Tartuffe

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Cléante Character Analysis

The brother of Elmire (and brother-in-law of Orgon), Cléante represents the height of reason and good sense. Throughout the play he attempts to counsel his brother-in-law against Tartuffe, but is inevitably ignored or even scolded. He eventually aids the rest of the family in coming together against the deceitful hypocrite.

Cléante Quotes in Tartuffe

The Tartuffe quotes below are all either spoken by Cléante or refer to Cléante. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Hypocrisy Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Harvest Books edition of Tartuffe published in 1992.
Act 1, Scene 5 Quotes

How do you fail to see it, may I ask?
Is not a face quite different than a mask?
Cannot sincerity and cunning art,
Reality and semblance, be told apart?

Related Characters: Cléante (speaker), Tartuffe, Orgon
Page Number: 27
Explanation and Analysis:

After hearing Orgon praise Tartuffe and express apathy towards his own family, Cléante is appalled. Trying to use reason to reach Orgon, he deconstructs Tartuffe's false identity, trying to explain to his brother-in-law that Tartuffe's holy act is simply a "mask." He highlights the difference between appearance and reality, and attempts to explain to Orgon that one can tell the difference between "[r]eality and semblance" if one only looks.

What Cléante fails to understand, however, is that Orgon is far past a point where reason can reach him. He has been so taken in by the charlatan that he has completely lost the use of his logical faculties. No matter how much Cléante presents evidence that Tartuffe is false and deceitful, Orgon will never believe him. 

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There’s just one insight I would dare to claim:
I know that true and false are not the same;
And just as there is nothing I more revere
Than a soul whose faith is steadfast and sincere,
Nothing that I more cherish and admire
Than honest zeal and true religious fire,
So there is nothing that I find more base
Than specious piety’s dishonest face—

Related Characters: Cléante (speaker), Orgon
Related Symbols: The Catholic Church
Page Number: 28
Explanation and Analysis:

Having failed to convince his brother-in-law, Orgon, that Tartuffe is a bad influence on him and his family, Cléante grows frustrated. He begins to speak out against all hypocrites, saying that he hates nothing more than false piety and dishonesty – implying, of course, that Tartuffe has displayed both those things.

Even as he expresses his loathing for Tartuffe, the reasonable Cléante also expresses love for that which he believes to be most important in the world: faith, sincerity, and honesty. He is angered by the idea that just because he does not believe Tartuffe, he is branded by Orgon as impious and irreligious. Instead, Cléante states, he is simply able to tell the difference between "true and false." 

Act 5, Scene 1 Quotes

Orgon: Enough, by God! I’m through with pious men:
Henceforth I’ll hate the whole false brotherhood,
And persecute them worse than Satan could.

Cléante: Ah, there you go—extravagant as ever!
Why can you not be rational? You never
Manage to take the middle course, it seems,
But jump, instead, between absurd extremes.

Related Characters: Orgon (speaker), Cléante (speaker), Tartuffe
Page Number: 139
Explanation and Analysis:

Threatened with financial ruin by Tartuffe, Orgon rants and raves, stating that he hates pious men, and will strive to "persecute them" here on out. 

Calming Orgon is the long-suffering Cléante, who once again reminds his brother-in-law not to give in to excess and passion. Rather than turning against all holy men, Cléante councils, Orgon must instead strive for a "middle course." Neither too trusting or too skeptical, the ideal man (represented by Cléante) is moderate in all things, using his reason and his logic to make the best decision in any given situation. 

Orgon's passion would have been ridiculous to French audiences, who believed reason and logic to be two of the most important virtues a man could possess. 

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Cléante Character Timeline in Tartuffe

