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Themes and Colors
Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Reason vs. Emotion Theme Icon
Religion, Piety, and Morals Theme Icon
Family and Fathers Theme Icon
Appearances and Beauty Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Tartuffe, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Family and Fathers Theme Icon

In Tartuffe, Moliere demonstrates both how important family and fatherhood are, and how devastating it is when these structures are corrupted. As Orgon, the patriarch, falls further and further into Tartuffe’s trap, all those in his household begin to suffer the consequences, making clear his central role within his family. This truth contradicts Orgon’s own fear that his relatives consider him laughable and irrelevant. Although he makes a series of misguided choices—the first and gravest of which is trusting Tartuffe—Orgon’s importance to his family is indisputable. He can force his daughter Mariane to marry someone she does not love, disown his son Damis, abuse his servant Dorine, and force his wife Elmire to spend time with a man who seeks to molest her. Each of these characters seeks to talk Orgon out of these terrible decisions, yet in the end they must bow to his wishes. Only when he turns against Tartuffe at last can the family hope to find salvation.

The secondary characters Madame Pernelle and Cléante also demonstrate the importance of family within this society. Madame Pernelle represents family gone wrong; she is a shrill and bitter woman who seeks only to pester and criticize her relatives. Cléante, on the other hand, represents family at its best. He loves his family, and tries only to help them and steer them on the right path. It is also important to note that during this time period, the King was considered the father of his entire country. And, at the end of the play, the King acts as a kind of father in restoring order to Orgon’s family, righting the structure of the family unit and allowing Orgon to resume his role as the powerful and central patriarch.

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Family and Fathers Quotes in Tartuffe

Below you will find the important quotes in Tartuffe related to the theme of Family and Fathers.
Act 1, Scene 1 Quotes

But he’s quite lost his senses since he fell
Beneath Tartuffe’s infatuating spell
He calls him brother, and loves him as his life
Preferring him to mother, child, or wife.

Related Characters: Dorine (speaker), Tartuffe, Orgon
Page Number: 18
Explanation and Analysis:

Dorine, the family maid, joins the fanmily dispute about Tartuffe. Although lower class, Dorine is far more reasonable and rational than many in the family she serves. She often uses her tart tongue to unmask hypocrisy and foolishness, and does so here, criticizing Orgon for having "lost his senses" under Tartuffe's "spell."

Tartuffe's true evil, in Dorine's view, lies in the fact that he has disrupted the family order. As patriarch, Orgon should care about his family over all else, except for his king. Instead, though, he favors Tartuffe over "mother, child, or wife," putting the supposed holy man's needs above those of his family. 

In addition to Orgon's skewed priorities, Dorine also calls attention to Orgon's complete lack of reason now that he's under Tartuffe's spell. Having "lost his senses," he can no longer think rationally, instead blindly following Tartuffe's suggestions no matter what they are. 


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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. 

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 2, Scene 3 Quotes

Dorine: Faced with a fate so hideous and absurd,
Can you not utter one dissenting word?

Mariane: What good would it do? A father’s power is great.

Related Characters: Dorine (speaker), Mariane (speaker), Tartuffe, Orgon
Page Number: 52
Explanation and Analysis:

After having stood up to Orgon over Mariane's marriage to Tartuffe – and failed – Dorine scolds Mariane for not being able to tell her father what she really wants. Mariane, however, counters that she cannot go against her father.

This exchange highlights one of the biggest conflicts within the play: the struggle between the family and the father. On one hand, Orgon, the patriarch, is deeply foolish and horrifically misguided. He is trusting Tartuffe at the expense of all around him, and is potentially driving his family towards ruin.

On the other hand, during this time period, the father was considered nothing short of the king of his family. They were supposed to do whatever he said and to go against him, as Dorine suggests Mariane do, was a terrible crime. At the same time, though, the father was supposed to protect his family at all costs--something that Orgon has ceased to do. Since he has failed in his duty as the father, Dorine believes that it is not sinful to defy him, although the timid Mariane disagrees. Through the misguided Orgon, the play both mine's comedy and tragedy from this contradiction in society: that the father must be obeyed by his family, even if his behavior might destroy the family.

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 3, Scene 6 Quotes

Orgon: Can it be true, this dreadful thing I hear?

Tartuffe: Yes, Brother, I’m a wicked man, I fear;
A wretched sinner, all depraved and twisted,
The greatest villain that has ever existed.
My life’s one heap of crimes, which grows each minute;
There’s naught but foulness and corruption in it;
And I perceive that Heaven, outraged by me,
Has chosen this occasion to mortify me
Charge me with any deed you wish to name;
I’l not defend myself, but take the blame.
Believe what you are told, and drive Tartuffe
Like some base criminal from beneath your roof;
Yes, drive me hence, and with a parting curse:
I shan’t protest, for I deserve far worse.

Orgon (to Damis): Ah, you deceitful boy, how dare you try
To stain his purity with so foul a lie?

