Cléante, appalled by what he’s just witnessed, attempts to reason with Orgon, and to warn him of the dangers Tartuffe poses. Orgon, however, refuses to listen to reason, asserting that he loves Tartuffe more than his “mother, children, brother, and wife.” He recounts meeting Tartuffe in a Church, and marvels at this “holy man’s” ostentatious shows of piety, which Orgon considers to be sincere.
Despite Cléante’s attempts at reason and logic, Orgon is completely unable to listen. He believes Tartuffe’s piety and holiness to be utterly sincere, and is so convinced that he seems incapable of hearing any evidence to the contrary. Orgon’s elevation of Tartuffe above his own family is not natural for a father to do.
Accused of impiety by Orgon, Cléante explains the difference between hypocrisy and honesty, asserting that men often fail to listen to reason when they become emotional and immoderate. Using various examples, he contrasts true holy men with those who simply use religion for their own hypocritical ends. He states that a man can be pious while also being reasonable, but warns Orgon that Tartuffe is not that kind of man.
In his speeches, Cléante displays the very type of reason that he praises. Using logical examples, clear language, and clear arguments, he attempts to construct a rational case against Tartuffe. Orgon, however, is too emotional to be swayed by reason.
Cléante cautiously asks Orgon if he is indeed postponing his daughter Mariane’s marriage to her beloved, Valère. Orgon replies that he is considering doing so, but refuses to tell his brother-in-law anything else. Cléante leaves to warn Valère of the trouble that is to come.
Under Tartuffe’s influence, Orgon is abusing his position as the head of his family, acting in a way that is unjust to those under his power.