Tartuffe; or, The Hypocrite

by Jean-Baptiste Poquelin (Moliere)

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  Yes, it's become the talk of all the town,
  And make a stir that's scarcely to your credit;
  And I have met you, sir, most opportunely,
  To tell you in a word my frank opinion.
  Not to sift out this scandal to the bottom,
  Suppose the worst for us—suppose Damis
  Acted the traitor, and accused you falsely;
  Should not a Christian pardon this offence,
  And stifle in his heart all wish for vengeance?
  Should you permit that, for your petty quarrel,
  A son be driven from his father's house?
  I tell you yet again, and tell you frankly,
  Everyone, high or low, is scandalised;
  If you'll take my advice, you'll make it up,
  And not push matters to extremities.
  Make sacrifice to God of your resentment;
  Restore the son to favour with his father.
  Alas! So far as I'm concerned, how gladly
  Would I do so! I bear him no ill will;
  I pardon all, lay nothing to his charge,
  And wish with all my heart that I might serve him;
  But Heaven's interests cannot allow it;
  If he returns, then I must leave the house.
  After his conduct, quite unparalleled,
  All intercourse between us would bring scandal;
  God knows what everyone's first thought would be!
  They would attribute it to merest scheming
  On my part—say that conscious of my guilt
  I feigned a Christian love for my accuser,
  But feared him in my heart, and hoped to win him
  And underhandedly secure his silence.
  You try to put us off with specious phrases;
  But all your arguments are too far-fetched.
  Why take upon yourself the cause of Heaven?
  Does Heaven need our help to punish sinners?
  Leave to itself the care of its own vengeance,
  And keep in mind the pardon it commands us;
  Besides, think somewhat less of men's opinions,
  When you are following the will of Heaven.
  Shall petty fear of what the world may think
  Prevent the doing of a noble deed?
  No!—let us always do as Heaven commands,
  And not perplex our brains with further questions.
  Already I have told you I forgive him;
  And that is doing, sir, as Heaven commands.
  But after this day's scandal and affront
  Heaven does not order me to live with him.
  And does it order you to lend your ear
  To what mere whim suggested to his father,
  And to accept gift of his estates,
  On which, in justice, you can make no claim?
  No one who knows me, sir, can have the thought
  That I am acting from a selfish motive.
  The goods of this world have no charms for me;
  I am not dazzled by their treacherous glamour;
  And if I bring myself to take the gift
  Which he insists on giving me, I do so,
  To tell the truth, only because I fear
  This whole estate may fall into bad hands,
  And those to whom it comes may use it ill
  And not employ it, as is my design,
  For Heaven's glory and my neighbours' good.
  Eh, sir, give up these conscientious scruples
  That well may cause a rightful heir's complaints.
  Don't take so much upon yourself, but let him
  Possess what's his, at his own risk and peril;
  Consider, it were better he misused it,
  Than you should be accused of robbing him.
  I am astounded that unblushingly
  You could allow such offers to be made!
  Tell me—has true religion any maxim
  That teaches us to rob the lawful heir?
  If Heaven has made it quite impossible
  Damis and you should live together here,
  Were it not better you should quietly
  And honourably withdraw, than let the son
  Be driven out for your sake, dead against
  All reason? 'Twould be giving, sir, believe me,
  Such an example of your probity …
  Sir, it is half-past three; certain devotions
  Recall me to my closet; you'll forgive me
  For leaving you so soon.
  CLEANTE (alone)


  DORINE (to Cleante)
  Sir, we beg you
  To help us all you can in her behalf;
  She's suffering almost more than heart can bear;
  This match her father means to make to-night
  Drives her each moment to despair. He's coming.
  Let us unite our efforts now, we beg you,
  And try by strength or skill to change his purpose.


