1664 Tartuffe by Moliere

23 Aug 2010

I read this play in one night and it was thoroughly entertaining. My translation (the play was originally written in French) was by Richard Wilbur, and his rhyming couplets gave the play an even more whimsical feel.

The play is about a man and his family who have a guest staying with them, a hypocrite by the name of Tartuffe. While the rest of the family see right through him, the father is completely taken in and allows him to stay. Tartuffe makes out to be a holy man, but in reality is anything but. Several comments and discussions between the characters explore the nature of true piousness vs. hypocrisy, but don’t let that make you think this is a ‘deep’ or ‘philosophical’ work. You’ll finish it with that happy feeling you get after watching a cute romantic comedy.

I have seen the movie Moliere, which I did not like as much as the play. The movie has Moliere (the playwright) as the main character, and it chronicles his adventures pertaining to how he got the idea for his play, Tartuffe. Basically, he is forced to play the part of a holy man, and ends up getting hopelessly entangled in the family members’ lives. This is not unlike the play, though the script writers for the movie complicated the plot quite a bit and added several characters. The one area that the movie deviates drastically from the play is in the moral issues. Without giving too much away, the play stands up for morals (and true piousness) while the movie not only gives in to temptation, but has the audacity to say that moral inconsistency can actually be helpful in one’s life. And considering Moliere’s whole point to his original play, I find that somewhat bizarre.

On the other hand, the guy who did the cover design for the movie needs to be hired by BBC (because they could really use some help in that area.)