Tartuffe

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Elmire Character Analysis

Although she is beautiful, rich, and popular, Elmire, the wife of Orgon and stepmother of Damis and Mariane, and sometimes criticized for it, she is also intelligent, loyal, and virtuous. As the play progresses, Elmire is increasingly menaced by the advances of Tartuffe, who lusts after her youth and beauty. She, however, uses his actions against him, enduring his attempts at seduction in order to show her husband the falseness of his supposed friend.

Elmire Quotes in Tartuffe

The Tartuffe quotes below are all either spoken by Elmire or refer to Elmire. 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 4 Quotes

Orgon: Has all been well, these two days I’ve been gone?
How are the family? What’s been going on?

Dorine: Your wife, two days ago, had a bad fever
And a fierce headache which refused to leave her

Orgon: Ah. And Tartuffe?

Dorine: Tartuffe: Why, he’s round and red,
Bursting with health, and excellently fed.

Orgon: Poor fellow!

Related Characters: Orgon (speaker), Dorine (speaker), Tartuffe, Elmire
Page Number: 21
Explanation and Analysis:

Orgon, the patriarch, returns, and is greeted by his family. Despite having been away, Orgon does not care in the slightest about his family's welfare. Although Dorine tells him that his wife, Elmire, has been sick, Orgon only wants to hear about how Tartuffe has been. He has lost his emotional connection with his family, unable to put their needs over those of Tartuffe. 

In fact, blind has Orgon become in his devotion to Tartuffe, that even when Dorine tells him that Tartuffe is healthy, "round and red," he still responds with "Poor fellow!" In Orgon's mind, Tartuffe is a persecuted and pious holy man. No matter what Tartuffe does to prove that the contrary is true, Orgon refuses to see or to hear. He has lost his reason, and is completely under the influence of Tartuffe. 

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Act 1, Scene 5 Quotes

He guides our lives, and to protect my honor
Stays by my wife, and keeps an eye upon her;
He tells me whom he sees, and all she does,
And seems more jealous than I ever was!

Related Characters: Orgon (speaker), Tartuffe, Elmire
Page Number: 26
Explanation and Analysis:

Still attempting to prove that Tartuffe is a holy man and a loyal friend, Orgon begins to speak of how conscientious and attentive Tartuffe is towards Elmire. He describes Tartuffe's various efforts to ensure that Elmire is faithful, not understanding that, in fact, Tartuffe lusts after Elmire and is jealous of those whom she sees.

This speech displays just how deluded Orgon's thinking really is. He believes that Elmire – a paragon of virtue and fidelity – might actually be unfaithful to him. At the same time, he has no conception that Tartuffe, his supposedly faithful companion, has designs on his wife. Orgon is not simply blind, but backwards. He has completely reversed the facts of the world, seeing them as he believes them to be rather than as they actually are. 

Act 3, Scene 3 Quotes

Your loveliness I had no sooner seen
Than you became my soul’s unrivalled queen;
Before your seraph glance, divinely sweet,
My heart’s defenses crumbled in defeat,
And nothing fasting, prayer, or tears might do
Could stay my spirit from adoring you
My eyes, my sights have told you in the past
What now my lips make bold to say at last,
And if, in your great goodness, you will deign
To look upon your slave and ease his pain,—
If, in compassion for my soul’s distress,
You’ll stoop to comfort my unworthiness,
I’ll raise to you, in thanks for that sweet manna,
An endless hymn, an infinite hosanna.

Related Characters: Tartuffe (speaker), Elmire
Page Number: 91
Explanation and Analysis:

Alone with Elmire, his patron's wife, Tartuffe at last reveals his feelings: he claims to be in love with her. Of course, this is a massive betrayal. Tartuffe is supposedly Orgon's best friend and closest confidante. Beyond his personal connection with Orgon, Tartuffe is also betraying his faith by attempting to seduce another man's wife.

