Tartuffe; or, The Hypocrite

by Jean-Baptiste Poquelin (Moliere)

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  May lightning strike me dead this very instant,
  May I be everywhere proclaimed a scoundrel,
  If any reverence or power shall stop me,
  And if I don't do straightway something desperate!
  I beg you, moderate this towering passion;
  Your father did but merely mention it.
  Not all things that are talked of turn to facts;
  The road is long, sometimes, from plans to acts.
  No, I must end this paltry fellow's plots,
  And he shall hear from me a truth or two.
  So ho! Go slow now. Just you leave the fellow—
  Your father too—in your step-mother's hands.
  She has some influence with this Tartuffe,
  He makes a point of heeding all she says,
  And I suspect that he is fond of her.
  Would God 'twere true!—'Twould be the height of humour
  Now, she has sent for him, in your behalf,
  To sound him on this marriage, to find out
  What his ideas are, and to show him plainly
  What troubles he may cause, if he persists
  In giving countenance to this design.
  His man says, he's at prayers, I mustn't see him,
  But likewise says, he'll presently be down.
  So off with you, and let me wait for him.
  I may be present at this interview.
  No, no! They must be left alone.
  I won't
  So much as speak to him.
  Go on! We know you
  And your high tantrums. Just the way to spoil things!
  Be off.
  No, I must see—I'll keep my temper.
  Out on you, what a plague! He's coming. Hide!
(Damis goes and hides in the closet at the back of the stage.)



  TARTUFFE (speaking to his valet, off the stage, as soon as he sees
  Dorine is there)
  Lawrence, put up my hair-cloth shirt and scourge,
  And pray that Heaven may shed its light upon you.
  If any come to see me, say I'm gone
  To share my alms among the prisoners.
  DORINE (aside)
  What affectation and what showing off!
  What do you want with me?
  To tell you …
  TARTUFFE (taking a handkerchief from his pocket)
  Before you speak, pray take this handkerchief.
  Cover up that bosom, which I can't
  Endure to look on. Things like that offend
  Our souls, and fill our minds with sinful thoughts.
  Are you so tender to temptation, then,
  And has the flesh such power upon your senses?
  I don't know how you get in such a heat;
  For my part, I am not so prone to lust,
  And I could see you stripped from head to foot,
  And all your hide not tempt me in the least.
  Show in your speech some little modesty,
  Or I must instantly take leave of you.
  No, no, I'll leave you to yourself; I've only
  One thing to say: Madam will soon be down,
  And begs the favour of a word with you.
  Ah! Willingly.
  DORINE (aside)
  How gentle all at once!
  My faith, I still believe I've hit upon it.
  Will she come soon?
  I think I hear her now.
  Yes, here she is herself; I'll leave you with her.


  May Heaven's overflowing kindness ever
  Give you good health of body and of soul,
  And bless your days according to the wishes
  And prayers of its most humble votary!
  I'm very grateful for your pious wishes.
  But let's sit down, so we may talk at ease.
  TARTUFFE (after sitting down)
  And how are you recovered from your illness?
  ELMIRE (sitting down also)
  Quite well; the fever soon let go its hold.
  My prayers, I fear, have not sufficient merit
  To have drawn down this favour from on high;
  But each entreaty that I made to Heaven
  Had for its object your recovery.
  You're too solicitous on my behalf.
  We could not cherish your dear health too much;
  I would have given mine, to help restore it.
  That's pushing Christian charity too far;
  I owe you many thanks for so much kindness.
  I do far less for you than you deserve.
  There is a matter that I wished to speak of
  In private; I am glad there's no one here
  To listen.
  Madam, I am overjoyed.
  'Tis sweet to find myself alone with you.
  This is an opportunity I've asked
  Of Heaven, many a time; till now, in vain.
  All that I wish, is just a word from you,
  Quite frank and open, hiding nothing from me.
(DAMIS, without their seeing him, opens the closet door halfway.)

