The Role of Reason in Religion: A Reading of Tartuffe College

What happens when hypocrisy invades religion in the absence of reason? This is the very question that Moliere addresses as he establishes the characters in his work of political and social satire Tartuffe. In satire, characters are usually one-dimensional and unchanging; they are simply there to represent an idea. Therefore, rather than using character development, Moliere uses character establishment to shape his story and theme. This is most notably seen in the last two scenes of act one in Tartuffe as he establishes the characters of Orgon, Cleante and Tartuffe. In the establishment of these three characters Moliere forms a strong point about reason’s role in religion and the rightful way to pursue genuine belief.

In the last scenes of act one in Tartuffe, Orgon’s character is established by his attitude towards his family, his misplaced respect for Tartuffe, and his blindness towards Tartuffe’s hypocrisy. As Orgon makes his entrance into the story, he inquires of his brother-in-law that state of his house. Dorine reveals that the lady of the house has been very sick, even going as far to say that a bleeding “has saved her from the grave.” Orgon takes the information without acknowledging it. His only concern is for...

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