Tartuffe

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Madame Pernelle Character Analysis

Unlike many other characters in the play, Madame Pernelle, the grating, scolding mother of Orgon, holds Tartuffe in the highest esteem. At the beginning of the play, she berates her husband’s family for their supposed faults, all while singing the praises of Tartuffe. Like Orgon, she too is shocked when Tartuffe’s true hypocrisy is revealed.

Madame Pernelle Quotes in Tartuffe

The Tartuffe quotes below are all either spoken by Madame Pernelle or refer to Madame Pernelle. 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 1 Quotes

Damis: Your man Tartuffe is full of holy speeches…
Madame Pernelle: And practices precisely what he preaches.

Related Characters: Damis (speaker), Madame Pernelle (speaker), Tartuffe
Page Number: 10
Explanation and Analysis:

The family of Orgon comes together to debate the merits and defects of Tartuffe. Madame Pernelle, Orgon's mother, and a prideful, short-sighted woman, believes Tartuffe to be a holy man, true to his word and totally pious. She refuses to hear a word against him, no matter how much her family tries to tell her that Tartuffe is a greedy, grasping fraud. 

Damis, on the other hand, Orgon's hot-headed son, hates Tartuffe and makes no secret about his loathing. He claims that Tartuffe is "full of holy speeches" but does not actually follow the pious commands that he speaks. Madame Pernelle, on the other hand, believes that Tartuffe always does "precisely" what he says, completely blind to the many ways in which Tartuffe actually breaks the laws that he himself articulates. 

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Madame Pernelle Character Timeline in Tartuffe

The timeline below shows where the character Madame Pernelle 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
...away on a two-day business trip to the country. As the play opens his mother, Madame Pernelle , is finishing a visit with the rest of his family: his son and daughter,... (full context)
Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Religion, Piety, and Morals Theme Icon
Family and Fathers Theme Icon
Appearances and Beauty Theme Icon
Madame Pernelle scolds each member of the family for what she perceives as their sinful ways. She... (full context)
Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Reason vs. Emotion Theme Icon
Religion, Piety, and Morals Theme Icon
Appearances and Beauty Theme Icon
The discussion turns to Tartuffe, a holy man whom Orgon and Madame Pernelle revere. The other characters believe him to be deceitful and hypocritical. They attempt to tell... (full context)
Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Reason vs. Emotion Theme Icon
Religion, Piety, and Morals Theme Icon
Appearances and Beauty Theme Icon
...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 assert that... (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 Flipote. (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 well as Tartuffe’s increasing power over Orgon.... (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 of Orgon. They discuss Mariane’s impending wedding to the man... (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... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 5
Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Appearances and Beauty Theme Icon
Madame Pernelle now believes Tartuffe’s treachery and, as Orgon was before, is “thunderstruck.” Dorine reacts sarcastically. Orgon... (full context)