  I too could wish, as Heaven's especial favour,
  To lay my soul quite open to your eyes,
  And swear to you, the trouble that I made
  About those visits which your charms attract,
  Does not result from any hatred toward you,
  But rather from a passionate devotion,
  And purest motives …
  That is how I take it,
  I think 'tis my salvation that concerns you.
  TARTUFFE (pressing her finger tips)
  Madam, 'tis so; and such is my devotion …
  Ouch! but you squeeze too hard.
  Excess of zeal.
  In no way could I ever mean to hurt you,
  And I'd as soon …
(He puts his hand on her knee.)

  What's your hand doing there?
  Feeling your gown; the stuff is very soft.
  Let be, I beg you; I am very ticklish.
(She moves her chair away, and Tartuffe brings his nearer.)

  TARTUFFE (handling the lace yoke of Elmire's dress)
  Dear me how wonderful in workmanship
  This lace is! They do marvels, nowadays;
  Things of all kinds were never better made.
  Yes, very true. But let us come to business.
  They say my husband means to break his word.
  And marry Mariane to you. Is't so?
  He did hint some such thing; but truly, madam,
  That's not the happiness I'm yearning after;
  I see elsewhere the sweet compelling charms
  Of such a joy as fills my every wish.
  You mean you cannot love terrestrial things.
  The heart within my bosom is not stone.
  I well believe your sighs all tend to Heaven,
  And nothing here below can stay your thoughts.
  Love for the beauty of eternal things
  Cannot destroy our love for earthly beauty;
  Our mortal senses well may be entranced
  By perfect works that Heaven has fashioned here.
  Its charms reflected shine in such as you,
  And in yourself, its rarest miracles;
  It has displayed such marvels in your face,
  That eyes are dazed, and hearts are rapt away;
  I could not look on you, the perfect creature,
  Without admiring Nature's great Creator,
  And feeling all my heart inflamed with love
  For you, His fairest image of Himself.
  At first I trembled lest this secret love
  Might be the Evil Spirit's artful snare;
  I even schooled my heart to flee your beauty,
  Thinking it was a bar to my salvation.
  But soon, enlightened, O all lovely one,
  I saw how this my passion may be blameless,
  How I may make it fit with modesty,
  And thus completely yield my heart to it.
  'Tis I must own, a great presumption in me
  To dare make you the offer of my heart;
  My love hopes all things from your perfect goodness,
  And nothing from my own poor weak endeavour.
  You are my hope, my stay, my peace of heart;
  On you depends my torment or my bliss;
  And by your doom of judgment, I shall be
  Blest, if you will; or damned, by your decree.
  Your declaration's turned most gallantly;
  But truly, it is just a bit surprising.
  You should have better armed your heart, methinks,
  And taken thought somewhat on such a matter.
  A pious man like you, known everywhere …
  Though pious, I am none the less a man;
  And when a man beholds your heavenly charms,
  The heart surrenders, and can think no more.
  I know such words seem strange, coming from me;
  But, madam, I'm no angel, after all;
  If you condemn my frankly made avowal
  You only have your charming self to blame.
  Soon as I saw your more than human beauty,
  You were thenceforth the sovereign of my soul;
  Sweetness ineffable was in your eyes,
  That took by storm my still resisting heart,
  And conquered everything, fasts, prayers, and tears,
  And turned my worship wholly to yourself.
  My looks, my sighs, have spoke a thousand times;
  Now, to express it all, my voice must speak.
  If but you will look down with gracious favour
  Upon the sorrows of your worthless slave,
  If in your goodness you will give me comfort
  And condescend unto my nothingness,
  I'll ever pay you, O sweet miracle,
  An unexampled worship and devotion.
  Then too, with me your honour runs no risk;
  With me you need not fear a public scandal.
  These court gallants, that women are so fond of,
  Are boastful of their acts, and vain in speech;
  They always brag in public of their progress;
  Soon as a favour's granted, they'll divulge it;
  Their tattling tongues, if you but trust to them,
  Will foul the altar where their hearts have worshipped.
  But men like me are so discreet in love,
  That you may trust their lasting secrecy.
  The care we take to guard our own good name
  May fully guarantee the one we love;
  So you may find, with hearts like ours sincere,
  Love without scandal, pleasure without fear.
  I've heard you through—your speech is clear, at least.
  But don't you fear that I may take a fancy
  To tell my husband of your gallant passion,
  And that a prompt report of this affair
  May somewhat change the friendship which he bears you?
  I know that you're too good and generous,
  That you will pardon my temerity,
  Excuse, upon the score of human frailty,
  The violence of passion that offends you,
  And not forget, when you consult your mirror,
  That I'm not blind, and man is made of flesh.
  Some women might do otherwise, perhaps,
  But I am willing to employ discretion,
  And not repeat the matter to my husband;
  But in return, I'll ask one thing of you:
  That you urge forward, frankly and sincerely,
  The marriage of Valere to Mariane;
  That you give up the unjust influence
  By which you hope to win another's rights;
  And …


