This image is delightful. The animals resemble speaking animals. One is seeking the attention of a shepherd in the same way a domestic cat or dog tries to attract the attention of its humans. It is not an anthropomorphic animal or a human in disguise. As for the angels, they look like human beings, but they have wings. They are zoomorphic. Zoomorphic beings combine the features of a human being with the features of an animal. In fact, they may combine the features of many animals. Zoomorphic creatures may be anthropomorphic, or humans in disguise, but I have yet to find a proper classification for Angels, except zoomorphism. They may be zootheistic, but they are not gods.
Judaism, Christianity, and Islam
Christmas is a commemoration of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, or Jesus Christ. Jesus never founded a religion, but the Christian religion was founded in his name at the first council of Nicaea, by the Roman EmperorConstantine I in AD 325/CE 325. The Christian Church is the second Abrahamic religion. The first is Judaism and the third, Islam. The three Abrahamic religions overlap. The story begins with the fall of Man. Adam and Eve ate the fruit from the Forbidden Tree (the Tree of Knowledge) in Paradise. They were led out of Paradise. Christ is the Redeemer in the Christian Church. He was transubstantiated, or made into flesh, and died on the Cross redeeming Mankind. Islam chose Arab leader Muhammad (c. 570 – 8 June 632 CE) as its prophet, but Islam reveres Jesus. Jesus was a Galilean Jew. (See Jesus, Wikipedia.)
The Winter Solstice
Christmas is also the feast celebrating the winter solstice, the day of the longest night. In this regard, Paganism entered Christianity very discreetly. In Ancient Rome, the longest night was celebrated by upending reality. During Saturnalia, the master was a slave. The world was upside down.
Ancient Greece had a god of festivity, named Comus or Komus. The Winter Solstice, the longest night, authorised drunken and disorderly festivities. In earlier times, an old King was killed and a young King, crowned. Comedy is associated with the Comus. The young couple overcomes the heavy father opposing their marriage, which is the basic plot of all comedies. In order to rehabilitate society, a pharmākos (scapegoat) was ousted. (See 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Comus). I wrote my PhD thesis on the pharmākos in Molière’s theatre. In Tartuffe, Tartuffe, a character, is a pharmākos, he is “neither innocent nor guilty” (See Northrop Frye‘s Anatomy of Criticism). His relationship with Orgon, the father, is nearly symbiotic, but as the curtain falls on a comedy, it should include a family in its entirety.
Attached to Christmas is a wealth of information. The above is brief. More information can be found on a page entitled Feasts and Liturgy. My illness has turned into episodes of intense pain. My heart feels as though it will fail me (psasms and convulsions). Doctors suspect a musculoskeletal illness that could be related to Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. I will undergo a test on 6 January.
 I am in Magog, where my friend John is looking after me. My copy of Anatomy of Criticism is in Sherbrooke. I cannot indicate the page containing this quotation. If I recover from my current illness and obtain some financial support, I will update and publish my thesis. I may write a summary in English.
MONSIEUR DE POURCEAUGNAC.
JULIE, fille d’Oronte.
NÉRINE, femme d’intrigue (schemer).
LUCETTE, feinte (false) Gasconne.
ÉRASTE, amant de (in love with) Julie.
SBRIGANI, Napolitain, homme d’intrigue (schemer).
PLUSIEURS MUSICIENS, JOUEURS D’INSTRUMENTS, ET DANSEURS.
La scène est à Paris
Monsieur de Pourceaugnac
aesthetically in the wrong
a comedy in reverse
an on-stage dramatist
pour rire / for the fun of it
I have already noted that Monsieur de Pourceaugnac seems a scapegoat, or pharmakós. which is not inconsistent with the role pharmakoi play in tragedies and comedies. Northrop Frye writes that the scapegoats, the pharmakós is “neither innocent nor guilty.”
Aesthetically in the wrong
There is no reason why Monsieur de Pourceaugnac should be victimised in Paris, “this country,” or elsewhere. Arranged marriages were common in 17th-century France. Besides, had Julie found Monsieur de Pourceaugnac repulsive, he may not have married her. Monsieur de Pourceaugnac’s only problem is his name and/or looks, which has to do with aesthetics. Let us read Nérine:
S’il a envie de se marier, que ne prend-il une Limosine, et ne laisse-t-il en repos les chrétiens ? Le seul nom de Monsieur de Pourceaugnac m’a mis dans une colère effroyable. J’enrage de Monsieur de Pourceaugnac. Quand il n’y aurait que ce nom-là, Monsieur de Pourceaugnac, j’y brûlerai mes livres, ou je romprai ce mariage, et vous ne serez point Madame de Pourceaugnac. Pourceaugnac ! Cela se peut-il souffrir ? Non, Pourceaugnac est une chose que je ne saurais supporter, et nous lui jouerons tant de pièces, nous lui ferons tant de niches sur niches, que nous renverrons à Limoges Monsieur de Pourceaugnac. Nérine à Julie et Éraste (I. scène première)
[If he wishes to get married why does he not take a lady born at Limoges for a wife, instead of troubling decent Christians? The name alone of Monsieur de Pourceaugnac has put me in a frightful passion. I am in a rage about Monsieur de Pourceaugnac If it were nothing but his name, this Monsieur de Pourceaugnac, I would do everything to succeed in breaking off this marriage, rather than that you should be Madam de Pourceaugnac. Pourceaugnac! is it bearable? No, Pourceaugnac is something which I cannot tolerate; and we shall play him so many tricks, we shall practice so many jokes upon jokes upon him, that we shall soon send Monsieur de Pourceaugnac back to Limoges again.] Nérine to Julie and Éraste (II. 3, p. 94)
In his analysis of Le Misanthrope and Dom Juan, Professor Jules Brody concluded that Alceste and Dom Juan were “aesthetically in the wrong, but morally in the right” or vice versa. I am paraphrasing Professor Brody. Arranged marriages were relatively common in 17th-century France, so Monsieur de Pourceaugnac cannot be faulted for “buying” a bride who will be provided with a generous dowry.
We should also note that, in Scene Two, Julie is not ready to oppose her father’s choice of a groom beyond entering a convent.
Je le menacerais de me jeter dans un convent Julie à Éraste (I. ii)
[I would threaten him to bury myself in a convent.] Julie to Éraste (I. 4, p. 95)
Éraste requests greater proof of her love, but Julie tells him she must await the course of events before allowing further opposition.
Mon Dieu, Éraste, contentez-vous de ce que je fais maintenant, et n’allez point tenter sur l’avenir les résolutions de mon cœur; ne fatiguez point mon devoir par les propositions d’une fâcheuse extrémité dont peut-être n’aurons-nous pas besoin; et s’il y faut venir, souffrez au moins que j’y sois entraînée par la suite des choses. Julie à Éraste (I. ii)
[Good Heavens! Eraste, content yourself with what I am doing now; and do not tempt the resolutions of my heart upon what may happen in the future; do not make my duty more painful with proposals of annoying rashness, of which, perhaps, we may not be in need; and if we are to come to it, let me, at least be driven to it by the turn of affairs.] Julie to Éraste (I. 4, p. 96)
Julie is quite right. She has agreed to batteries and machines that will allow people, schemers, to promote her marriage to act, but no one was to go to far. However, it turns out measures taken to let her be Éraste’s wife are too drastic. When Sbrigani is done, Monsieur de Pourceaugnac will stand accused of bigamy and, unless a schemer saves him, Sbrigani, he may be hanged. In Oronte eyes, having abandoned Lucette, Monsieur de Pourceaugnac is a méchant homme. Upon learning that Pourceaugnac abandoned Lucette, Oronte, Julie’s father, cannot prevent himself from crying. What irony!
