Tartuffe - Molière - ebook

Orgon's family is up in arms because Orgon and his mother have fallen under the influence of Tartuffe, a pious fraud (and a vagrant prior to Orgon's help). Tartuffe pretends to be pious and to speak with divine authority, and Orgon and his mother no longer take any action without first consulting him.

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Translated By Curtis Hidden Page



MADAME PERNELLE, mother of Orgon

ORGON, husband of Elmire

ELMIRE, wife of Orgon

DAMIS, son of Orgon

MARIANE, daughter of Orgon, in love with Valere

CLEANTE, brother-in-law of Orgon

TARTUFFE, a hypocrite

DORINE, Mariane's maid

M. LOYAL, a bailiff

A Police Officer

FLIPOTTE, Madame Pernelle's servant

The Scene is at Paris






Come, come, Flipotte, and let me get away.


You hurry so, I hardly can attend you.


Then don't, my daughter-in law. Stay where you are.

I can dispense with your polite attentions.


We're only paying what is due you, mother.

Why must you go away in such a hurry?


Because I can't endure your carryings-on,

And no one takes the slightest pains to please me.

I leave your house, I tell you, quite disgusted;

You do the opposite of my instructions;

You've no respect for anything; each one

Must have his say; it's perfect pandemonium.


If …


You're a servant wench, my girl, and much

Too full of gab, and too impertinent

And free with your advice on all occasions.


But …


You're a fool, my boy—f, o, o, l

Just spells your name. Let grandma tell you that

I've said a hundred times to my poor son,

Your father, that you'd never come to good

Or give him anything but plague and torment.


I think …


O dearie me, his little sister!

You're all demureness, butter wouldn't melt

In your mouth, one would think to look at you.

Still waters, though, they say … you know the proverb;

And I don't like your doings on the sly.


But, mother …


Daughter, by your leave, your conduct

In everything is altogether wrong;

You ought to set a good example for 'em;

Their dear departed mother did much better.

You are extravagant; and it offends me,

To see you always decked out like a princess.

A woman who would please her husband's eyes

Alone, wants no such wealth of fineries.


But, madam, after all …


Sir, as for you,

The lady's brother, I esteem you highly,

Love and respect you. But, sir, all the same,

If I were in my son's, her husband's, place,

I'd urgently entreat you not to come

Within our doors. You preach a way of living

That decent people cannot tolerate.

I'm rather frank with you; but that's my way—

I don't mince matters, when I mean a thing.


Mr. Tartuffe, your friend, is mighty lucky …


He is a holy man, and must be heeded;

I can't endure, with any show of patience,

To hear a scatterbrains like you attack him.


What! Shall I let a bigot criticaster

Come and usurp a tyrant's power here?

And shall we never dare amuse ourselves

Till this fine gentleman deigns to consent?


If we must hark to him, and heed his maxims,

There's not a thing we do but what's a crime;

He censures everything, this zealous carper.


And all he censures is well censured, too.

He wants to guide you on the way to heaven;

My son should train you all to love him well.


No, madam, look you, nothing—not my father

Nor anything—can make me tolerate him.

I should belie my feelings not to say so.

His actions rouse my wrath at every turn;

And I foresee that there must come of it

An open rupture with this sneaking scoundrel.


Besides, 'tis downright scandalous to see

This unknown upstart master of the house—

This vagabond, who hadn't, when he came,

Shoes to his feet, or clothing worth six farthings,

And who so far forgets his place, as now

To censure everything, and rule the roost!


Eh! Mercy sakes alive! Things would go better

If all were governed by his pious orders.


He passes for a saint in your opinion.

In fact, he's nothing but a hypocrite.


Just listen to her tongue!


I wouldn't trust him,

Nor yet his Lawrence, without bonds and surety.


I don't know what the servant's character

May be; but I can guarantee the master

A holy man. You hate him and reject him

Because he tells home truths to all of you.

'Tis sin alone that moves his heart to anger,

And heaven's interest is his only motive.


Of course. But why, especially of late,

Can he let nobody come near the house?

Is heaven offended at a civil call

That he should make so great a fuss about it?

I'll tell you, if you like, just what I think;

(Pointing to Elmire)

Upon my word, he's jealous of our mistress.


You hold your tongue, and think what you are saying.

He's not alone in censuring these visits;

The turmoil that attends your sort of people,

Their carriages forever at the door,

And all their noisy footmen, flocked together,

Annoy the neighbourhood, and raise a scandal.

I'd gladly think there's nothing really wrong;

But it makes talk; and that's not as it should be.


