Tartuffe – 4th Day of the Lenaia 2022

Dorine, Mariane’s personal maid, is not fooled by the fake devotion and piety of Tartuffe, while Mariane’s father is duped by the hypocrite and unable to see through his lies. In the second scene of the third act, you will find one of the most famous lines in Molière’s play Tartuffe, that most French people know by: 「Couvrez ce sein que je ne saurais voir.」 and which has shaped a centuries-old culture of denunciation and calling out religious hypocrisy and dull puritanism.

I chose this classical work to end the Lenaia, because this year we are celebrating the 400th birthday of the playwright. Many events will take place around his works and his biography. But also, Tartuffe is still a topical play for our times. More than ever, we are confronted with our contemporaneous fellow humans who still want to impose religious puritan views on our societies, which leads to reducing personal, artistic and mediatic freedoms. In Molière’s plays like this one, maids are sometimes stronger than any other character, precisely because they are the first targets of predators who enjoy higher social status. Paradoxically, they are also the ones who enjoy more freedom as they are not rich daughters who will be forced into a wedding they don’t want, and as they dress up the way they want. Tartuffe however, can be anyone of us. As bigots, but also as political saviours, from the conservative side to the ‘woke’ side, each time we believe our morality has to be made public, it’s the beauty of our soul which is ridiculously staged.

JSD


TEXT by Molière

TARTUFFE (observing Dorine)

Laurent, lock up my hair shirt and my scourge,

And pray for freedom from each carnal urge.

If anyone comes calling, say I have gone

To share my alms with the poor souls in prison.

DORINE (aside)

Such affectation and boastful behavior!

TARTUFFE

What do you wish?

DORINE

                               To say . . .

TARTUFFE (taking a handkerchief from his pocket)

Wait!  By our Savior,

Please!  Before you speak, take this handkerchief.

DORINE

Why?

TARTUFFE

     Because seeing your bosom causes me grief.

Through one’s eyes one’s soul may be wounded,

And then sinful thoughts may grow unattended.

DORINE

Then you are quite ready for temptation,

And bare skin makes on you a big impression.

I truly don’t know why you feel such passion;

I myself think lust is out of fashion,

For I could see you nude from top to toe

Without your pelt setting my cheeks aglow.

TARTUFFE

Put a little modesty in your discourse

Or I must leave you instantly perforce.

DORINE

 No, it is I who will leave you here in peace,

And I will just say this before I cease:

Madam is coming down to visit you

And demands the favor of a rendezvous.

TARTUFFE

Oh yes!  Most willingly!

DORINE (to herself)

                Isn’t he sweet!

I’m even surer now that dog’s in heat.

TARTUFFE

Will she soon come?

DORINE

                        I think I can hear her.

Yes, there.  Now I will leave you two together.


Willem Van Mieris, Tartuffe and Élmire caught out by Damis, 1711

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