Je ne saurais m’empêcher de pleurer. Allez, vous êtes un méchant homme. Oronte (II. vii)
[I cannot help crying. (To Monsieur de Pourceaugnac). Go, you are a wicked man.] Oronte (II. 8, p. 123)
When Pourceaugnac is being led away Oronte suggests that Pourceaugnac be hanged:
Allez, vous ferez bien de le faire punir, et il mérite d’être pendu. Oronte (II. viii)
[Come, you will do well to have him punished; and he deserves to be hanged.] Oronte (II. 10, p. 125)
A comedy in reverse
Not only is Monsieur de Pourceaugnac humiliated because of his name, but Molière also rearranged the usual cast of comedies so that Monsieur de Pourceaugnac is treated like a tyrannical pater familias, Oronte’s role. As for the eirôn, the threatened lovers and their usual supporters: laquais, valet, suivante, confidante, an uncle or avuncular figure, such as Le Maladeimaginaire’s Béralde, Argan’s brother, they are pitiless tricksters: Sbrigani and his crew who unleash uninterrupted attacks on an innocent man. The person who will marry his daughter to a man she may be attracted to or find repulsive, is Oronte. Oronte, therefore, is the blocking-character or alazṓn. However, the man who is left in the hands of doctors threatening enemas and other procedures, the man whose creditors will be repaid by Oronte, the bigamist or polygamist who should be hanged, is Monsieur de Pourceaugnac, Oronte’s prospective son-in-law. The first doctor claims Pourceaugnac as un meuble, his property. Moreover, we are in Paris, where the accused is hanged before the trial. The play is such a charivari, hullabaloo, that Julie, Éraste’s innamorata, finds Monsieur de Pourceaugnac attractive and follows him as he is led out of “this country,” which is seen as an enlèvement, by Oronte.
Ah ! Monsieur, ce perfide de Limosin, ce traître de Monsieur de Pourceaugnac vous enlève votre fille. Sbrigani à Oronte (III. vi)
[Ah, Sir! this perfidious Limousin, this wretch of a Monsieur de Pourceaugnac abducts your daughter!] Sbrigani à Oronte (III. 8, p. 133)
She who would not be forced into a marriage, must marry Éraste, whom, she suspects, created all these pièces, comedies:
Ce sont sans doute des pièces qu’on lui fait, et c’est peut-être lui [Éraste] qui a trouvé cet artifice pour vous en dégoûter. Julie à Oronte (III. vii)
[They are, no doubt, tricks which have been played upon him, and (Pointing to Eraste) it is perhaps he who invented this artifice to disgust you with him.] Julie to Oronte and Éraste (III. ix, p. 135)
An on-stage dramatist
Yes and no. Éraste did not oppose Sbrigani’s unacceptable tricks. Monsieur de Pourceaugnac is not a théâtre dans le théâtre, but one could suggest that the dramatist is on stage and the play abundantly self-referential:
Je conduis de l’œil toutes choses, et tout ceci ne va pas mal. Nous fatiguerons tant notre provincial, qu’il faudra, ma foi, qu’il déguerpisse. Sbrigani (II. vii)
[I am managing these things very nicely, and everything goes well as yet. We shall tire our provincial to such an extent that upon my word, he will be obliged to decamp.] Sbrigani (II. 11, p. 125)
Julie knowsabout Éraste’s involvement in and provides a redressing of the comedy. She is the dutiful daughter who takes the husband her father chose for her:
They are no doubt tricks which have been played upon him, and (Pointing to Eraste) it is perhaps he who invented this artifice to disgust you with him. Julie to Oronte (III. 9, p. 135)
Pour rire / for the fun of it
Although Monsieur de Pourceaugnac is cruel and machiavellian, it is for the main part an “all’s well that ends well.” But there are gradations within comedy. Monsieur de Pourceaugnac is a pour rire: for laughs, concocted one of the best among zanni: Sbrigani. In Monsieur de Pourceaugnac, wit prevails, and wit is ruthless. It is carnivalesque. My thesis director, Dr Harold C. Knutson, wrote a book entitled: The Triumph of Wit: Molière and Restoration Comedy. I could not end on a better note.
_____________________  Northrop Frye, Anatomy of Criticism (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1973 ), p. 41. Brody, Jules. “Dom Juan and Le Misanthrope, or the Esthetics of Individualism inMolière, ” PMLA, 84, 1969.  Knutson, Harold C. The Triumph of Wit: Molière and Restoration Comedy, Ohio State University Pres, 1988)
Love to everyone 💕
Sincere apologies for rebuilding my post. In theory, this computer was repaired, but it wasn’t. A friend and technician will take me to a store. We will buy the computer and he will set it up.
Monsieur de Pourceaugnac is a three-act comédie-ballet Molière wrote for the royal family’s hunting season. He was asked to write it on 17 September 1669 and spent five weeks at Chambord where living conditions were difficult for Molière. He was sick and he was cold. Jean-Baptiste Lully, composed the music for this comédie-ballet and played a role, that of an Italian musician disguised as a doctor. The comedy was choreographed by Pierre Beauchamp and Carlo Vigarani built the sets.
Monsieur de Pourceaugnac was first performed for Louis XIV and the court, at the Château de Chambord, on 6 October 1669.
According to Georges Forestier, Scene Eight of Act Three is enchassée or embedded. However, Sbrigani, “un homme d’intrigue,” a schemer, seems a director within the play. He orchestrates the various “machines”designed to make Monsieur de Pourceaugnac unfit to marry Julie, Oronte’s daughter.
Polichinelle, ca. 1680 by French artist Nicolas Bonnart. The first of a set of five etchings entitled Five Characters from the Commedia dell’Arte. Etching with hand coloring on laid paper (Photo credit: wiki2.org)
The source of this comedy may be the anonymous, Pulcinella pazzo per forza of the commedia dell’arte. Its ancestry would also include Polichinella Burlato. Polichinelle is blamed and could be the commedia dell’arte‘s pharmakós. The play also has French antecedents. Mocking doctors was a favourite theme of the French farce and other comic plays. Molière himself had already ridiculed doctors.
Monsieur de Pourceaugnac’s scenario is an all’s that ends well, a “tout est bien qui finit bien,” but Monsieur de Pourceaugnac’s very name, ‘pourc’ from ‘porc’ (pig), suggests a sorry fate for our Limosin (from Limoges).