On this note, it is important to look at the language of Tartuffe's profession of love. He claims that he lusts for Elmire despite himself, and that he has tried to fast and pray in order to overcome his attraction. Yet despite this claim of holiness, Tartuffe also promises to worship Elmire as a god if she will become his. Not only does he want to seduce this woman, but he both uses his supposed piety as a part of his "pick-up line," while at the same time making clear that he is willing to cast aside God in favor of her – terrible blasphemy. With one speech, Tartuffe has proved just how hollow and self-serving his "faith" really is. 

Act 3, Scene 4 Quotes

To make a scandal would be too absurd.
Good wives laugh off such trifles, and forget them;
Why should they tell their husbands, and upset them?

Related Characters: Elmire (speaker), Tartuffe, Damis
Page Number: 94
Explanation and Analysis:

Tartuffe, having tried to seduce Elmire, is discovered by Damis, who resolves to tell Orgon what he has seen. Elmire, however, urges her stepson not to reveal Tartuffe's treachery to his father. She explains that although she is a good and honest wife, she has no wish to make a fuss or cause a scandal. Since her faithfulness is unshakeable, she sees no reason to "upset" her husband with news of Tartuffe's attempted seduction. 

Elmire's speech reveals her subtle and keen mind. Although a moral and faithful wife, Elmire knows the difference between true honesty, and prideful superiority. She chooses always to keep her married life smooth and simple, invested in faithfulness, but also committed to keeping her husband happy and secure. Her rationality contrasts with figures like Mariane and Damis, who are also honest and faithful characters, but who do not have her even temperament and logical disposition. 

Act 4, Scene 3 Quotes

I am amazed, and don’t know what to say;
Your blindness simply takes my breath away.
You are indeed bewitched, to take no warning
From our account of what occurred this morning.

Related Characters: Elmire (speaker), Tartuffe, Orgon
Page Number: 116
Explanation and Analysis:

As Orgon continues to dictate that Mariane must marry Tartuffe, Elmire tries to step in, but her husband rebuffs her. Shocked and appalled, the usually calm Elmire grows angry. She accuses her husband of "blindness," adding that he has been "bewitched" by Tartuffe's wiles.

Other characters have attempted earlier in the play to shake Orgon out of his infatuation with Tartuffe. Elmire, however, is the most eloquent, effective, and rational character in the entire piece. She accurately diagnoses Orgon's "blindness," instinctively understanding that her husband cannot see what is right in front of his face.

Despite this incisive and infuriated plea, however, Orgon is not swayed. The fact that even the rational, persuasive Elmire, who truly loves her husband, cannot save him from the seductive power of Tartuffe truly illustrates how powerful Tartuffe's spell over Orgon really is. 

Act 4, Scene 4 Quotes

I’m going to act quite strangely, now, and you
Must not be shocked at anything I do.
Whatever I may say, you must excuse
As part of that deceit I’m forced to use.

Related Characters: Elmire (speaker), Tartuffe, Orgon
Page Number: 121
Explanation and Analysis:

Elmire comes up with an idea: she will pretend to give in to Tartuffe's advances in order to show Orgon how false his friend really is. Unlike the hypocritical "holy" man, however, Elmire is very clear on the difference between truth and lies. Knowing that her husband finds it impossible to make this distinction between truth and appearance, Elmire makes sure to let him know that she is going to use "deceit," but only because she has been forced to.

It is a mark of the desperate nature of the situation that the honest and straightforward Elmire is willing to use deception in order to ensnare Tartuffe. Although a faithful and loving wife, Elmire knows her own power, and resolves to use her own feminine seductive tactic in order to expose Tartuffe's lies. 

Act 4, Scene 5 Quotes

If you’re still troubled, think of things this way:
No one shall know our joys, save us alone,
And there’s no evil till the act is known;
It’s scandal, Madam, which makes it an offense,
And it’s no sin to sin in confidence.

Related Characters: Tartuffe (speaker), Elmire
Page Number: 127
Explanation and Analysis:

Elmire has laid her trap, and has convinced Tartuffe that she returns his love. Here he tries to seal the deal by explaining to her his philosophy of dishonesty. To Tartuffe, a dishonest action is only "evil" or a "sin" if other people find out about it. As long as he and Elmire keep their infidelity to themselves, he does not believe that there is anything wrong with it.