  DAMIS (coming out of the closet-room where he had been hiding)
  No, I say! This thing must be made public.
  I was just there, and overheard it all;
  And Heaven's goodness must have brought me there
  On purpose to confound this scoundrel's pride
  And grant me means to take a signal vengeance
  On his hypocrisy and arrogance,
  And undeceive my father, showing up
  The rascal caught at making love to you.
  No, no; it is enough if he reforms,
  Endeavouring to deserve the favour shown him.
  And since I've promised, do not you belie me.
  'Tis not my way to make a public scandal;
  An honest wife will scorn to heed such follies,
  And never fret her husband's ears with them.
  You've reasons of your own for acting thus;
  And I have mine for doing otherwise.
  To spare him now would be a mockery;
  His bigot's pride has triumphed all too long
  Over my righteous anger, and has caused
  Far too much trouble in our family.
  The rascal all too long has ruled my father,
  And crossed my sister's love, and mine as well.
  The traitor now must be unmasked before him:
  And Providence has given me means to do it.
  To Heaven I owe the opportunity,
  And if I did not use it now I have it,
  I should deserve to lose it once for all.
  Damis …
  No, by your leave; I'll not be counselled.
  I'm overjoyed. You needn't try to tell me
  I must give up the pleasure of revenge.
  I'll make an end of this affair at once;
  And, to content me, here's my father now.


  Father, we've news to welcome your arrival,
  That's altogether novel, and surprising.
  You are well paid for your caressing care,
  And this fine gentleman rewards your love
  Most handsomely, with zeal that seeks no less
  Than your dishonour, as has now been proven.
  I've just surprised him making to your wife
  The shameful offer of a guilty love.
  She, somewhat over gentle and discreet,
  Insisted that the thing should be concealed;
  But I will not condone such shamelessness,
  Nor so far wrong you as to keep it secret.
  Yes, I believe a wife should never trouble
  Her husband's peace of mind with such vain gossip;
  A woman's honour does not hang on telling;
  It is enough if she defend herself;
  Or so I think; Damis, you'd not have spoken,
  If you would but have heeded my advice.


