Valère enters, stunned and angry at the news that Mariane may be betrothed to Tartuffe. Ever submissive and docile, Mariane cannot tell her true beloved that she wishes to marry him and not Tartuffe. Even further enraged, Valère spitefully tells Mariane that he advises her to marry Tartuffe. Equally hurt, Mariane agrees to do as he says. The quarrel escalates, with Valère accusing Mariane of never having loved him, and Mariane retorting that he should find another lady who will love him as he deserves. Dorine watches, equally amused and appalled.
Like Mariane, Valère is ruled by emotion—so much so that, although these two love each other, they often hurt each other without meaning to. Dorine’s rational and sardonic presence acts as a counterbalance to the two lovers’ foolish quarrel. Her mockery of the two highlights for the audience the true ridiculousness of their overly emotional behavior.
After Mariane tells him to seek consolation in the arms of another rather than pining after her, the livid Valère goes to leave. Instead of exiting, however, he continues to tell Mariane that she has driven him away (without actually leaving); Mariane, in turn, stubbornly agrees with him. As Valère reluctantly goes to leave, Dorine at last steps in, physically pulling the lovers towards each other and telling them that they are both “mad.”
The lovers’ quarrel escalates ridiculously, such that they are yelling about leaving each other while, because they are in love, neither is able to actually leave. This is yet another amusing example of the power of emotion to turn people into fools (Orgon and Damis similarly fall prey to passion during the play—perhaps it runs in the family).
After a scene during which Dorine comically runs back and forth between Valère and Mariane in order to keep them from leaving the stage, the maid forcefully tells the lovers how ridiculous they’ve been, urging them to reconcile. At last she makes them hold hands, at which point they smile at each other—and then begin to fight again. Dorine cuts them off completely, and reminds them that Orgon’s plan to marry Mariane to Tartuffe must be stopped. She advises Mariane to “postpone” the marriage by pretending to be sick or superstitious, and urges Valère to tell others of Orgon’s foolishness.
The two emotional lovers are not unable to reconcile without the aid of the thoroughly reasonable Dorine; nor can they think of a plot to ensure they get to stay together without her guidance. Their sudden fight and equally sudden reconciliation are clearly comical both to the maid and to the audience—but to the pair of lovers, this scene is incredibly fraught and serious (which of course makes it even more comical).
Heartened by Dorine’s words, Valère and Mariane pledge their undying love to each other. Dorine, exasperated by the pair of them, physically pushes them away from each.
Even when they are not fighting, the lovers are dramatic and unreasonable.