This view runs completely counter to the basic tenets of Christianity, which holds that sin is sin no matter who finds out about it. Further, Tartuffe's speech illustrates the depth of his hypocrisy: he truly believes that there is nothing wrong with doing one thing and saying the opposite, so long as he doesn't get caught.

This view comes from a mistaken obsession with appearances. Tartuffe believes that appearances are all that matters, and while he will do whatever it takes to maintain his public, "holy" image, he has no qualms about acting immorally in private. 

Why worry about the man? Each day he grows
More gullible; one can lead him by the nose.
To find us here would fill him with delight,
And if he saw the worst, he’d doubt his sight.

Related Characters: Tartuffe (speaker), Orgon, Elmire
Page Number: 128
Explanation and Analysis:

Still pretending to be in love with Tartuffe, Elmire voices concern that her husband will discover their affair. Tartuffe, however, tries to explain that Orgon will not prove a problem. He has knowingly entranced his patron, rendering Orgon so "gullible" that he can manipulate the foolish man in any way he wants.

One line that Tartuffe speaks is particularly notable: "if he saw the worst, he'd doubt his sight." Although dishonest and evil, Tartuffe has a very clear grasp of what he has done to Orgon: he has made the other man so foolish that even if the truth were right in front of his face, he would not be able to understand or accept it. This line sums up the true power of hypocrisy: by saying one thing and doing another, hypocrites can completely destroy others people's understanding of what is true and what is false. 

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Elmire Character Timeline in Tartuffe