Quand il n’y aurait que ce nom-là, Monsieur de Pourceaugnac, j’y brûlerai mes livres, ou je romprai ce mariage, et vous ne serez point Madame de Pourceaugnac. Pourceaugnac! Cela se peut-il souffrir? Non, Pourceaugnac est une chose que je ne saurais supporter, et nous lui jouerons tant de pièces, nous lui ferons tant de niches sur niches, que nous renverrons à Limoges Monsieur de Pourceaugnac. Nérine à tous (I. i) [If it were nothing but his name, this Monsieur de Pourceaugnac, I would do everything to succeed in breaking off this marriage, rather than that you should be Madam de Pourceaugnac. Pourceaugnac! is it bearable? No, Pourceaugnac is something which I cannot tolerate; and we shall play him so many tricks, we shall practice so many jokes upon jokes upon him, that we shall soon send Monsieur de Pourceaugnac back to Limoges again. Nérine to all (I. 3, p. 94)
It should be noted that Monsieur de Pourceaugnac’s doctors and apothecaries are very aggressive. They try to force several interventions on Monsieur de Pourceaugnac, who travelled by coach, a carriage, from Limoges, to marry Oronte’s daughter Julie. Éraste takes him to a place where he will dine and sleep. It’s a fourberie. He finds himself the captive of doctors.
The play contains so many rather cruel tricks: fourberies, that at times, one is tempted to pity Monsieur de Pourceaugnac. He has come to Paris to marry Julie, but the blocking-character (le barbon) is Oronte, Julie’s father. Oronte has chosen to marry his daughter to a man she doesn’t even know. But the person who is fooled is a neither innocent nor guilty, mostly innocent Pourceaugnac.
Therefore, Monsieur de Pourceaugnac seems a scapegoat, a pharmakós, and, to a large extent, Monsieur de Pourceaugnac is a trickster play. Such comedies can be associated with cartoons. Body parts grow back after being removed painlessly. Victims do not hurt. However, Monsieur de Pourceaugnac is genuinely threatened and hurts. He has to flee.
First, he will have an illness and creditors. At the end of Act One, femmes d’intrigues (schemers), false wives will emerge. That is bigamy and punishable. Lucette and Nérine will both claim Pourceaugnac married them, which makes him one of Molière’s cas pendables, a case where one could be hanged.
But Molière uses two women who claim Monsieur de Pourceaugnac married them, feign provincial roots, and speak dialectal French, which is a comedic element. Molière toured the provincial, but Pézenas was his base. He was exposed to dialects.
The doctors, however, speak la langue macaronique, latinised Italian.
MONSIEUR DE POURCEAUGNAC. ORONTE. JULIE, (daughter of) fille d‘Oronte. NÉRINE, (a schemer) femme d’intrigue, (false) feinte Picarde. LUCETTE, (false) feinte Gasconne. ÉRASTE, (in love with) amant de Julie. SBRIGANI, Napolitain, (a schemer) homme d’intrigue. PREMIER MÉDECIN (doctor). SECOND MÉDECIN. L’APOTHICAIRE. UN PAYSAN (peasant). UNE PAYSANNE. PREMIER MUSICIEN (musician). SECOND MUSICIEN. PREMIER AVOCAT (lawyer). SECOND AVOCAT. PREMIER SUISSE (Swiss). SECOND SUISSE. UN EXEMPT. DEUX ARCHERS. PLUSIEURS MUSICIENS, JOUEURS D’INSTRUMENTS, ET DANSEURS.
In Act One, Scene One, Julie and Éraste, our young lovers, are together. Nérine, a schemer, is to keep an eye out to make sure Oronte, Julie’s father, does not see them. Moreover, our young loves are well prepared.
Oui, belle Julie, nous avons dressé pour cela quantité de machines, et nous ne feignons point de mettre tout en usage, sur la permission que vous m’avez donnée. Ne nous demandez point tous les ressorts que nous ferons jouer, vous en aurez le divertissement; et comme aux comédies, il est bon de vous laisser le plaisir de la surprise, et de ne vous avertir point de tout ce qu’on vous fera voir; c’est assez de vous dire que nous avons en main divers stratagèmes tous prêts à produire dans l’occasion, et que l’ingénieuse Nérine et l’adroit Sbrigani entreprennent l’affaire. Éraste à Julie (I. i) [Yes, charming Julia, we have in readiness a quantity of engines for this purpose; and now that you have given me permission, we shall not scruple to use them all. Do not ask us all the contrivances which we shall bring into play; you will be amused by them; and it is better to leave you the pleasure of surprise, as they do in comedies, and to warn you of nothing which we mean to show you. Let it be sufficient to tell you that we have various stratagems in hand to be produced at the fit moment, and that the ingenious Nerine and the skilful Sbrigani have undertaken the affair.] Eraste to Julia (I. 3, p. 93)
Nérine is so ingénieuse that Molière invites a comparison with the commedia dell’arte’s zanni. Sbrigani is the main schemer. He is from Naples.
In Scene Two, Julia is asked to make believe she agrees with her father’s decisions. She does to the point of leaving with Monsieur de Pourceaugnac. But Oronte forces her to marry Éraste, whom she loves. Oronte uses the word sotte (silly) when speaking of his daughter.
Au moins, Madame, souvenez-vous de votre rôle; et pour mieux couvrir notre jeu, feignez, comme on vous a dit, d’être la plus contente du monde des résolutions de votre père. Éraste à Julie (I. ii) [At least, Madam, remember your part ; and, the better to hide our game, pretend, as you have been told, to be thoroughly satisfied with your father’s plans.] Eraste to Julia (I. 4, p. 95)
Monsieur de Pourceaugnac is spotted in Act One, Scene Two. In Scene Three, he is greeted very politely by Sbrigani. The “Ah, ah !” are contrived, but comical. Sbrigani claims he is speaking from the bottom of [his] heart:
C’est du fond du cœur que je parle. Sbrigani à Monsieur de Pourceaugnac (I. iii) (I. 5)
Sbrigani then asks Monsieur de Pourceaugnac if he has lodgings for the night at which point Scene Four Éraste then enters the stage claiming he knows all the Pourceaugnacs in Limoges. However, he is getting his information from Monsieur de Pourceaugnac himself. This scene is also very comical.
In Scene Five, Éraste takes Monsieur de Pourceaugnac to the home where he will dine and spend the night. However, the home is a doctor’s home. They are greeted by an apothecary who is told by Éraste that Pourceaugnac is a relative who “has been attacked by a fit of madness:”
… c’est pour lui mettre entre les mains certain parent que nous avons, dont on lui a parlé, et qui se trouve attaqué de quelque folie, (…) Éraste à l’apothicaire (I. v) [It is to place under his care a certain relation of ours, of whom we spoke, and who has been attacked by a fit of madness, which we should be very glad to have cured before he is married.] Eraste to the Apothecary (I. 7)
The apothecary praises the doctor in the following and astounding terms:
Voilà déjà trois de mes enfants dont il m’a fait l’honneur de conduire la maladie, qui sont morts en moins de quatre jours, et qui entre les mains d’un autre, auraient langui plus de trois mois. L’Apothicaire à Éraste (I. v) [Already there are three of my children whose complaints he has done me the honor to treat, who have died in less than four days, and who in some one else’s hands would have languished for three months or more.]
Enters the first doctor who says that a sick peasant whose headaches are very painful should suffer “from the spleen:”
Le malade est un sot, d’autant plus que dans la maladie dont il est attaqué, ce n’est pas la tête, selon Galien, mais la rate, qui lui doit faire mal. Premier médecin au paysan (I. vi) The patient is a fool: seeing that, in the complaint with which he is attacked he ought not, according to Galen, to suffer from the head at all, but from the spleen. First doctor to peasant (I. 8)
Éraste says that the patient, Pourceaugnac, should not be out of the doctors hands.
