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. Cléante in particular is surprised, because of Orgon’s honorable service to the King in the recent civil wars. Both characters are especially disturbed that Orgon seems to value Tartuffe more than he does his own family. These two characters, however, see through Tartuffe’s trickery, and know that he is simply using Orgon for his money. In contrast, Orgon does not notice Tartuffe’s gluttony and greed, ignoring Tartuffe’s bad behavior because he thinks him a holy man. Dorine relates how even Tartuffe’s servant, Laurent, lectures the members of the household on piety and sin, establishing the sense of an “Inquisition” in the house. The two come to the conclusion that Orgon must be mad.
Again, Dorine and Cléante prove themselves to be two of the most insightful and intelligent characters in the play. Their frank discussion of Tartuffe’s behavior and Orgon’s foolishness lays out the situation for the audience, clearly stating the serious nature of Tartuffe’s hypocritical trickery and of Orgon’s blindness to it. This conversation foreshadows events that take place later in the play, when the depth of Tartuffe’s greed and sinfulness becomes clear. The reference to the Inquisition is a reference to a religiously motivated persecution founded on ideals of religious purity, but which became bloodthirsty (which of course does not accord to Christian teachings).