The timeline below shows where the character Cléante appears in Tartuffe. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1, Scene 1
Family and Fathers Theme Icon
...and daughter, Damis and Mariane; their stepmother and Orgon’s second wife, Elmire; and Elmire’s brother, Cléante. (full context)
Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Religion, Piety, and Morals Theme Icon
Family and Fathers Theme Icon
Appearances and Beauty Theme Icon
...for entertaining too many callers and caring too much about her appearance. She even tells Cléante that he is too worldly, and should not be allowed in the house. Each character... (full context)
Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Reason vs. Emotion Theme Icon
Religion, Piety, and Morals Theme Icon
Appearances and Beauty Theme Icon
...gossips about Elmire; Madame Pernelle believes such ostentatiously moral people to be truly virtuous, while Cléante and Dorine assert that they are hypocrites like Tartuffe, using excessive shows of faith to... (full context)
Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Religion, Piety, and Morals Theme Icon
Frustrated by her relatives (particularly Cléante, who is laughing at her), Madame Pernelle takes her leave—though not before slapping the long-suffering... (full context)
Act 1, Scene 2
Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Reason vs. Emotion Theme Icon
Religion, Piety, and Morals Theme Icon
Dorine and Cléante stay behind in order to avoid Madame Pernelle. They discuss their frustrations with her, as... (full context)
Act 1, Scene 3
Family and Fathers Theme Icon
Hearing Orgon, all exit except for Cléante and Dorine. (full context)
Act 1, Scene 4
Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Reason vs. Emotion Theme Icon
Family and Fathers Theme Icon
Orgon enters, and Cléante attempts to greet him. Orgon, however, interrupts his brother-in-law in order to ask Dorine how... (full context)
Act 1, Scene 5
Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Reason vs. Emotion Theme Icon
Religion, Piety, and Morals Theme Icon
Appearances and Beauty Theme Icon
Cléante, appalled by what he’s just witnessed, attempts to reason with Orgon, and to warn him... (full context)
Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Reason vs. Emotion Theme Icon
Religion, Piety, and Morals Theme Icon
Appearances and Beauty Theme Icon
Accused of impiety by Orgon, Cléante explains the difference between hypocrisy and honesty, asserting that men often fail to listen to... (full context)
Family and Fathers Theme Icon
Cléante cautiously asks Orgon if he is indeed postponing his daughter Mariane’s marriage to her beloved,... (full context)
Act 4, Scene 1
Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Reason vs. Emotion Theme Icon
Religion, Piety, and Morals Theme Icon
Family and Fathers Theme Icon
Time jumps forward, and the next act opens with Cléante telling Tartuffe that the whole town is talking about Orgon’s fight with Damis. (full context)
Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Reason vs. Emotion Theme Icon
Religion, Piety, and Morals Theme Icon
Family and Fathers Theme Icon
Cléante asserts that, no matter who is in the wrong, it would be Christian of Tartuffe... (full context)
Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Religion, Piety, and Morals Theme Icon
Cléante turns the conversation towards Orgon’s decision to give Tartuffe his entire estate, telling the hypocrite... (full context)
Religion, Piety, and Morals Theme Icon
Family and Fathers Theme Icon
Not at all deceived by Tartuffe’s claim, Cléante reprimands him, saying that Damis should have been given the chance to use his wealth... (full context)
Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Reason vs. Emotion Theme Icon
Tartuffe makes an excuse, saying that he must go pray, and swiftly exits. A frustrated Cléante is left alone onstage. (full context)
Act 4, Scene 2
Family and Fathers Theme Icon
As soon as Tartuffe exits, Elmire, Mariane, and Dorine enter, and Dorine begs Cléante’s assistance, telling him that Mariane’s heart will break if she must marry Tartuffe. Hearing Orgon... (full context)
Act 4, Scene 3
Family and Fathers Theme Icon
Dorine and Cléante each try to intervene, but Orgon will not even let them speak. (full context)
Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Reason vs. Emotion Theme Icon
Appearances and Beauty Theme Icon
Elmire asks Dorine to bring in Tartuffe, while sending away Cléante and Mariane. Although Dorine warns her mistress that Tartuffe is devious, Elmire is not worried.... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 1
Reason vs. Emotion Theme Icon
Family and Fathers Theme Icon
Act 5 opens a short time later, with Cléante trying to calm down Orgon, who is extremely upset about the previously mentioned strong-box. He... (full context)
Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Reason vs. Emotion Theme Icon
Religion, Piety, and Morals Theme Icon
Appearances and Beauty Theme Icon
...He resolves to hate all holy men and “to persecute them worse than Satan could.” Cléante responds by begging Orgon for moderation, telling him that he should attempt to take a... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 2
Reason vs. Emotion Theme Icon
Family and Fathers Theme Icon
...returns to his father’s side, begging to be allowed to kill Tartuffe for Orgon’s sake. Cléante scolds him as well, telling his young nephew that he, like his father, must learn... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 3
Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Reason vs. Emotion Theme Icon
Family and Fathers Theme Icon
Cléante reminds Orgon that they are wasting time, and that they must figure out how to... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 4
Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Reason vs. Emotion Theme Icon
Family and Fathers Theme Icon
...morning to leave. Orgon, Damis, and even Dorine are furious, threatening Loyal with bodily harm. Cléante attempts to maintain order as Loyal exits. (full context)
Act 5, Scene 5
Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Appearances and Beauty Theme Icon
...treachery and, as Orgon was before, is “thunderstruck.” Dorine reacts sarcastically. Orgon scolds her, but Cléante and Elmire intervene and urge the patriarch to decide on a course of action. (full context)
Act 5, Scene 6
Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Religion, Piety, and Morals Theme Icon
...way to arrest Orgon…led, of course, by Tartuffe. He urges Orgon to flee, as does Cléante. (full context)
Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Religion, Piety, and Morals Theme Icon
...Tartuffe can pervert such a sacred symbol and use it for his own purposes, while Cléante attempts to argue with the hypocrite, but to no avail. (full context)
Religion, Piety, and Morals Theme Icon
Family and Fathers Theme Icon
The family is relieved; as the women praise God, Cléante stops Orgon from insulting Tartuffe, telling him that it is undignified to do so, and... (full context)