  Just Heaven! Can what I hear be credited?
  Yes, brother, I am wicked, I am guilty,
  A miserable sinner, steeped in evil,
  The greatest criminal that ever lived.
  Each moment of my life is stained with soilures;
  And all is but a mass of crime and filth;
  Heaven, for my punishment, I see it plainly,
  Would mortify me now. Whatever wrong
  They find to charge me with, I'll not deny it
  But guard against the pride of self-defence.
  Believe their stories, arm your wrath against me,
  And drive me like a villain from your house;
  I cannot have so great a share of shame
  But what I have deserved a greater still.
  ORGON (to his son)
  You miscreant, can you dare, with such a falsehood,
  To try to stain the whiteness of his virtue?
  What! The feigned meekness of this hypocrite
  Makes you discredit …
  Silence, cursed plague!
  Ah! Let him speak; you chide him wrongfully;
  You'd do far better to believe his tales.
  Why favour me so much in such a matter?
  How can you know of what I'm capable?
  And should you trust my outward semblance, brother,
  Or judge therefrom that I'm the better man?
  No, no; you let appearances deceive you;
  I'm anything but what I'm thought to be,
  Alas! and though all men believe me godly,
  The simple truth is, I'm a worthless creature.
  (To Damis)
  Yes, my dear son, say on, and call me traitor,
  Abandoned scoundrel, thief, and murderer;
  Heap on me names yet more detestable,
  And I shall not gainsay you; I've deserved them;
  I'll bear this ignominy on my knees,
  To expiate in shame the crimes I've done.
  ORGON (to Tartuffe)
  Ah, brother, 'tis too much!
  (To his son)
  You'll not relent,
  You blackguard?
  What! His talk can so deceive you …
  Silence, you scoundrel!
  (To Tartuffe)
  Brother, rise, I beg you.
  (To his son)
  Infamous villain!
  Can he …
  What …
  Another word, I'll break your every bone.
  Brother, in God's name, don't be angry with him!
  I'd rather bear myself the bitterest torture
  Than have him get a scratch on my account.
  ORGON (to his son)
  Ungrateful monster!
  Stop. Upon my knees
  I beg you pardon him …
  ORGON (throwing himself on his knees too, and embracing Tartuffe)
  Alas! How can you?
  (To his son)
  Villain! Behold his goodness!
  So …
  Be still.
  What! I …
  Be still, I say. I know your motives
  For this attack. You hate him, all of you;
  Wife, children, servants, all let loose upon him,
  You have recourse to every shameful trick
  To drive this godly man out of my house;
  The more you strive to rid yourselves of him,
  The more I'll strive to make him stay with me;
  I'll have him straightway married to my daughter,
  Just to confound the pride of all of you.
  What! Will you force her to accept his hand?
  Yes, and this very evening, to enrage you,
  Young rascal! Ah! I'll brave you all, and show you
  That I'm the master, and must be obeyed.
  Now, down upon your knees this instant, rogue,
  And take back what you said, and ask his pardon.
  Who? I? Ask pardon of that cheating scoundrel … ?
  Do you resist, you beggar, and insult him?
  A cudgel, here! a cudgel!
  (To Tartuffe)
  Don't restrain me.
  (To his son)
  Off with you! Leave my house this instant, sirrah,
  And never dare set foot in it again.
  Yes, I will leave your house, but …
  Leave it quickly.
  You reprobate, I disinherit you,
  And give you, too, my curse into the bargain.


  What! So insult a saintly man of God!
  Heaven, forgive him all the pain he gives me! [4]
[Footnote 4: Some modern editions have adopted the reading, preserved by tradition as that of the earliest stage version: Heaven, forgive him even as I forgive him! Voltaire gives still another reading: Heaven, forgive me even as I forgive him! Whichever was the original version, it appears in none of the early editions, and Moliere probably felt forced to change it on account of its too close resemblance to the Biblical phrase.]

  (To Orgon)
  Could you but know with what distress I see
  Them try to vilify me to my brother!
  The mere thought of such ingratitude
  Makes my soul suffer torture, bitterly …
  My horror at it … Ah! my heart's so full
  I cannot speak … I think I'll die of it.
  ORGON (in tears, running to the door through which he drove away his
  Scoundrel! I wish I'd never let you go,
  But slain you on the spot with my own hand.
  (To Tartuffe)
  Brother, compose yourself, and don't be angry.
  Nay, brother, let us end these painful quarrels.
  I see what troublous times I bring upon you,
  And think 'tis needful that I leave this house.
  What! You can't mean it?
  Yes, they hate me here,
  And try, I find, to make you doubt my faith.
  What of it? Do you find I listen to them?
  No doubt they won't stop there. These same reports
  You now reject, may some day win a hearing.
  No, brother, never.
  Ah! my friend, a woman
  May easily mislead her husband's mind.
  No, no.
  So let me quickly go away
  And thus remove all cause for such attacks.
  No, you shall stay; my life depends upon it.
  Then I must mortify myself. And yet,
  If you should wish …
  No, never!
  Very well, then;
  No more of that. But I shall rule my conduct
  To fit the case. Honour is delicate,
  And friendship binds me to forestall suspicion,
  Prevent all scandal, and avoid your wife.
  No, you shall haunt her, just to spite them all.
  'Tis my delight to set them in a rage;
  You shall be seen together at all hours
  And what is more, the better to defy them,
  I'll have no other heir but you; and straightway
  I'll go and make a deed of gift to you,
  Drawn in due form, of all my property.
  A good true friend, my son-in-law to be,
  Is more to me than son, and wife, and kindred.
  You will accept my offer, will you not?
  Heaven's will be done in everything!
  Poor man!
  We'll go make haste to draw the deed aright,
  And then let envy burst itself with spite!

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