Je vous recommande surtout de ne le point laisser sortir de vos mains, car parfois il veut s’échapper. Éraste au premier médecin (I. vii) I recommend you above all not to let him slip out of your hands ; for he sometimes attempts to escape. Eraste to the 1st doctor (I. 10, p. 106)
In Scene Eight, a second doctor joins the first doctor. The two doctors take his pulse and ask questions about the food he eats, whether he sleeps well, whether he dreams, and also ask about his dejections. The doctors decide to “raisonner,” or discuss matters, together, and do so at length, interjecting Latin phrases and citing authorities. Treatment is determined. It is extensive, but they will start with un petit lavement, an enema.
Having listened to them for an hour, Monsieur de Pourceaugnac wonders if a comedy is being played:
Messieurs, il y a une heure que je vous écoute. Est-ce que nous jouons ici une comédie? Monsieur de Pourceaugnac (I. viii) [Gentlemen, I have been listening to you for this hour. Are we playing a comedy here?] (I. 11)
Just before an interlude begins, Monsieur de Pourceaugnac insists that he feels well: Je me porte bien.
Nous savons mieux que vous comment vous vous portez, et nous sommes médecins, qui voyons clair dans votre constitution. Premier médecin (I. viii) We know better than you how you are; and we are physicians who see clearly into your constitution. First doctor (I. 11)
Si vous êtes médecins, je n’ai que faire de vous; et je me moque de la médecine. Pourceaugnac (I. viii) [If you are physicians, I have no business with you; and I do not care a straw for physic.] Pourceaugnac (I. 11)
Monsieur de Pourceaugnac declares that his parents never took medicine and that both died “sans l’assistance des médecins.”
[My father and mother would never take medicine, and they both died without doctor’s assistance.] Pourceaugnac (I. 11, p. 110)
Je ne m’étonne pas s’ils ont engendré un fils qui est insensé. Premier médecin au second (I. viii) [They therefore produced a son who is bereft of his senses.]
The doctors are about to go ahead with an enema:
Que diable est-ce là? Les gens de ce pays-ci sont-ils insensés? Je n’ai jamais rien vu de tel, et je n’y comprends rien du tout. Pourceaugnac (I. ix) [What the devil is this? Have the people of these parts taken leave of their wits? I have never seen anything like it, and I understand nothing about it.] Pourceaugnac (I. 12)
Our next play is Molière‘s Amphitryon. In Amphitryon, we have people who look alike, which leads to cuckoldry. One character is named Sosie. In French, un sosie is a “dead ringer,” a look-alike. Amphitryon is cuckolded.
However, before going further, I should point out, once again, that, in Molière, people seldom change. One could not talk Argan (The Imaginary Invalid) into thinking he is perfectly healthy. In The Miser, Harpagon remains a miser. The young couples marry because Molière brings in a second father, a doubling, who recognizes his children, (an anagnorisis, or recognition scene). He pays for the weddings. In l’École des femmes (The School for Wives), Arnolphe is so afraid his wife will be unfaithful that he adopts Agnès and has her brought up so she will know as little as possible. However, Agnès’ father, Enrique, returns suddenly and unexpectedly, an anagnorisis. He and Oronte, Horace’s father, were planning for Agnès and Horace to marry.
Molière may also use a deus ex machina, which he does in Dom Juan. But Dom Juan is also “hoisted by his own petard,” a happy ending borrowed from the farce’s plot formula. Dom Juan will not be convinced that the freedom he gives himself will cause eternal damnation, which it does. He is a deceiver deceived, le trompeur trompé.
As for Psyché, Jupiter, the king of the gods, is a deus ex machina. Cupid cannot transform Psyché into a goddess because he is a lesser god. Venus could revive Psyché but she would not allow her son to marry a mortal. That would be a mésalliance. Therefore, Jupiter transforms a mortal being into an immortal, or a goddess. In Tartuffe, Orgon’s family would be ruined if a prince did not intervene. The prince, “un princeennemi de la fraude,” knows that Tartuffe is a criminal and, although Orgon has given Tartuffe an incriminating cassette, a forgiving prince does not use it to Orgon’s detriment. Yet, to a large extent, Orgon is Tartuffe and Tartuffe is Orgon. Consequently, Tartuffe is a pharmakós.
Given his theatrical, or formulaic, happy endings, Molière’s Weltanschauung (world view) resembles Jean de La Fontaine’s. A cat may be metamorphosed into a woman, but if the metamorphosed woman hears a mouse, she will jump out of bed and pursue the mouse. Therefore, in the 17th-century debate between nature & nurture, nature wins. (See The Cat and Venus.)
However, in 17th-century France, one could buy an office and become a bourgeois. Molière’s father was quite wealthy. So, in 1631, he bought an office for his son Jean-Baptiste. Poquelin would be “valet de chambre ordinaire et tapissier du Roi” (“valet of the King’s chamber and keeper of carpets and upholstery”). (See Molière, en-wikipedia.org). In 1641, Molière was, briefly, a valet de chambre ordinaire et tapissier du Roi, but he loved the theater, which led to his founding l’Illustre-Théâtre, on 30 June 1643. In August 1645, Jean-Baptiste Poquelin was imprisoned for bankruptcy. His father paid most of his debts, La Troupe de Molière then left for the provinces and did not return to Paris until the late 1650s. As I mentioned in an earlier post, no one knows why Molière chose to call himself Molière. He never told. In 17th-century France, one could also become an honnête homme (a gentleman).
In short, Molière was a bourgeois and an honnête homme, but in his plays, usually comedic, nature is almost as implacable as tragedy’s destiny or fate. Dénouements, the deus ex machina especially, are “theatrical,” or formulaic. For instance, Molière may use a farcical plot formula in comedies moliéristes have called grandes comédies, thereby blurring the difference between his farces and grandes comédies. We are centuries away from existentialism.
My related article is particularly useful and more complete. I am updating my La Fontaine page, because the site officiel has been modified, for the better.
_________________________  My PhD thesis was a study of the pharmakós in Molière. It is entitled: L’Impossible Entreprise : une étude sur le pharmakós dans le théâtre de Molière.  Molière also paid debts, when he returned to Paris.  I believe Château-Thierry has become La Fontaine’s site officiel.
MADAME PERNELLE, mother of Orgon ORGON, husband of Elmire ELMIRE, wife of Orgon DAMIS, son of Orgon MARIANE, daughter of Orgon, in love with Valère CLÉANTE, brother-in-law (beau-frère) of Orgon TARTUFFE, a hypocrite DORINE, Mariane’s maid M. LOYAL, a bailiff (l’huissier) A Police Officer (l’Exempt) FLIPOTTE, Madame Pernelle’s servant
Le Tartuffe is a five-act comedy in verse. It was first performed in 1664 and banned. It was rewritten and performed in 1667, but remained banned until 1669.
In the Misanthrope, Molière combines in one character, Alceste, the blondin and the barbon, or the young man who wishes to marry and the person(s) who oppose(s) the blondin‘s marriage. In other words, in Le Tartuffe, the eirôn and the alazṓn, or the blondin andthe barbon,are separate characters, but Molière seems to have doubled his alazṓn, or barbon. Both Orgon and Tartuffe are blocking characters, or the alazṓn. They are so close to one another that one could suggest a symbiosis.