  So ho! I'm glad to find you all together.
  (To Mariane)
  Here is the contract that shall make you happy,
  My dear. You know already what it means.
  MARIANE (on her knees before Orgon)
  Father, I beg you, in the name of Heaven
  That knows my grief, and by whate'er can move you,
  Relax a little your paternal rights,
  And free my love from this obedience!
  Oh, do not make me, by your harsh command,
  Complain to Heaven you ever were my father;
  Do not make wretched this poor life you gave me.
  If, crossing that fond hope which I had formed,
  You'll not permit me to belong to one
  Whom I have dared to love, at least, I beg you
  Upon my knees, oh, save me from the torment
  Of being possessed by one whom I abhor!
  And do not drive me to some desperate act
  By exercising all your rights upon me.
  ORGON (a little touched)
  Come, come, my heart, be firm! no human weakness!
  I am not jealous of your love for him;
  Display it freely; give him your estate,
  And if that's not enough, add all of mine;
  I willingly agree, and give it up,
  If only you'll not give him me, your daughter;
  Oh, rather let a convent's rigid rule
  Wear out the wretched days that Heaven allots me.
  These girls are ninnies!—always turning nuns
  When fathers thwart their silly love-affairs.
  Get on your feet! The more you hate to have him,
  The more 'twill help you earn your soul's salvation.
  So, mortify your senses by this marriage,
  And don't vex me about it any more.
  But what … ?
  You hold your tongue, before your betters.
  Don't dare to say a single word, I tell you.
  If you will let me answer, and advise …
  Brother, I value your advice most highly;
  'Tis well thought out; no better can be had;
  But you'll allow me—not to follow it.
  ELMIRE (to her husband)
  I can't find words to cope with such a case;
  Your blindness makes me quite astounded at you.
  You are bewitched with him, to disbelieve
  The things we tell you happened here to-day.
  I am your humble servant, and can see
  Things, when they're plain as noses on folks' faces,
  I know you're partial to my rascal son,
  And didn't dare to disavow the trick
  He tried to play on this poor man; besides,
  You were too calm, to be believed; if that
  Had happened, you'd have been far more disturbed.
  And must our honour always rush to arms
  At the mere mention of illicit love?
  Or can we answer no attack upon it
  Except with blazing eyes and lips of scorn?
  For my part, I just laugh away such nonsense;
  I've no desire to make a loud to-do.
  Our virtue should, I think, be gentle-natured;
  Nor can I quite approve those savage prudes
  Whose honour arms itself with teeth and claws
  To tear men's eyes out at the slightest word.
  Heaven preserve me from that kind of honour!
  I like my virtue not to be a vixen,
  And I believe a quiet cold rebuff
  No less effective to repulse a lover.
  I know … and you can't throw me off the scent.
  Once more, I am astounded at your weakness;
  I wonder what your unbelief would answer,
  If I should let you see we've told the truth?
  See it?
  Come! If I should find
  A way to make you see it clear as day?
  All rubbish.
  What a man! But answer me.
  I'm not proposing now that you believe us;
  But let's suppose that here, from proper hiding,
  You should be made to see and hear all plainly;
  What would you say then, to your man of virtue?
  Why, then, I'd say … say nothing. It can't be.
  Your error has endured too long already,
  And quite too long you've branded me a liar.
  I must at once, for my own satisfaction,
  Make you a witness of the things we've told you.
  Amen! I take you at your word. We'll see
  What tricks you have, and how you'll keep your promise.
  ELMIRE (to Dorine)
  Send him to me.
  DORINE (to Elmire)
  The man's a crafty codger,
  Perhaps you'll find it difficult to catch him.
  ELMIRE (to Dorine)
  Oh no! A lover's never hard to cheat,
  And self-conceit leads straight to self-deceit.
  Bid him come down to me.
  (To Cleante and Mariane)
  And you, withdraw.


  Bring up this table, and get under it.
  One essential is to hide you well.
  Why under there?
  Oh, dear! Do as I say;
  I know what I'm about, as you shall see.
  Get under, now, I tell you; and once there
  Be careful no one either sees or hears you.
  I'm going a long way to humour you,
  I must say; but I'll see you through your scheme.
  And then you'll have, I think, no more to say.
  (To her husband, who is now under the table.)
  But mind, I'm going to meddle with strange matters;
  Prepare yourself to be in no wise shocked.
  Whatever I may say must pass, because
  'Tis only to convince you, as I promised.
  By wheedling speeches, since I'm forced to do it,
  I'll make this hypocrite put off his mask,
  Flatter the longings of his shameless passion,
  And give free play to all his impudence.
  But, since 'tis for your sake, to prove to you
  His guilt, that I shall feign to share his love,
  I can leave off as soon as you're convinced,
  And things shall go no farther than you choose.
  So, when you think they've gone quite far enough,
  It is for you to stop his mad pursuit,
  To spare your wife, and not expose me farther
  Than you shall need, yourself, to undeceive you.
  It is your own affair, and you must end it
  When … Here he comes. Keep still, don't show yourself.

