Carissa’s Tartuffe Extra-Credit

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This past Thursday I got to go see Tartuffe, which takes place during the French Renaissance. It is a story about a wealthy family who has taken in Tartuffe, a holy man of God. Tartuffe turns out to be a poverty stricken con-artist and liar who almost gets away with taking all of the family’s possessions, having sex with Orgon’s wife, marrying Orgon’s daughter Mariane, and ruining the marriages of two other people (Mariane and Valere and Damis and Valere’s sister). I am going to look at Tartuffe in three different ways; from a post-colonial, a LGBTQ, and a psychoanalytic perspective.

Looking at Tartuffe from a post-colonial lens, what stands out to me is the distribution of power and how the class system was portrayed. Orgon is a well respected man in his community, respected by his family, friends, neighbors, and those in authority: the court and the king. His wealth not only makes him a respected man in the community, but also in the household. It is interesting to see how wealth made him an important respected figure in his household and society. As a father, Orgon also has authority over his grown daughter. Even though Mariane is an adult and is engaged to Valere, Orgon has the power to change his mind and set up a different marriage that he approves of. A situation like this would never happen in 21st century America.

Looking at Tartuffe from a LGBTQ lens, it could be possible that Orgon is secretly gay. In the very beginning of the show, Orgon comes home from a trip and talks to Dorine and Cleante. Orgon reveals that he does not care about the decreasing health of his wife, or the fact that his daughter is upset about her marriage circumstances, or that his whole entire household is upset at all the changes that Tartuffe has made. Orgon’s sole focus and worry is about Tartuffe, and how wonderful it is that he has been eating all his food, taking advantage of all he had to offer, and making himself more than comfortable during his extended stay. Orgon is one of Tartuffe’s “followers” and is not only taking all of Tartuffe’s advice, but also later gives him all his money and the deed to his estate along with several other important documents. Orgon’s lack of love for his wife and family (he did say that he felt no love for them earlier and that if anything bad happened to them he would not feel anything) could be interpreted to mean that he is gay, because all of his energy, efforts, and emotions revolve around Tartuffe.

Another interpretation of Tartuffe would be to look at it from a psychoanalytic viewpoint in regard to Mariane. Mariane’s id has a strong desire to marry Valere. She shows this by fighting with him and sobbing after the fight when they each think that their relationship is over. She also makes plans with Dorine to prevent her father’s plan for her to marry Tartffe from working out. Mariane’s (super) ego behaves very differently, however. During a chat with her father, she agrees to marry Tartuffe because he is in charge and it is her moral duty to obey her father. It would make her look bad in society as a daughter to not listen to her father, especially since her father is such an important public figure.

3 thoughts on “Carissa’s Tartuffe Extra-Credit

  1. baileydolloff

    Interesting analysis! I also saw Tartuffe and have been eager to head varying interpretations on it— I enjoyed it very much. Your post-colonial interpretation makes sense. I could even add that, in addition to wealth and respect as objects of value. In addition, characters strive for love, expression, and pride. Ultimately, they desire power in one form or another.

    In response to your LGBTQ criticism of the play, it makes sense that Organ is gay, though he could also be asexual. I think it makes most sense that he is gay, though, given his extreme fondness for Tartuffe. It could be interpreted either that he has sexual feelings toward Tartuffe or that he simple places an the extreme value of friendship and salvation so his orientation remains subjective depending on the reader’s personal analysis of his actions.

    Good account of Marian’s id and superego. Other examples include Orgon’s desire to be right, but superego eventually admitting he’d been fooled, as well as Tartuffe’s id of sexual desires toward Orgon’s wife and his superego that tells him not to openly flirt with her in front of Orgon. Still, I think Marian remains the best example of id vs. superego, given her great sense of family commitment.

  2. nataliebeyer

    I’ve never thought about the possibility of Orgon being gay until I read your analysis. Now I actually do see it especially with how obsessed he is with Tartuffe in the beginning of the play. Also, the fact that he is so willing to give away his daughter and his wealth just to keep Tartuffe in his life. The only thing that separates Orgon’s attachment to Tartuffe is when he discovers he wants to sleep with his wife. Instead of reading this situation as a reaction to the disrespect of his wife you could read it as Orgon feeling betrayed that Tartuffe wanted to be with his wife and not him. I think there is a lot of clues and evidence in this play that would support some definite homosexual undertones between the two characters. Anyways, great analysis on this production!

  3. aarenas95

    I really enjoyed reading this analysis, as it was pretty insightful. After seeing tartuffe this past weekend, I do see some of those theories that you had mentioned in the post like the LGBTQ criticism with Orgon. Theres is plenty of evidence that can support this including the undertones that naraliebeyer mentions as well.

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