English 287: Great Books
Outline of Act One
i. Madame Pernelle takes leave of her brother's household.
She censures the way of life there.
[What's the comic irony in this? (What is her chief complaint about everyone in the family? What consistent pattern of action does she exhibit in her exchanges with each person? Where else in the play do we see a similar pattern of action, with other characters?) What does this comic irony have to do with the phenomenon of "projection"? What do we guess might be the deep source of Madame Pernelle's complaint, insofar as what she mentions is something that distresses her (rather than just the cover for something else she either doesn't realize or can't publicly acknowledge)? ]
She defends Tartuffe and Orgon against the rest.
[The position she adopts establishes an ideological kinship between herself and her son. This suggests that we may be able to read her as a kind of "metaphor" of Orgon. Hence, things (like deeper, unacknowledged, even unconscious motives) that are clear to us about her might throw light on corresponding matters concerning Orgon that we are not so immediately clear about. ]
ii. Cléante and Dorine agree in reflecting on what has just happened.
Cléante expresses disgust with Mme. Pernelle's character.
Dorine summarizes folly of Orgon towards the knavery of Tartuffe and Laurent.
iii. transition exposition
Elmire announces Orgon is returning.
Damis introduces the marriage issue into the plot.
iv. Orgon's first appearance.
Dorine draws out the pathology of his relative concern with (the welfare of) his wife (Elmire) and his counselor (Tartuffe).
v. Cléante remonstrates with his brother-in-law Orgon
Orgon relates the history of Tartuffe
Cléante delivers 2 sermons on Reason and Religion (the Faith).
Cléante tries to get Orgon explicitly to confirm his promise to give his daughter (Mariane) in marriage to Valère.
This reveals that Orgon has postponed the date he'd earlier set.
Orgon waffles, insisting he'll "be guided by Heaven's will."
Reviewing Act One
(1) How does Orgon's mother Madame Pernelle indirectly help clarify the roots of Orgon's religious extremism?
Study carefully the way she behaves in the opening scene. What does she complain of about the household she's leaving? How does she conduct herself in the course of this altercation?
How does Dorine's analysis of Madame Oronte implicitly apply to Madame Pernelle?
If it applies to Madame Pernelle, might it apply to Orgon? Is there any evidence in what follows that it might?
In how many other ways, for instance, does Orgon's personality (as expressed in his sentiments and behavior) express that of his mother?
Does what you come up with here tend to confirm or disconfirm Wilbur's hypothesis about how Orgon has come to go off the deep end?
(2) What qualities of mind does Orgon exhibit?
When he enters the play (I.iv) he is returning from a trip.
- What does he announce as the responsibility he must discharge on such an occasion?
- What is the basis for his claim that he has the responsibility to do this?
- How well does he carry out this responsibility?
- What factors seem to be in play, in his behavior
(3) What are the chief issues in dispute between Orgon and his brother-in-law Cléante?
(4) At the end of Act One, Orgon says that he "will be guided by Heaven's will."
Forward to Outline of Act Two.
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This page last updated 06 October 2002 .