TARTUFFE, ELMIRE; ORGON (under the table)

  They told me that you wished to see me here.
  Yes. I have secrets for your ear alone.
  But shut the door first, and look everywhere
  For fear of spies.
  (Tartuffe goes and closes the door, and comes back.)
  We surely can't afford
  Another scene like that we had just now;
  Was ever anyone so caught before!
  Damis did frighten me most terribly
  On your account; you saw I did my best
  To baffle his design, and calm his anger.
  But I was so confused, I never thought
  To contradict his story; still, thank Heaven,
  Things turned out all the better, as it happened,
  And now we're on an even safer footing.
  The high esteem you're held in, laid the storm;
  My husband can have no suspicion of you,
  And even insists, to spite the scandal-mongers,
  That we shall be together constantly;
  So that is how, without the risk of blame,
  I can be here locked up with you alone,
  And can reveal to you my heart, perhaps
  Only too ready to allow your passion.
  Your words are somewhat hard to understand,
  Madam; just now you used a different style.
  If that refusal has offended you,
  How little do you know a woman's heart!
  How ill you guess what it would have you know,
  When it presents so feeble a defence!
  Always, at first, our modesty resists
  The tender feelings you inspire us with.
  Whatever cause we find to justify
  The love that masters us, we still must feel
  Some little shame in owning it; and strive
  To make as though we would not, when we would.
  But from the very way we go about it
  We let a lover know our heart surrenders,
  The while our lips, for honour's sake, oppose
  Our heart's desire, and in refusing promise.
  I'm telling you my secret all too freely
  And with too little heed to modesty.
  But—now that I've made bold to speak—pray tell me.
  Should I have tried to keep Damis from speaking,
  Should I have heard the offer of your heart
  So quietly, and suffered all your pleading,
  And taken it just as I did—remember—
  If such a declaration had not pleased me,
  And, when I tried my utmost to persuade you
  Not to accept the marriage that was talked of,
  What should my earnestness have hinted to you
  If not the interest that you've inspired,
  And my chagrin, should such a match compel me
  To share a heart I want all to myself?
  'Tis, past a doubt, the height of happiness,
  To hear such words from lips we dote upon;
  Their honeyed sweetness pours through all my senses
  Long draughts of suavity ineffable.
  My heart employs its utmost zeal to please you,
  And counts your love its one beatitude;
  And yet that heart must beg that you allow it
  To doubt a little its felicity.
  I well might think these words an honest trick
  To make me break off this approaching marriage;
  And if I may express myself quite plainly,
  I cannot trust these too enchanting words
  Until the granting of some little favour
  I sigh for, shall assure me of their truth
  And build within my soul, on firm foundations,
  A lasting faith in your sweet charity.
  ELMIRE (coughing to draw her husband's attention)
  What! Must you go so fast?—and all at once
  Exhaust the whole love of a woman's heart?
  She does herself the violence to make
  This dear confession of her love, and you
  Are not yet satisfied, and will not be
  Without the granting of her utmost favours?
  The less a blessing is deserved, the less
  We dare to hope for it; and words alone
  Can ill assuage our love's desires. A fate
  Too full of happiness, seems doubtful still;
  We must enjoy it ere we can believe it.
  And I, who know how little I deserve
  Your goodness, doubt the fortunes of my daring;
  So I shall trust to nothing, madam, till
  You have convinced my love by something real.
  Ah! How your love enacts the tyrant's role,
  And throws my mind into a strange confusion!
  With what fierce sway it rules a conquered heart,
  And violently will have its wishes granted!
  What! Is there no escape from your pursuit?
  No respite even?—not a breathing space?
  Nay, is it decent to be so exacting,
  And so abuse by urgency the weakness
  You may discover in a woman's heart?
  But if my worship wins your gracious favour,
  Then why refuse me some sure proof thereof?
  But how can I consent to what you wish,
  Without offending Heaven you talk so much of?
  If Heaven is all that stands now in my way,
  I'll easily remove that little hindrance;
  Your heart need not hold back for such a trifle.
  But they affright us so with Heaven's commands!
  I can dispel these foolish fears, dear madam;
  I know the art of pacifying scruples
  Heaven forbids, 'tis true, some satisfactions;
  But we find means to make things right with Heaven.
('Tis a scoundrel speaking.) [5]

[Footnote 5: Moliere's note, in the original edition.]