ORGON to CLÉANTE, Tartuffe (I, 5)
Dear brother, you’d be charmed to know him;
Your raptures over him would have no end.
He is a man … who … ah! … in fact … a man
Whoever does his will, knows perfect peace,
And counts the whole world else, as so much dung.
His converse has transformed me quite; he weans
My heart from every friendship, teaches me
To have no love for anything on earth;
And I could see my brother, children, mother,
And wife, all die, and never care—a snap.
Your feelings are humane, I must say, brother!
This is how the plot unfolds. Orgon has taken into his home a man feigning devotion, Tartuffe. Tartuffe is also a casuiste, a person who can take sin out of sinning. Because Tartuffe is a deft casuiste, he allows Orgon to act as a tyrannical father, and to do so with impunity. Orgon is so delighted he cannot see that he is being fooled. Yet, without Tartuffe, Orgon could not be a tyrannical father. For instance, when Orgon’s daughter Mariane begs her father to be spared a marriage to Tartuffe, Orgon has to brace himself, because he is at heart a compassionate individual:
MARIANE to ORGON, Tartuffe (IV, 3)
(…) I beg you Upon my knees, oh, save me from the torment Of being possessed by one whom I abhor!
ORGON to himself, Tartuffe (IV, 3)
Allons, ferme, mon cœur point de faiblesse humaine !
[Come, come, my heart, be firm! no human weakness!]
Mariane then asks to be allowed to enter a convent
MARIANE, Tartuffe (IV, 3) Oh, rather let a convent’s rigid rule Wear out the wretched days that Heaven allots me.
But Orgon has a good directeur de conscience under whose guidance, he is learning to turn inhumanity into a virtue, which it is not. Knowing the role Tartuffe teaches, Orgon preaches mortification:
ORGON to MARIANE, Tartuffe (IV, 3) So, mortify your senses by this marriage, And don’t vex me about it anymore.
Orgon is therefore beguiled. With the exception of his mother, Madame Pernelle, Orgon is the only member of the society of the play not to see that Tartuffe is a faux dévot who does not mortify his senses. However, Orgon so needs Tartuffe, who fits him like a glove, that he cannot see what everyone sees, which is both a recipe for disaster (Orgon is blind) and a source of comic relief (everyone knows and laughs).
‘Gros et gras, le teint et la bouche vermeille’
[stout, fat, fair, rosy-lipped]
Gaston Hall writes that “‘Gros et gras, le teint et la bouche vermeille’ [stout, fat, fair, rosy-lipped], Tartuffe is quite unfitted to play the part of the saintly ascetic. No rascal with the slightest talent for hypocrisy would have dared sit down to dine upon ‘… deux perdrix Avec une moitié de gigot en hachis’ [two partridges, As well as half a leg o’ mutton, deviled]” (Gaston Hall, p. 14).
For instance, in Act 1, Scene 4, Orgon has just returned from a trip to the country and wants to know what has happened during his absence. However, he is so “tartuffié” that he cannot hear that his wife Elmire has been sick. He asks “Et Tartuffe” [And what about Tartuffe?] four times, and says “Le pauvre homme” [The poor man] four times, whatever he hears.
This scene also contains a second source of comic relief: the word “tartuffié” instead of possessed. Given the devastation visited upon Orgon’s family, the word “tartuffié” is incongruous but it minimizes the degree to which Tartuffe has seduced Orgon. In fact, Orgon is besotted and has begun to twist reality as did 17th-century casuists. Casuistry constitutes a form of moral jurisprudence, a practice that led Blaise Pascal (19 June 1623 – 19 August 1662) to write his famous Lettres Provinciales (1656-57) and also exerted influence on Molière who mocked it in Tartuffe.
In short, in Molière’s Tartuffe, the character who opposes Mariane’s marriage to Valère is not Tartuffe, it is Orgon, the pater familias of most comedies.
However, as Orgon enjoys threatening his daughter into a mésalliance, which is the normal plot of comedies, Tartuffe is coveting Orgon’s wife and appropriating all of Orgon’s belongings, including a cassette containing incriminating documents. Tartuffe knows about the cassette and urges Orgon not to keep it in his, Orgon’s, possession. If Orgon gives the cassette to Tartuffe, he will be able to deny having this cassette if asked about it, which frees him. He would not have to sin. One of the methods of casuistry is restriction mentale. One says: “I don’t have it.” It may be an incomplete statement, but it isn’t an outright lie. Orgon does not want to sin.
CLÉANTE to ORGON, Tartuffe (V, 1) How could you trust them to another’s hands?
ORGON By reason of a conscientious scruple. I went straight to my traitor, to confide In him; his sophistry made me believe That I must give the box to him to keep, So that, in case of search, I might deny My having it at all, and still, by favour Of this evasion, keep my conscience clear Even in taking oath against the truth.
The above is information we are not given until late in the play, but Dorine mentions “late unpleasantness” at the very beginning of the play (I, 2). Dorine, Mariane’s maid, creates tension. Dorine is our zanni, the astute servant of thecommedia dell’arte.
DORINE to CLÉANTE, Tartuffe (I, 2) His conduct in our late unpleasantness Had won him much esteem, and proved his courage In service of his king; but now he’s like A man besotted, since he’s been so taken With this Tartuffe. He calls him brother, loves him A hundred times as much as mother, son, Daughter, and wife…
At any rate, it seems we have two alazṓn: a reticent pater familias and a man who can make arrangements with heaven.
The truth as lie
At this point, Act III, matters start to turn around. Molière however treats us to a confession that is a truth as lie.
Hidden in a closet (III, 3), Damis, Orgon’s son, has seen Tartuffe attempting to seduce Elmire, Orgon’s wife, and tells his father. Although he is “tartuffié,” Orgon nevertheless confronts Tartuffe, but no sooner does he address him than the faux dévot confesses. Il s’accuse pour s’excuser.
TARTUFFE to ORGON, Tartuffe (III, 6) Oui mon frère, je suis un méchant, un coupable, Un malheureux pécheur, tout pain d’iniquité, Le plus grand scélérat qui jamais ait été.
[Yes, brother, I am wicked, I am guilty,
A miserable sinner, steeped in evil,
The greatest criminal that ever lived.]
Such defence is consistent with devotion and it is, therefore, very effective. In the Catholic Church, the devout confess. After confession, the sinner may have to make amends, but he or she is absolved. However, blind as he is, Orgon does not see a swindler in Tartuffe, but a genuinely devout man. In fact, Orgon is the one who makes amends (penance). To show to what extent he believes him, Orgon asks Tartuffe to keep his wife company at all times (III, 7).
However, the plot has thickened. Elmire had asked Damis not to tell Orgon (III, 5). This warming was prudent on her part as Tartuffe’s confession only serves to convince Orgon that Tartuffe is a holy man, which he isn’t. So the results are catastrophic. As quoted above (IV, 6), Orgon presses the marriage of Mariane to Tartuffe and he disinherits his son Damis.
All else having failed, members of Orgon’s family resort to a somewhat disputably theatrical device: a-play-within-a-play. Elmire tells her husband to crouch underneath a table behind a tablecloth, a form of curtain (IV, 4). From an actor Orgon is transformed into a spectator. He will see and seeing is believing.