The timeline below shows where the character Elmire 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
...his family: his son 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
...She tells Damis and Mariane that they do not respect their father enough, and upbraids Elmire for entertaining too many callers and caring too much about her appearance. She even tells... (full context)
Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Reason vs. Emotion Theme Icon
Religion, Piety, and Morals Theme Icon
Appearances and Beauty Theme Icon
...various pious people they know, particularly citing a supposedly pious neighbor who often gossips about Elmire; Madame Pernelle believes such ostentatiously moral people to be truly virtuous, while Cléante and Dorine... (full context)
Act 1, Scene 3
Family and Fathers Theme Icon
Elmire, Mariane, and Damis reenter, glad to be rid of Madame Pernelle, and anticipating the arrival... (full context)
Act 1, Scene 4
Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Reason vs. Emotion Theme Icon
Family and Fathers Theme Icon
...household has fared in his absence. Although the servant girl attempts to tell him of Elmire’s recent illness, Orgon cares only for Tartuffe, repetitively (and comically) asking “And Tartuffe?” as Dorine... (full context)
Appearances and Beauty Theme Icon
Sarcastically, Dorine takes her leave, telling Orgon that she will let Elmire know how worried her husband was about her. (full context)
Act 3, Scene 1
Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Religion, Piety, and Morals Theme Icon
...calm him down, urging him not to give in to emotion. Dorine reminds him that Elmire has a great deal of influence over Tartuffe, and even speculates that Tartuffe may be... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 2
Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Religion, Piety, and Morals Theme Icon
Appearances and Beauty Theme Icon
Insulted, Tartuffe tells Dorine that he will leave, but when Dorine tells him that Elmire is on her way to talk with him, Tartuffe immediately replies that he will stay.... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 3
Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Reason vs. Emotion Theme Icon
Religion, Piety, and Morals Theme Icon
Family and Fathers Theme Icon
Appearances and Beauty Theme Icon
As Elmire enters, Tartuffe attempts to overwhelm her with flattery, telling her that he has been praying... (full context)
Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Religion, Piety, and Morals Theme Icon
Appearances and Beauty Theme Icon
Tartuffe takes this opportunity to tell Elmire that he wishes to bare his “inmost heart and soul” to her. He goes on... (full context)
Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Religion, Piety, and Morals Theme Icon
Appearances and Beauty Theme Icon
Despite being uncomfortable, Elmire stays focused on her goal: to keep Tartuffe from marrying Mariane. When she asks Tartuffe... (full context)
Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Reason vs. Emotion Theme Icon
Religion, Piety, and Morals Theme Icon
Appearances and Beauty Theme Icon
Elmire responds graciously to Tartuffe’s declaration of love, telling him that he should attempt to restrain... (full context)
Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Reason vs. Emotion Theme Icon
Family and Fathers Theme Icon
Still reasonable and polite, Elmire asks Tartuffe if he is worried that she will tell Orgon about his feelings for... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 4
Reason vs. Emotion Theme Icon
Family and Fathers Theme Icon
Enraged beyond endurance, Damis springs out of the closet and declares that if Elmire will not tell Orgon of Tartuffe’s treachery, then he will. Elmire explains to him that... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 5
Reason vs. Emotion Theme Icon
Family and Fathers Theme Icon
Appearances and Beauty Theme Icon
...the opportunity to tell his father that Tartuffe has made an offer of adultery to Elmire, calling him a liar and a traitor. Elmire, however, holds that Damis should not have... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 7
Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Reason vs. Emotion Theme Icon
Family and Fathers Theme Icon
...Orgon that his family will continue to plot against him, making sure to mention that Elmire in particular may say slanderous things about him. (full context)
Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Reason vs. Emotion Theme Icon
Religion, Piety, and Morals Theme Icon
Family and Fathers Theme Icon
...reverse psychology, Tartuffe tells Orgon that from now on he will stay far away from Elmire to avoid any impropriety. Orgon replies that he wishes to spite his family by making... (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... (full context)
Act 4, Scene 3
Reason vs. Emotion Theme Icon
Religion, Piety, and Morals Theme Icon
Appearances and Beauty Theme Icon
When Elmire reminds him of Tartuffe’s attempted seduction of her this morning, Orgon asserts that she is... (full context)
Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Appearances and Beauty Theme Icon
When Orgon tells Elmire that nothing anyone says will shake his faith in Tartuffe, his wife asks him if... (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... (full context)
Act 4, Scene 4
Religion, Piety, and Morals Theme Icon
Appearances and Beauty Theme Icon
Alone with her husband, Elmire tells Orgon to hide himself under a table. He remains completely unconvinced, but does as... (full context)
Act 4, Scene 5
Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Reason vs. Emotion Theme Icon
Religion, Piety, and Morals Theme Icon
Tartuffe asks Elmire what she wants with him and, hearing that she has a secret, closes the door... (full context)
Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Reason vs. Emotion Theme Icon
Appearances and Beauty Theme Icon
With Tartuffe perplexed by her speech, Elmire continues, explaining that women’s modesty often prevents them from speaking their hearts, and that she... (full context)
Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Appearances and Beauty Theme Icon
Although overjoyed, Tartuffe remains cautious, suspicious that Elmire is pretending to love him only to stop his match with Mariane. He tells her... (full context)
Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Religion, Piety, and Morals Theme Icon
Still attempting to delay, Elmire asks Tartuffe if he is afraid of Heaven’s wrath, and the sin of adultery, but... (full context)
Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Appearances and Beauty Theme Icon
Elmire tries to signal her husband by coughing repeatedly, until Tartuffe wants to know if she... (full context)
Act 4, Scene 6
Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Reason vs. Emotion Theme Icon
Appearances and Beauty Theme Icon
Appalled, Orgon comes out of hiding, but Elmire (despite signaling him moments before) tells him to go back under the table, telling him... (full context)
Act 4, Scene 7
Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Reason vs. Emotion Theme Icon
...Tartuffe comes back to announce that the house is empty, Orgon leaps out from behind Elmire and begins to berate Tartuffe for attempting to marry his daughter while coveting his wife.... (full context)
Act 4, Scene 8
Reason vs. Emotion Theme Icon
Family and Fathers Theme Icon
Elmire asks what Tartuffe meant, and Orgon explains to her that he has indeed signed over... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 3
Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Reason vs. Emotion Theme Icon
Family and Fathers Theme Icon
The women enter: Madame Pernelle, Mariane, Elmire, and Dorine. Orgon’s mother says that she has heard “strange tales of very strange events.”... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 5
Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Appearances and Beauty Theme Icon
...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)