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The Catholic Church Symbol Analysis

The Catholic Church Symbol Icon
The Catholic Church plays a hugely important role in the lives of Tartuffe’s characters. To them, it represents traditional aspects of religion, such as piety, charity, and faith. Further, because the Church was so powerful in seventeenth-century France, it takes on added significance, representing order and obedience. Tartuffe uses the power of this symbol in order to manipulate the characters around him, especially Orgon, who is completely taken in by his religious charade. Tartuffe is ostentatiously charitable, humble, and pious, taking on aspects associated with the Church in order to seem like a representative of the Church itself. The connection that Tartuffe creates between himself and the Church makes him extremely dangerous. As long as he is linked to this powerful symbol, the characters working against him cannot fully defeat him. Only when the King himself declares Tartuffe a hypocrite, at last severing Tartuffe’s ties to the Church, does he cease to be dangerous to Orgon and his family.

The Catholic Church Quotes in Tartuffe

The Tartuffe quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Catholic Church. 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

He used to come into our church each day
And humbly kneel nearby and start to pray.
He’d draw the eyes of everybody there
By the deep fervor of his heartfelt prayer;
He’d sign and weep and sometimes with a sound
Of rapture he would bend and kiss the ground.

Related Characters: Orgon (speaker), Tartuffe
Related Symbols: The Catholic Church
Page Number: 25
Explanation and Analysis:

Orgon describes meeting Tartuffe for the first time, and describes Tartuffe's various signs of prayer – weeping, rapturous noises, and kissing the ground – as evidence of his piety. In fact, Tartuffe's loud and attention-grabbing manner of worship shows just the opposite. He makes sure that all eyes are watching him, and only then does he begin to pray, proof of the fact that he feigns faith rather than feeling it. 

Real faith, the play makes clear, does not attempt to draw focus to itself. Instead, it manifests as obedience for your king, care for your family, and good will towards all. Orgon, though, fundamentally does not understand this truth. He mistakes appearance and reality, believing that since Tartuffe displays a great deal of faith, he must feel that faith as well. 


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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." 

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The Catholic Church Symbol Timeline in Tartuffe

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Catholic Church appears in Tartuffe. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1, Scene 1
Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Reason vs. Emotion Theme Icon
Religion, Piety, and Morals Theme Icon
Appearances and Beauty Theme Icon
...using excessive shows of faith to mask their true sins, and perverting the power of the Church . (full context)