Manipulation in Molière's Tartuffe: a Study of Deception and Control

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3 min read

Published: Jun 13, 2024

Words: 552|Page: 1|3 min read

Published: Jun 13, 2024


Molière’s Tartuffe, first performed in 1664, is a classic piece of French literature that delves into themes of hypocrisy, deception, and manipulation. The play revolves around the character Tartuffe, a cunning impostor who poses as a pious and devout man to exploit Orgon, a wealthy but gullible gentleman. Through Tartuffe's deceitful machinations, Molière explores the dynamics of manipulation, the susceptibility of individuals to deception, and the resultant chaos within familial and societal structures. This essay examines how manipulation operates as a central mechanism in Tartuffe, impacting characters' relationships, revealing societal flaws, and ultimately serving as a vehicle for Molière's critique of religious hypocrisy.

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The central figure of manipulation in Tartuffe is, of course, Tartuffe himself. His ability to deceive Orgon and other members of the household is rooted in his adept performance of piety and humility, which starkly contrasts with his true nature. Tartuffe's manipulation is evident from the outset when he ingratiates himself with Orgon by feigning extreme religiosity. Orgon, blinded by his own desire for spiritual guidance and reassurance, becomes an easy target for Tartuffe's schemes. This manipulation is so effective that Orgon prioritizes Tartuffe over his own family's welfare, as seen in his decision to marry his daughter Mariane to Tartuffe against her wishes. Tartuffe's control over Orgon exemplifies how manipulative individuals exploit others' vulnerabilities to achieve their ends.

Moreover, Tartuffe's manipulation extends beyond individual relationships to highlight broader societal issues. Molière uses Tartuffe to criticize the gullibility of people who place blind faith in outward displays of piety. Orgon's unwavering belief in Tartuffe's sanctity despite clear evidence to the contrary reflects a societal tendency to equate religious appearance with moral integrity. This theme is particularly poignant given the historical context of Tartuffe's initial reception, where Molière faced backlash from religious authorities who saw the play as an attack on the Church. Through Tartuffe's manipulations, Molière exposes the dangers of religious hypocrisy and the potential for exploitation under the guise of devoutness.

The consequences of Tartuffe's manipulation reach a climax as the play progresses, leading to a series of disruptions within Orgon's household. Orgon's family, particularly his wife Elmire and his son Damis, recognize Tartuffe's deceit but struggle to convince Orgon of the truth. Elmire's strategic maneuver to expose Tartuffe's true intentions by orchestrating a private encounter where Orgon can witness Tartuffe's advances illustrates the lengths to which the family must go to combat manipulation. This scene underscores the tension between appearance and reality, a recurring motif in the play. Ultimately, it is the revelation of Tartuffe's duplicity that restores order, yet not without significant turmoil and distress caused by his manipulative tactics.


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Molière's Tartuffe serves as a powerful exploration of manipulation and its ramifications within personal and societal contexts. Through the character of Tartuffe, Molière illustrates how deceptive individuals can exploit others' weaknesses, leading to significant disruptions and conflicts. The play's critique of blind faith and religious hypocrisy remains relevant, underscoring the importance of discernment and skepticism in the face of outward displays of virtue. Tartuffe ultimately suggests that manipulation thrives in environments where people are unwilling or unable to see beyond appearances, a lesson that resonates well beyond the confines of the play's 17th-century setting. By exposing the mechanisms and consequences of manipulation, Molière invites audiences to reflect critically on their own susceptibilities and the societal structures that enable deceit.

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Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

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Manipulation in Molière’s Tartuffe: A Study of Deception and Control. (2024, Jun 13). GradesFixer. Retrieved July 23, 2024, from
“Manipulation in Molière’s Tartuffe: A Study of Deception and Control.” GradesFixer, 13 Jun. 2024,
Manipulation in Molière’s Tartuffe: A Study of Deception and Control. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 23 Jul. 2024].
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