According to Molière scholar Georges Forestier, the play-within-a-play is not a mise en abyme (see Related Articles). It is part of the action dramatique, the plot. In the present case, Professor Forestier is absolutely right. Orgon is a doubting Thomas and so tartuffié, possessed, that his family has little choice but to conceal him under a table, which may not be a play-within-a-play, but constitutes a theatrical recourse. Orgon is stunned and slow to come to Elmire’s rescue. She has coughed repeatedly, as arranged, without Orgon emerging from under the table.
Yet Tartuffe does not take from Orgon much more than Orgon gives him. However, there is a difference. Tartuffe is an extortionist and Orgon, a potential family tyrant, but un hommede bien (a good man) at heart. He has truly been besotted. Orgon so needs Tartuffe, a casuist, that not only does he give his daughter to Tartuffe, disinherit his son Damis, foolishly sign himself away to Tartuffe, but he also entrusts to Tartuffe a cassette that contains incriminating papers and which we do not hear about until Act V.
La Fronde: uprisings
We will not discuss la Fronde except to note that under Italian-born Cardinal Mazarin, ChiefMinister of the French King from 1642 until his death, there were uprisings called La Fronde. These occurred between 1648 – 1653 and consisted in two campaigns: the Fronde of the parlementsand the Fronde of the nobles. Absolutism gave no voice to France’s parlements and it’s aristocrats, including princes of the blood, possible heirs to the Kingdom of France who played no role in governing France. Moreover, the nobles refused to pay a tax. The war against Spain was costing a fortune. In the end, peasants and members of the bourgeoisie had to foot the bill.
Both Orgon and Argas were involved in these uprisings. When finally, Orgon realizes that he’s been a fool, he tells Cléante, the raisonneur, and starts running upstairs in the hope of retrieving the cassette, but it’s too late. Monsieur Loyal, the bailiff, is already at the door to collect all of Orgon’s possessions. We soon learn from Valère, who must have friends in high places and is in love with Mariane, Orgon’s daughter, that Tartuffe has already used the cassette alleging, later, that his first duty is to serve the king: “Mais l’intérêt du Prince est mon premier devoir” (V, scène dernière).
ORGON to TARTUFFE, Tartuffe (V, scène dernière)
Ungrateful wretch, do you forget ’twas I
That rescued you from utter misery?
[I’ve not forgot some help you may have given;
But my first duty now is toward my prince.
The higher power of that most sacred claim
Must stifle in my heart all gratitude;
And to such puissant ties I’d sacrifice
My friend, my wife, my kindred, and myself.]
How ironic. However Valère has made arrangements for the family to flee (V, 6) because Orgon will be arrested, but in true comic fashion, Tartuffe is arrested.
The tendency of comedy is to include as many people as possible in its final society: the blocking characters are form often reconciled or converted than simply repudiated. (Frye, p. 165)
In Act V, scene 3, Cléante remains optimistic. Tartuffe may prove more merciful than we expect.
CLÉANTE to ORGON, Tartuffe(V, 3) Je voudrais de bon cœur, qu’on pût entre vous deux De quelque ombre de paix raccommoder les nœuds.
[I wish with all my heart that some pretence
Of peace could be patched up between you two.]
Yet, in both Dom Juan and Tartuffe, salvation does not come from a ruse on the part of the society of the play. In Dom Juan a machine engulfs le méchanthomme. In Tartuffe, unPrince ennemi de la fraude saves the family. Molière uses a deus ex machina. We have reached what Northrop Frye calls the “point of ritual death” (p. 179). The eirôn cannot recover.
As noted above, Tartuffe takes little more than what he has been given by Orgon, but Orgon has given everything, which was foolish. Moreover, Tartuffe does not have to accept marrying Mariane. Nor does he have to take possession of what Orgon has handed over to him. Moreover, were Tartuffe humane, he would not run to the Prince carrying the incriminating cassette.
Therefore, although Orgon is forcing Mariane to marry Tartuffe and gives all he has to Tartuffe, including the incriminating cassette, “[t]he pharmakós is neither innocent nor guilty,” writes Frye (p. 41). By doubling the alazṓn (the blocking character), Molière has allowed, on the one hand, greater vilification of Tartuffe, who becomes the pharmakós, and, on the other hand, he has facilitated Orgon’s rehabilitation, as comedy wills. Tartuffe is Molière’s most convincing pharmakós.
Moreover, Tartuffe is the classic alazṓn: a miles gloriosus (Plautus, c. 254–184 BCE; Latin comedy), in which he resembles Dom Juan. (See Alazṓn, Wikipedia.) Elmire resists Tartuffe’s advances by telling him that she may offend heaven: le Ciel. However,in Tartuffe’s eyes, the eyes of a casuist, it is possible to sin without sinning, which is preposterous and leads Tartuffe to hoist his own petard. There is a farcical element in Tartuffe, just as there is a farcical element in the Misanthrope. Let us hear Tartuffe impersonating God, which is casuistry.
TARTUFFE à ELMIRE, Tartuffe (IV, 4) Si ce n’est que le Ciel qu’à mes vœux on oppose, Lever un tel obstacle est à moi peu de chose, Et cela ne doit pas retenir votre cœur.
[If Heaven is all that stands now in my way,
I’ll easily remove that little hindrance;
Your heart need not hold back for such a trifle.]
Comedy is a forgiving. By virtue of comedy’s ancient laws, there will be a happy ending, which, in the case of Molière’s Tartuffe, is brought about by the timely intervention of “un Prince ennemi de la fraude,” a “deus ex machina.” At the end of the play, as we are sitting on the edge of our seats, expecting the Exempt (a police officer) to arrest Orgon, the Exempt arrests Tartuffe.
Tartuffe is made into the guilty and punished half, the scapegoat, or pharmakós, of a doubled alazṓn. Doubling the alazṓn benefits the play. Orgon is part of the play’s final society, which he must deserve, or Elmire would not be his wife and his family so loyal. Nor would a servant, Dorine, speak to Orgon so openly. Orgon cannot re-enter society without redeemable features. We are not in fairyland.
The Truth as Truth
As for Tartuffe, he is as he describes himself when Damis, Orgon’s son, tells his father that he saw Tartuffe trying to seduce Elmire. His confession “gets him off the hook:” il se tire d’affaire. As Will Moore writes, “Tartuffe is sure of Orgon, and Molière is sure of his public” (Will G. Moore, p. 64). But the truth as lie is a reprieve. The truth as lie turns out to be the truth, which is comic irony.
TARTUFFE to ORGON, Tartuffe (III, 6) Non, non, vous vous laissez tromper à l’apparence, Et je ne suis rien moins, hélas, que ce qu’on pense. Tout le monde me prend pour un homme de bien; Mais la vérité pure est que je ne vaux rien.
[No, no; you let appearances deceive you;
I’m anything but what I’m thought to be,
Alas! and though all men believe me godly,
The simple truth is, I’m a worthless creature.]
As the curtain falls, all are on their way to the wedding of Valère and Mariane.
All’s well that ends well.
(Tout est bien qui finit bien.)
