Set in the 17th century, Moliere’s Drama, Le Tartuffe is a satirical representation of religious hypocrisy. Its comedy drives the play in a direction where the audience can not only be entertained but understand the morals which are portrayed. It is important to realise the historical context that influenced Moliere’s work of Le Tartuffe in order to understand the construction of the characters and comedy portrayed.
Commedia dell’arte were a group of traveling players in Italy who specialised in improvised theatre, creating stock characters for every performance for the audience to identify with and understand their representation in a comic way. Some of these features have been known to have inspired Moliere’s construction of the plot and characters such as Clever talking Dorine shedding light on the truth. In that way, Dorine almost acts as a comedic dramatic tool to highlight the truths and themes of the play.
This is particularly evident in her dialogue towards Madame Pernelle, ‘Il passe pour un saint dans votre fantaisie:/Tout son fait, croyez-moi, n’est rein qu’hypocrisie’(Moliere: 1. 1. 69) In supporting this idea, Peter Hampshire Nurse writes that Dorine has ‘brilliant wit with which she ridicules hypocrisy’ (1991:85). Although the majority of modern audience’s would find the witty servant humorous, Paula Alekson noted that ‘Moliere became a master of “Le ridicule”, so much so that in the process of making the audiences laugh, he made a multitude of serious enemies’(2007:ll 15-16).
Away from the controversy that the themes created, Moliere generates much more of the comedy in terms of language, structure and pace of the play. For example in the exposition, when Madame Pernelle talks to the rest of the characters, we are able to see the desire of power towards the daughters as they try to speak by saying, ‘Mais…. Je crois…mais ma mere’ (Moliere:1. 1)but are cut off every time. Furthermore, repetition is used when Orgon says, ‘Et Tartuffe? / Le pauvre home! (Moliere:1. 4) This conveys Orgons constant obsessive nature over Tartuffe which provokes laughter.
Of course when being performed the proxemics and movement of the character along with the dialogue would emphasise the comedy and complete farce that Moliere had stylized the play with. Overall, we are able to conclude that Moliere uses a variety of different techniques, and themes to make the comedy work for the play. We realise that it is not just a form of entertainment but to aid the audience in following the events in the play; to understand the central themes. Andrew Calder noted that Moliere does this in both his plays, Le Tartuffe (1664) and Don Jaun (1665).
Calder states that they go ‘beyond the comic stage, and both reflect a lively interest in some of the most topical, moral and theological issues of the time. ’ (1973:153). [Wordcount:457] Bibliography Moliere, 2006. Le Tartuffe. Paris: Larousse. Alekson, Paula. 2007. Dramatic and Theatrical Style a la Moliere: Le ridicule, le naturel, and “The comic war”. [online] Available at: http://www. mccarter. org/Education/tartuffe/html/4. html Calder, Andrew. 1973. Moliere: The Theory and Practice of Comedy. London:Athlone Nurse, Peter Hampshire,1991. Moliere and The Comic Spirit. Geneve:Libraire Droz
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