
It’s elsewhere, Madame where I see the charms
That I long to hold tightly in my arms.
You’d rather leave temporal things alone.
My breast does not contain a heart of stone.
I think you love only the celestial
And not things of earth – low, base, and bestial.
To love eternal beauties far above
Does not mean I’m immune to earthly love.