Love to everyone ♥
Gouache (XVIIIe siècle) de Fesch et Whirsker. (Photo credit: Larousse)
I have already written that Tartuffe is the punished half of a blocking character. In this post, I have taken this thought further by suggesting a doubling of the alazṓn.
Micheline Bourbeau-Walker, “Tartuffe: masques, machines et machinations,” in Clive Thomson (ed), Proceedings of the 1981 Meeting of the Canadian Association of University and College Teachers of French (Kingston: Signum, 1981), p. 491-509.
My PhD dissertation was a study of the pharmakós in Molière:
Micheline Walker, “L’Impossible Entreprise : une étude sur le pharmakós dans le théâtre de Molière,” DAI, 36 (1976) 8103A (Université de la Colombie britannique).
 H. Gaston Hall, Tartuffe, Molière (W. G. Moore, General Editor, Barron’s Studies in French Literature: 1960).  Georges Forestier, Le Théâtre dans le théâtre (Genève: Droz, 1996).  Northrop Frye, Anatomy of Criticism, Four Essays (Princeton University Press, 1973) (online)  W. G. Moore, Molière, A New Criticism (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1949).
GEORG MATTHIAS MONN (1717-1750)
Concerto for cello, strings and basso continuo in G minor (2. Adagio)
Performed by the Freiburger Barockorchester
Featuring Jean-Guihen Queyras, cello
Conducted by Petra Mullejans
This post is based on an article originally posted on 7 January 2012. In its earlier version, it had to do with Canadian literary critic Northrop Frye’s Anatomy of Criticism.[i] However, I used Molière‘s Le Tartuffe as an example. This time, the emphasis is on Molière’s Tartuffe.
Northrop Frye: a Conceptual Framework
Anatomy of Criticism: Four Essays was published by Northrop Frye in 1957. In his Polemical Introduction, Frye emphasizes the importance of approaching literature with “a conceptual framework,”[ii] so one can uncover a literary work’s organizing principles. In this regard, Frye refers to Aristotle’s Poetics (c. 335 BCE). However, he also reveals archetypes shared by comedy from the plays of Greek dramatists Aristophanes (c. 446 BCE – c.386 BCE) and Menander c. 341/92 BCE – c. 290 BCE) to Beaumarchais. (See list Greek dramatists in Ancient Greek Comedy, Wikipedia.)
Comedy: the characters as “archetypes”
Frye describes comedy as we know it. It is a genre where a young couple, or young couples, have to overcome obstacles, in order to marry. They are usually opposed by a pater familias, descendent of the heavy father of Roman New Comedy[iii] (Plautus [c. 254 –184 BCE] and Terence [195/185 –159 BCE]), to the more buffoon-like stock characters of the commedia dell’arte. Usually the young lovers (Mariane and Valère) are helped by servants, suivant-e-s, valets, confident-e-s,[iv] friends, siblings, a mother (Elmire) or, at times, an avuncular (good uncle) figure such as Le Tartuffe‘s Cléante. (Le Tartuffe or Tartuffe is the title of the play and Tartuffe, the name of the impostor who goes to prison at the end of the play). In Le Tartuffe, we have a complete cast.
The Plot: all’s well that ends well
Comedy has its archetypal figures and it is an “all’s-well-that-ends-well” narrative, but theories can be reductive. No two trees are alike. Therefore, although we require “a conceptual framework,” the goal is not merely to state that an author is using or not using a customary narrative and archetypal figures. In the case of Le Tartuffe, the impostor feigns devotion, yet covets Orgon’s wife and is also in possession of seriously incriminating information. In such circumstances, dramatists may use a deus ex machina to bring about the traditional happy ending of comedy. Therefore, Le Tartuffe is both the same as other comedies and unique.
Molière’s Le Tartuffe: the hypocrite
A play-within-a-play: the discovery
For instance, in Molière’s Le Tartuffe, Tartuffe who feigns piety, has so bewitched a vulnerable Orgon, the heavy father, that members of his family have to put on a little play-within-the-play to show Orgon, the comedy’s father, that Tartuffe is a hypocrite and that, far from turning his back on the pleasures of the flesh, he is “gros et gras” (“big and fat;” Act I, sc. iv) and wants to seduce Orgon’s wife, and nearly succeeds.
Hidden under a table, Orgon, the pater familias is made to see Tartuffe trying to seduce his wife and realizes, too late, that he has been fooled. Orgon’s daughter will not have to marry Tartuffe, but Orgon cannot get rid of the impostor, because Tartuffe is privy to knowledge that could cause Orgon to be thrown in jail.
Tartuffe dans la pièce du même nom de Molière. Gouache (XVIIIe siècle) de Fesch et Whirsker. (Photo credit: Larousse)
(Please click on the images in order to enlarge them.)
At the beginning of Act V, sc. iv, a huissier (a bailiff), Monsieur Loyal, depicted above, comes to notify Orgon that Tartuffe now owns Orgon’s house. Fortunately, given the conventions of comedy, the family will be saved. An exempt, or deus ex machina, arrives just in time, an instance of kairos* (the right timing) and an element of fairy tales, to tell the family that Tartuffe is a villain who will be thrown in jail. Orgon is saved by an insightful “Prince.”
*For the Greeks of Antiquity, time was kairos(the moment; vertical),
chronos(the duration; horizontal),
and aeon (eternity).
Therefore, Tartuffe is a play where characters favouring the traditional marriage of comedy have very little power. It is therefore a problematical play because it stretches the “all’s-well-that-ends-well” to its limits. Molière wrote several problematical plays. In the “Figaro trilogy,” Figaro can oust Bégearss, but Tartuffe owns Orgon’s House. There is no salvation from within the comedy itself, yet comedies have a happy ending. The young couple, Orgon’s daughter Mariane and Valère, must be free to marry.
Northrop Frye writes that “[t]he pharmakos is neither innocent nor guilty.”[v]Pharmakos is the Greek word for “scapegoat.” In Ancient Greece, the pharmakos was often sacrificed. In Molière’s Le Tartuffe, the pharmakos is not sacrificed, but he is vilified, although he is not entirely to blame. In Le Tartuffe, the villain has been empowered by Orgon, the father in the comedy. Orgon has let himself be blinded by his own needs. Therefore, the removal of the pharmakos is somewhat ritualistic. Tartuffe is a scapegoat.
In fact, there is nothing pious about Tartuffe, except in Orgon’s eyes and in the eyes of Orgon’s mother, Madame Pernelle. If everyone else sees Tartuffe as he is, Orgon is in dire need of Tartuffe. Tartuffe can lift (lever) sins away. What he says to Elmire, who does not want to sin by making love with Tartuffe, is evidence of seventeenth-century Jesuit casuistry (see Casuistry, or how to sin without sinning).
Si ce n’est que le Ciel qu’à mes vœux l’on oppose,
Lever un tel obstacle est à moi peu de chose,
Et cela ne doit pas retenir votre cœur.
If it’s only God that opposes my desire,
I’ll think up a way to make him conspire,
And that need not restrain your heart, my dear
(Act IV, sc. v)
Since he can make arrangements with God, Tartuffe allows Orgon to be tyrannical with impunity. Orgon’s family convinces the pater familias to hide under the table so he can hear and see his “frère,” as he calls Tartuffe, attempt to seduce his wife Elmire. So Orgon crouches under the table shielded by the tablecloth, a makeshift curtain, and, to his profound dismay, he learns the truth. He is so surprised that he has difficulty rescuing his poor wife.