Eh! madam, can you hope to keep folk's tongues

From wagging? It would be a grievous thing

If, for the fear of idle talk about us,

We had to sacrifice our friends. No, no;

Even if we could bring ourselves to do it,

Think you that everyone would then be silenced?

Against backbiting there is no defence

So let us try to live in innocence,

To silly tattle pay no heed at all,

And leave the gossips free to vent their gall.


Our neighbour Daphne, and her little husband,

Must be the ones who slander us, I'm thinking.

Those whose own conduct's most ridiculous,

Are always quickest to speak ill of others;

They never fail to seize at once upon

The slightest hint of any love affair,

And spread the news of it with glee, and give it

The character they'd have the world believe in.

By others' actions, painted in their colours,

They hope to justify their own; they think,

In the false hope of some resemblance, either

To make their own intrigues seem innocent,

Or else to make their neighbours share the blame

Which they are loaded with by everybody.


These arguments are nothing to the purpose.

Orante, we all know, lives a perfect life;

Her thoughts are all of heaven; and I have heard

That she condemns the company you keep.


O admirable pattern! Virtuous dame!

She lives the model of austerity;

But age has brought this piety upon her,

And she's a prude, now she can't help herself.

As long as she could capture men's attentions

She made the most of her advantages;

But, now she sees her beauty vanishing,

She wants to leave the world, that's leaving her,

And in the specious veil of haughty virtue

She'd hide the weakness of her worn-out charms.

That is the way with all your old coquettes;

They find it hard to see their lovers leave 'em;

And thus abandoned, their forlorn estate

Can find no occupation but a prude's.

These pious dames, in their austerity,

Must carp at everything, and pardon nothing.

They loudly blame their neighbours' way of living,

Not for religion's sake, but out of envy,

Because they can't endure to see another

Enjoy the pleasures age has weaned them from.


There! That's the kind of rigmarole to please you,

Daughter-in-law. One never has a chance

To get a word in edgewise, at your house,

Because this lady holds the floor all day;

But none the less, I mean to have my say, too.

I tell you that my son did nothing wiser

In all his life, than take this godly man

Into his household; heaven sent him here,

In your great need, to make you all repent;

For your salvation, you must hearken to him;

He censures nothing but deserves his censure.

These visits, these assemblies, and these balls,

Are all inventions of the evil spirit.

You never hear a word of godliness

At them—but idle cackle, nonsense, flimflam.

Our neighbour often comes in for a share,

The talk flies fast, and scandal fills the air;

It makes a sober person's head go round,

At these assemblies, just to hear the sound

Of so much gab, with not a word to say;

And as a learned man remarked one day

Most aptly, 'tis the Tower of Babylon,

Where all, beyond all limit, babble on.

And just to tell you how this point came in …

(To Cleante)

So! Now the gentlemen must snicker, must he?

Go find fools like yourself to make you laugh

And don't …

(To Elmire)

Daughter, good-bye; not one word more.

As for this house, I leave the half unsaid;

But I shan't soon set foot in it again,

(Cuffing Flipotte)

Come, you! What makes you dream and stand agape,

Hussy! I'll warm your ears in proper shape!

March, trollop, march!




I won't escort her down,

For fear she might fall foul of me again;

The good old lady …


Bless us! What a pity

She shouldn't hear the way you speak of her!

She'd surely tell you you're too "good" by half,

And that she's not so "old" as all that, neither!


How she got angry with us all for nothing!

And how she seems possessed with her Tartuffe!


Her case is nothing, though, beside her son's!

To see him, you would say he's ten times worse!

His conduct in our late unpleasantness [1]

Had won him much esteem, and proved his courage

In service of his king; but now he's like

A man besotted, since he's been so taken

With this Tartuffe. He calls him brother, loves him

A hundred times as much as mother, son,

Daughter, and wife. He tells him all his secrets

And lets him guide his acts, and rule his conscience.

He fondles and embraces him; a sweetheart

Could not, I think, be loved more tenderly;

At table he must have the seat of honour,

While with delight our master sees him eat

As much as six men could; we must give up

The choicest tidbits to him; if he belches,

('tis a servant speaking) [2]

Master exclaims: "God bless you!"—Oh, he dotes

Upon him! he's his universe, his hero;

He's lost in constant admiration, quotes him

On all occasions, takes his trifling acts

For wonders, and his words for oracles.

The fellow knows his dupe, and makes the most on't,

He fools him with a hundred masks of virtue,

Gets money from him all the time by canting,

And takes upon himself to carp at us.

Even his silly coxcomb of a lackey

Makes it his business to instruct us too;

He comes with rolling eyes to preach at us,

And throws away our ribbons, rouge, and patches.

The wretch, the other day, tore up a kerchief

That he had found, pressed in the Golden Legend,