Tartuffe by Molière (1664) – Act 1
Madame Pernelle – No one listens to a word, I saw. I can’t stay here any longer. No one can hear anything anyone says. Come one, Flipote. Let’s get out of here…
Dorine – But…
Madame Pernelle – You’re just an over-opinionated maid. I won’t listen to you.
Damis – But…
Madame Pernelle – You, my boy, are an idiot. I can say that as your grandmother. I warned your father that you’d be nothing but trouble.
Mariane – I think…
Madame Pernelle – Oh, the sister… You’ve always seemed smart because you’re quiet. They say still waters run deep but you’re just as bad as the rest of them.
Elmire – But…
Madame Pernelle – Oh, the daughter-in-law… You’re nice but everything is wrong. Set an example for those two. Their poor dead mother did. You pretend to be a princess when you ought to focus on your husband.
Cléante – But…
Madame Pernelle – & her brother… I like you but if I were your sister, I would ban you from the house. You claim to know about good conduct but no respectable person ought to follow your advice. I know I’m curt but I have to say it now.
Damis – I’m sure that your Tartuffe would be happy with what you’ve said.
Madame Pernelle – He’s a good man. It hurts me to hear you all speak ill of him.
Damis – Why should I let a sanctimonious asshole bully us around to the point where no one can even enjoy himself?
Dorine – Everything’s a sin to him & he tries to lord it over us.
Madame Pernelle – He should. He’s trying to get you into heaven. My son should force you to like him.
Damis – No person on earth can make me like him. He & I are going to have it out soon.
Dorine – It’s horrible to see a stranger invade this house. When he first arrived, he was dressed like a bum. Now, he’s running the place.
Madame Pernelle – We’d be better off if we, especially you, listen to him.
Dorine – You see him as a saint but he’s really just a con man.
Madame Pernelle – Listen to that talk!
Dorine – I wouldn’t trust him or his servant, Laurent, as far as I can throw them.
Madame Pernelle – I don’t know about his servant but he is a good man! You don’t like him because he tells the truth. He’s offended by sin & he’s just doing God’s work.
Dorine – So, why aren’t we allowed to have visitors to the house? Where’s the sin in that? I’ll tell what’s going on – he’s in love with the mistress.
Madame Pernelle – You watch your mouth! He’s right about the visitors. They block up the roads. Their servants make loads of racket. It causes gossip – which is very bad!
Cléante – Should we stop having conversations? Life would be terrible if we stopped seeing friends because the neighbors were talking about us. It’s best to ignore gossip.
Dorine – That’s probably Daphne next door & her husband spreading rumors. They have some nerve! They look for the smallest thing & spread it all around. They probably do it just to feel better about themselves.
Madame Pernelle – None of that matters. Orante sets a good example to follow. Everything with her is for God. She tells me you all are up to no good.
Dorine – Sure, she lives a principled life now but that’s just because she’s old. When she was young & attractive, it was a totally different story. Now that she’s old, she’s become “virtuous”. That’s the way with harridans – it’s not out of charity but out of jealousy. She can’t stand the idea of someone else having a good time.
Madame Pernelle – Does this make you happy? I can’t get a word in edgeways & your servant won’t shut up. The best thing my son could have done was to invite that man here & set you all right. You all are on the wrong path. It’ll be some time before I come back here. [Slaps Flipote] Wake up, let’s get out of here [All but Cléante & Dorine leave]
Cléante – I won’t go after her in case she snaps at me. That old girl –
Dorine – It’s a shame she didn’t hear that. She’d say she’s too young to be called “old girl”.
Cléante – She blew up at us over nothing. She must be in love with that Tartuffe.
Dorine – Her son’s worse. During the Troubles (La Fronde), he was brave. Now he’s obsessed with Tartuffe. He loves him more than any of his family. He puts him at the head of the table & feeds him enough for 6. Tartuffe can’t do anything wrong & everything we do is horrible.
Scene 3 – Elmire, Mariane & Damis enter
Elmire – You missed the lecture she gave us at the door. My husband’s home, so, I’m going upstairs.
