Lesson 11: Tartuffe; Romanticism: Heine, Leopardi, Hugo

Learning Objective:

You should gain a critical understanding of the text, the basic plot points, and the function of comedy according to Moliere.


  • Tartuffe, 91-122.
  • Tartuffe, 122-155.
  • Romanticism: Heine, 453-455; Leopardi, 456-459; Hugo, 479-485.
  • Answer discussion question; Take Quiz in Blackboard.

 Lecture Notes:

Those who have greatest cause for guilt and shame
Are quickest to besmirch a neighbor’s name.

In the introduction to Tartuffe, our anthology claims: ‘Tartuffe’s monstrous lust for women, money, power, genuinely endangers the social structure’ (1900). Ironically, these behaviors are exactly what religion is supposed to prevent. Tartuffe uses religion’s preventative standards as justifications for to break those standards. One way we can interpret his character is by referring to Moliere’s Preface and Petition to the King, in which he claims: ‘The function of comedy is to correct men’s vices’ (1901).

Tartuffe is not the mocked ‘devout man’, he is the mocked ‘hypocrite’. As in all comedy’s, justice is handily served in the final act. But how, exactly, are we to be ‘corrected’ by this play; how does the plot prevent us from becoming religious hypocrites? And should we take Moliere’s Petition at face value; that is, do you think he was originally mocking religion and only later trying to cover up his mistake when he his play was banned, or do you think his Petition is sincere?


Above is a recorded performance of Tartuffe put on by American University Theatre that uses the same translation as our own. It is not a high quality recording, but it certainly delivers the lines in their intended dramatized context.