Related Characters: Tartuffe (speaker), Orgon (speaker), Damis
Page Number: 97
Explanation and Analysis:

Damis has exposed Tartuffe to Orgon, revealing that the "holy" man has attempted to seduce Elmire. Orgon, aghast, turns immediately to Tartuffe, to question him about this charge against him. The sly Tartuffe, meanwhile, responds by playing into the pious persona that he has created. Rather then defend himself, he castigates himself as a terrible sinner, saying he will accept the blame for any and every sin with which he is charged. In other words, he makes himself look even more wholly in Orgon's eyes by agreeing so completely about his own sinfulness – because, as Orgon sees it, only a holy man would be so honest about his sins. 

Of course, Orgon responds just as Tartuffe hopes, with furious anger and a refusal to believe his truthful but rash son. This interaction displays the true, dangerous power of Tartuffe's hypocrisy. Even when he tells the absolute truth – he is a "base criminal," and deserves to be ejected from the house – Orgon still cannot see past his lies and manipulations. Nothing will loosen Tatuffe's sway over his patron, making it nearly impossible for any of Orgon's family members to get through to their foolish patriarch. 

Villain, be still!
I know your motives; I know you wish him ill:
Yes, all of you—wife, children, servants, all—
Conspire against him and desire his fall
Employing every shameful trick you can
To alienate me from this saintly man
Ah, but the more you seek to drive him away
The more I’ll do to keep him. Without delay,
I’ll spite this household and confound its pride
By giving him my daughter as his bride.

Related Characters: Orgon (speaker), Tartuffe, Damis
Page Number: 100-101
Explanation and Analysis:

Infuriated that Damis has tried to tell the truth about Tartuffe, Orgon begins to berate his son. He believes that everyone is against him, and that only he can see Tartuffe's pious and holy soul. Growing increasingly irrational, he accuses his entire household of being deceitful sinners, and resolves to "spite" his family, resolves to give Tattuffe his daughter, Mariane, as a bride.

Most obviously, this passage displays Orgon's immense foolishness and his vicious temper. Completely under the influence of Tartuffe, he has forsaken those who love him in favor of a lying, grasping hypocrite. Yet despite this massive lapse in judgement, Orgon still has power over his family's lives. As patriarch, he controls their money, their house, and his daughter's marriage prospects. Although Orgon seems to display no actual care for his daughter – and though she most definitely does not want to marry Tartuffe – Orgon is free to order her to marry whomever he wishes. 

Act 4, Scene 3 Quotes

Sir, by that Heaven which sees me here distressed,
And by whatever else can move your breast,
Do not employ a father’s power, I pray you,
To crush my heart and force it to obey you,
Nor by your harsh commands oppress me so
That I’ll begrudge the duty which I owe—
And do not so embitter and enslave me
That I shall hate the very life you gave me.

Related Characters: Mariane (speaker), Orgon
Page Number: 114
Explanation and Analysis:

Commanded by Orgon to marry Tartuffe, Mariane begs her unyielding father to spare her from this terrible fate. She acknowledges that it is "a father's power" and right to give his daughter to whomever he chooses. Mariane's acceptance of this fact illustrates the immense power of the patriarchy during this time period, while also illustrating her obedience as a daughter. 

Despite her meek and humble nature, Mariane hates Tartuffe so much that she is moved to beg her father for mercy. Pious to a fault, Mariane even uses the name of "Heaven" to make her father understand what it would do to her to marry Tartuffe. Equally striking is her threat that, should she be married to Tartuffe, she would "hate" her very existence. Although a good daughter, Mariane is also a highly emotional character; as we see here, as her heart conflicts with what she perceives as her duty. 

Act 4, Scene 5 Quotes

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. 

Act 4, Scene 7 Quotes

Well, so you thought you’d fool me, my dear saint!
How soon you wearied of the saintly life—
Wedding my daughter, and coveting my wife!
I’ve long suspected you, and had a feeling
That soon I’d catch you at your double-dealing.
Hust now, you’ve given me evidence galore;
It’s quite enough; I have no wish for more.

Related Characters: Orgon (speaker), Tartuffe
Page Number: 130
Explanation and Analysis:

Enraged, Orgon confronts Tartuffe for his treachery. Yet it's noteworthy that even in this moment the foolish Orgon cares mostly about appearances (even though it was his belief in Tartuffe's appearance that made him follow the man). Here, Orgon claims that he has "suspected" Tartuffe for a long time, and that he knew from the beginning that his friend was false.

Audience members and readers undoubtedly are aware of Orgon's revision of events. His action illustrates that even though he has become clearsighted in regards to Tartuffe, Orgon still remains foolish and self-congratulating. He may have returned to the loving arms of his family, but Orgon cannot face the fact that he was moments away from betraying them. He is no longer in thrall to Tartuffe, but he is still motivated by appearances above all else.