  There is a science, madam, that instructs us
  How to enlarge the limits of our conscience
  According to our various occasions,
  And rectify the evil of the deed
  According to our purity of motive.
  I'll duly teach you all these secrets, madam;
  You only need to let yourself be guided.
  Content my wishes, have no fear at all;
  I answer for't, and take the sin upon me.
  (Elmire coughs still louder.)
  Your cough is very bad.
  Yes, I'm in torture.
  Would you accept this bit of licorice?
  The case is obstinate, I find; and all
  The licorice in the world will do no good.
  'Tis very trying.
  More than words can say.
  In any case, your scruple's easily
  Removed. With me you're sure of secrecy,
  And there's no harm unless a thing is known.
  The public scandal is what brings offence,
  And secret sinning is not sin at all.
  ELMIRE (after coughing again)
  So then, I see I must resolve to yield;
  I must consent to grant you everything,
  And cannot hope to give full satisfaction
  Or win full confidence, at lesser cost.
  No doubt 'tis very hard to come to this;
  'Tis quite against my will I go so far;
  But since I must be forced to it, since nothing
  That can be said suffices for belief,
  Since more convincing proof is still demanded,
  I must make up my mind to humour people.
  If my consent give reason for offence,
  So much the worse for him who forced me to it;
  The fault can surely not be counted mine.
  It need not, madam; and the thing itself …
  Open the door, I pray you, and just see
  Whether my husband's not there, in the hall.
  Why take such care for him? Between ourselves,
  He is a man to lead round by the nose.
  He's capable of glorying in our meetings;
  I've fooled him so, he'd see all, and deny it.
  No matter; go, I beg you, look about,
  And carefully examine every corner.


  ORGON (crawling out from under the table)
  That is, I own, a man … abominable!
  I can't get over it; the whole thing floors me.
  What? You come out so soon? You cannot mean it!
  Get back under the table; 'tis not time yet;
  Wait till the end, to see, and make quite certain,
  And don't believe a thing on mere conjecture.
  Nothing more wicked e'er came out of Hell.
  Dear me! Don't go and credit things too lightly.
  No, let yourself be thoroughly convinced;
  Don't yield too soon, for fear you'll be mistaken.
(As Tartuffe enters, she makes her husband stand behind her.)



  TARTUFFE (not seeing Orgon)
  All things conspire toward my satisfaction,
  Madam, I've searched the whole apartment through.
  There's no one here; and now my ravished soul …
  ORGON (stopping him)
  Softly! You are too eager in your amours;
  You needn't be so passionate. Ah ha!
  My holy man! You want to put it on me!
  How is your soul abandoned to temptation!
  Marry my daughter, eh?—and want my wife, too?
  I doubted long enough if this was earnest,
  Expecting all the time the tone would change;
  But now the proof's been carried far enough;
  I'm satisfied, and ask no more, for my part.
  ELMIRE (to Tartuffe)
  'Twas quite against my character to play
  This part; but I was forced to treat you so.
  What? You believe … ?
  Come, now, no protestations.
  Get out from here, and make no fuss about it.
  But my intent …
  That talk is out of season.
  You leave my house this instant.
  You're the one
  To leave it, you who play the master here!
  This house belongs to me, I'll have you know,
  And show you plainly it's no use to turn
  To these low tricks, to pick a quarrel with me,
  And that you can't insult me at your pleasure,
  For I have wherewith to confound your lies,
  Avenge offended Heaven, and compel
  Those to repent who talk to me of leaving.


  What sort of speech is this? What can it mean?
  My faith, I'm dazed. This is no laughing matter.
  From his words I see my great mistake;
  The deed of gift is one thing troubles me.
  The deed of gift …
  Yes, that is past recall.
  But I've another thing to make me anxious.
  What's that?
  You shall know all. Let's see at once
  Whether a certain box is still upstairs.

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