Cléante – I’ll wait here & say hello to him [Elmire & Mariane leave].
Damis – Ask him about my sister’s wedding. I think Tartuffe doesn’t like it & that’s why father is reluctant. I have more at stake. I’ve got a think for Valère’s sister… [Damis leaves]
Scene 4 – Orgon enters
Orgon – Hello!
Cléante – Hello. I was on my way out but glad to see you. The countryside’s a bit grim this time of year, isn’t it?
Orgon – Dorine? [to Cléante] Just a sec, I have to find out how things have been here. [to Dorine] How were things the last 2 days? What’s everyone been up to?
Dorine – 2 days ago, Mistress had a fever with headaches – until last night.
Orgon – And Tartuffe?
Dorine – He sat with her & ate alone. A couple of partridges & half a mutton leg.
Orgon – Poor guy.
Dorine – She didn’t sleep a week. Her temperature was through the roof. We stayed up with her all night.
Orgon – And Tartuffe?
Dorine – He went straight to bed after dinner. He slept straight through to the morning.
Orgon – Poor guy.
Dorine – She finally agreed to be bled. She felt better afterwards.
Orgon – And Tartuffe?
Dorine – He did his best. He faced adversity & drank 4 glasses of wine with his breakfast in solidarity with Mistress’s loss of blood.
Orgon – Poor guy.
Dorine – Both are doing well. I’ll tell mistress how concerned you were about her [Leaves].
Cléante – She’s mocking you to your face & rightfully so. How can this man bewitch like this? Everything since he came here has been –
Orgon – You don’t even know him!
Cléante – Right, but I can see what kind of man he –
Orgon – You’d love him. He’s a man who… who… he’s a man! His words give you peace of mind & everyone else is a just a loser. Sure, I’ve changed a bit because of him. I’ve learned to be emotionally detached which frees me from love to where my family could die & I wouldn’t care.
Cléante – So, no more human feelings.
Orgon – If only you’d been there when he came into my life. He came into church, next to me – meek & mild. The whole congregation notice how intense his prayer was. He sighed, cried out, kiss the floor several times. When I left, he gave me holy water. When I learned of his poverty from his servant, I gave him money. He said it was too much. He gave half of it back but I refused. So, he gave the rest to the poor. I felt it best to bring him to the house. Since then, things have been better. He disapproves of everything & watches my wife closely to protect my honor. He tells me of the men giving her the eye & he’s 10x more jealous than I am! He’s very devout to where every failure is a sin.
Cléante – You’re kidding… What does any of this do for you?
Orgon – I see you don’t believe me. There’s a real atheistic streak in you. I’ve warned you about that.
Cléante – It sounds like you’d like everyone to be as blind as you. Anyone thinking differently is an atheist. Anyone who hasn’t fallen for a scumbag is impious. You’re just self-righteous assholes, drowning out truly religious men. But you don’t see the difference between the two.
Orgon – Thank goodness for all your wisdom to show others the way.
Cléante – I’m not wiser or more learned but I know the difference between truth & a lie. I do appreciate men of faith. But I can tell a self-serving, self-aggrandizing hypocrite when I see one. It’s all a fake to see pious in order to bully others in to giving money – & then passing judgment over everything. You’ve been fooled by this charlatan.
Orgon – Is that what’s on your mind?
Cléante – Yes.
Orgon – Well, thanks… [starts to leave]
Cléante – One other thing. Why are you postponing the wedding of your daughter to Valère?
Orgon – Not sure.
Cléante – Is there something on your mind?
Orgon – Maybe…
Cléante – You won’t change your mind…
Orgon – I didn’t say that.
Cléante – I don’t see any reason for you not to keep your promise.
Orgon – Maybe.
Cléante – Why are you evasive? Valère asked me to speak to you.
Orgon – Heaven be praised.
Cléante – What should I tell him?
Orgon – Whatever you want?
Cléante – What are your intentions?
Orgon – Whatever God wills.
Cléante – Do you intend to keep your word?
Orgon – Goodbye [leaves].
Cléante – Valère will be upset about this but I have to tell him.