Orgon has therefore learned the truth, but too late. Monsieur Loyal, beautifully depicted by Edmond Geffroy (20 July 1804 – 1895), an artist, actor, and member (sociétaire) of the Comédie-Française, is at the door ready to collect all of Orgon’s possessions Tartuffe has appropriated. Fortunately, a “Prince,” has seen the truth so Tartuffe, not Orgon, is arrested by l’Exempt. This allows members of Orgon’s family and servants (zanni) to be reunited at the end of the play.
Northrop Frye, CC, FRSC (14 July 1912 – 23 January 1991) was born in Sherbrooke, Quebec. He was raised in New Brunswick, studied in Toronto (Victoria College, University of Toronto) and at Oxford (Merton College). He became a minister in the United Church, and then spent most of his life teaching at the University of Toronto (Victoria College), where he was an inspiration to his students as he has been to me.
He wrote his thesis on William Blake (28 November 1757 – 12 August 1827), one of English literature’s most fascinating figures. Entitled Fearful Symmetry, Frye’s thesis was published in 1947, but he has published numerous other studies, all of which are listed in Wikipedia’s entry on Northrop Frye.
The archetype of the Creator is a familiar image in Blake’s work. Here, the demiurgic figure Urizen prays before the world he has forged. The Song of Los is the third in a series of illuminated books painted by Blake and his wife, collectively known as the Continental Prophecies. (Caption and Photo credit: Wikipedia)
In the area of literary criticism, few books have inspired me as much as Canadian literary critic Northrop Frye’s Anatomy of Criticism.[i]
Anatomy of Criticism: Four Essays was published by Northrop Frye in 1957. In his Polemical Introduction, Frye notes the importance of approaching literature with “a conceptual framework,”[ii] so one can uncover a literary work’s organizing principles. In this regard, he refers to Aristotle’s Poetics.
“A Conceptual framework”
Of course! So I started examining how archetypes were used in the various works of Jean-Baptiste Poquelin, or Molière, France’s foremost comic dramatist.
Comedy: the characters as archetypes
Frye describes comedy as a genre where a young couple, or young couples, have to overcome obstacles, in order to marry. They are usually opposed by a pater familias, a descendent of the heavy father of Roman New Comedy (Plautus [c. 254–184 BCE] and Terence [195/185–159 BCE]) to the more buffoon-like stock characters of the commedia dell’arte. Usually the young lovers are helped by servants, suivant-e-s, valets, confident-e-s, friends, and, at times, a mother or an avuncular (good uncle) figure.
The Plot: all’s well that ends well
Comedy has its archetypal figures and it is an “all’s-well-that-ends-well” narrative, but theories can be reductive. We require “a conceptual framework,” but must also acquire a degree of eclecticism and develop personal theories. In the case of Molière, one has to analyze if and how he uses the “all’s-well-that-ends-well,” rather than simply state that he does or does not use customary narrative and archetypal characters.
Molière’s Tartuffe: the hypocrite
For instance, in Molière’s Tartuffe, Tartuffe who feigns piety, has so bewitched a vulnerable Orgon, the heavy father, that members of his family have to put on a little play-within-the-play to show Orgon that Tartuffe is a hypocrite and that, far from turning his back on the pleasures of the flesh, he in fact covets Orgon’s wife Elmire.
Hidden under a table, Orgon, the pater familias is made to see his “friend” trying to seduce his wife and realizes, too late, that he has been fooled. Orgon’s daughter will not have to marry Tartuffe, but Orgon cannot get rid of the impostor, because Tartuffe is privy to knowledge that could cause Orgon to be thrown in jail.
The Deus ex machina or divine intervention
Fortunately, an exempt or deus ex machina arrives just in time, an instance of kairos as in fairy tales, to tell the family that Tartuffe is a villain and save Orgon. So, here is a play, where characters opposing the traditional marriage of comedy have very little power. It is therefore a problematical play because it stretches the “all’s-well-that-ends-well” to its limits. Molière’s problematical plays are the ones I analyzed.
I am thankful to Northrop Frye because he gave me my starting-point: “The pharmakos is neither innocent nor guilty.”[iii]Pharmakos is the Greek word for scapegoat, the characters who are vilified but somewhat unjustly, which is, to a certain extent, Tartuffe’s case.
Herman (“Norrie”) Northrop Frye, CC, FRSC (14 July 1912 – 23January 1991) was born in Sherbrooke, Quebec, my hometown. He was raised in New Brunswick, studied in Toronto (Victoria College, University of Toronto) and at Oxford (Merton College), became a minister in the United Church, and then spent most of his life teaching at the University of Toronto (Victoria College), where he was an inspiration to his students as he had been to me.
Frye is the author of The Anatomy of Criticism.[i]
He wrote his thesis on William Blake (28 November 1757 – 12 August 1827), one of English literature’s most fascinating figures. Entitled Fearful Symmetry, Frye’s thesis was published in 1947, but he has published numerous other studies, all of which are listed in Wikipedia’s entry on Northrop Frye.
Needless to say, literary critics often find their own personal path to analysing a work of literature. In my own humble writings, I have strayed from early mentors, but I would still recommend Anatomy of Criticism as compulsory reading to students of literature. Where Canadian literature is concerned, Frye’s Bush Garden, a short book, is an excellent way to enter the domain, particularly if one also reads Margaret Atwood‘s Survival, another short book.
A member of our team, blog writers, wrote me a kind note in which he wondered where I gathered my information.
I sent him a reply, but feel I should also tell others.
As a former university teacher, I have had to research all kinds of topics and have always enveavoured to give my students information concerning the background to what we were learning. The concept of honnête homme didn’t simply pop up. There had to be a history and I knew that in the case of seventeenth-century French literature, it helps to see what was happening in Italy, the birthplace of the Renaissance (rebirth), etc.
In other words, I am simply sharing information that may otherwise require lengthy research. It has been difficult for me to leave the classroom, so I have made a classroom for myself.
Britannica has asked me to provide information, but I have done so only once. I am now preparing a book on Molière using my PhD thesis (the pharmakos [the scapegoat] in Molière’s comedies). I would have done so earlier, but obstacles were put in my way. Life can be cruel and colleagues, selfish. During my last sabbatical leave, I had to prepare two new courses, one of which was on Beast Literature.
Beast Literature is a fascinating subject, but I was devoting that sabbatical to publishing my book. Publishing my book will now be difficult because I lack the financial resources to buy new books on the subject. Moreover, I no longer live near a campus. I will have to use my ingenuity.
There is another obstacle. It stems from a health problem: Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. On bad days, it affects my ability to concentrate and I may foreget how to spell a word I know well. However, I always reread my blogs to make sure all I have written is accurate. I have kept the texts of my lectures, which helps. Whenever I could, I would give my students a copy of these texts.
As for my book on Molière, I will make sure the manuscript is read by a person who can stop typos and repetitions.
In other words, I am simply sharing and I hope the information I share can be helpful to someone else. I want to live in a world where people have a sense of community, and that is done one blog at a time.
My blogs are not always easy to prepare because I want them to be concise. People tend not to read long texts. They have other things to do.