Activities for Tartuffe

Dr. Diane Thompson, NVCC, ELI

Select the Activity question you wish to respond to. Make a copy of the question to begin your Activity. Post your response to the Blackboard Activity 1: Tartuffe Forum. I will comment on your Activity on the Forum, and send your grade to you privately, by email.

In Tartuffe, Cleante says of Orgone: "Ah there you go--extravagant as ever!/ Why can you not be rational? You never/ Manage to take the middle course, it seems,/ But jump, instead, between absurd extremes." With this comment in mind, describe/discuss the character of Orgon. Use examples from the text to support your discussion.
Moliere learned about comedy from his career as an actor and from studying the Italian commedia dell'arte, a form of comic theatre that used farce, masks, clownish behavior and improvisation. What, specifically, makes Tartuffe a comedy? Select a brief scene from Tartuffe that you think is especially funny. Note specifics such as dialogue, absurd behavior, impudence, repetition, etc.
Imagine that Orgon is the father of one of your friends. Notice how Orgon uses his passion for Tartuffe to torment and control his own family. Find some examples of how he does this. Do yo think Orgon was a good father and husband before he became involved with Tartuffe? Or do you think Orgon uses his passion for Tartuffe as a pretext for being cruel to his family? Write a letter to your friend advising him/her how to deal with this infatuated parent.
Rational man and practical women--Cleante, Elmire and Dorine. Look at all the sensible things these people say and do. They represent the classical good sense of civilized people in seventeenth century France. Now give a few examples of their good sense. Do they have any effect on Orgon and his mother? If not, why not? Give one or two examples from your own experience when good advice and common sense were useless.
Look at how Tartuffe behaves as a religious hypocrite. Note that this play was banned by the Church in its day and offended many religious people deeply. Do you think Moliere meant Tartuffe to be a satire on religion or a satire on a hypocrite? Give examples from the play to support your position.
Read the contemporary Accounts of Louis XIV, and then look at the ending of Tartuffe, where Orgon and his family are saved by the King. This kind of ending is called a deus ex machina (god from the machine) ending, because it is an intervention from outside of the action of the play itself. In ancient Greek theatre, it was usually done by a god coming down onto the stage in a mechanical contraption, or machine. First describe the events of  Tartuffe's deus ex machina ending, and then discuss it. Do you think this is a suitable ending for the play? Does it fit? Does it seem reasonable? Can you relate it to the character and role of Louis XIV? Why or why not? Can you imagine a better way of ending the play? How? Be specific.
Examine the paintings in Seventeenth Century Baroque Fashion: 1665-1699, and select several as possible illustrations of characters in Tartuffe. Now, describe each of those characters in detail, combining your understanding of their behavior with the costumes they are wearing. Be very specific with examples from the play as well as from the costumes.
Do a Google search to find a good Commedia dell'Arte site that focuses on the main characters of this theatre form. After reading about these characters, consider how they do or do not fit the characters in Tartuffe. Explain what you have discovered, giving plenty of specific examples from the www site (include the web address so I can find it) and from the play.


(c) Diane Thompson: 8/1/1998; updated: 08/11/2005