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UBC Theses and Dissertations

La situation du personnage de Tartuffe au temps de Molière : interférences, rencontres, affinités Wong, Shirley Tang


Contrary to popular belief, three hundred years of Molière studies has not exhausted the possibilities of further research in this field. Of the many Molière plays read and studied, Le Tartuffe is certainly among those that give rise to the most number of questions and the greatest amount of research. While many of the contemporary critics have devoted lengthy and detailed studies to the various aspects of Tartuffe's origins, his development throughout the play and even his influences on later seventeenth century fiction, few have chosen to discuss the importance of all three. Hence, our desire to present a more condensed but better organized version of the facts and speculations surrounding the circumstances of the play Le Tartuffe and more specifically those of the germination and evolution of its main character. Chapter one deals with a general study of the Italian theatrical tradition and discusses the many traces of Italian influences which are present in Molière's hypocrite. Our goal in this first chapter is not to stress Molière's dependence on his Italian colleagues but to illustrate the process of give and take and the rich exchange of ideas which all contribute to the makings of Tartuffe's mysterious but dynamic personality. The second chapter distances itself from the world of fiction to take a closer look at Molière's personal circumstances at the time of Tartuffe's conception and to examine briefly each of the live personnages who may or may not have served as a model for the playwright's fictitious character. Once again, we do not seek to implicate Molière as a man of vengence who was unable to separate his work from his personal prejudices but rather to underline the fact that Molière's creation relied equally on his imagination as well as his encounters in the world of reality. In our third and final chapter we return once again to the world of fiction and make-believe. Chapter three is divided into two parts: the first part deals with a study of other comedies by Molière and the numerous correlations that exist between Tartuffe and the main characters of these other plays. Part two discusses the works of two major writers of Moliere's time; La Rochefoucauld and La Bruyère and the extent to which Molière's Tartuffe influenced the 'raaximes' and the 'caractères'. Although our study of Molière's Tartuffe does not solve all the mysteries surrounding this dynamic character, it does give a better insight of his affinities and his influences within the seventeenth century world of fact and fiction. In our conclusion, we stress and draw upon two main points. In examining the character of the hypocrite, it is important to recognize that he is indeed a rich combination of external sources and influences right from the legacy of the Italians to the various courtisans and nobles of Molière's own time. On the other hand, it is equally vital to keep in mind Tartuffe's own flavor of authenticity for although many of his superficial traits are derived from external sources, there are elements in this fictitious character that render him unique. Secondly, we must consider the author himself and his role in the development of Tartuffe's personality. Time and again it has been suggested that Moliere's characters were in fact no more than 'porte-paroles' of his personal philosophy or worse, tools of vengence against his own real life enemies. We have always adhered to the theory that these suggestions were purely speculative and our research of Tartuffe's origins, affinities and influences have shown us that far from being a tool of vengence, the hypocrite is the reflection of one man's energy, perception and devotion to his work.

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