Concept of Love in Association with a Wide Diversity of Meanings in Moliere’s Tartuffe

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Though love is regarded as a universal human emotion, it has a different meaning to various people. It is widely recognized as a variety of states, feelings, and attitudes that span from pleasure to interpersonal affection. In some instances, it is regarded as an intense personal attraction and strong attraction, while in others; it is a virtue that stands for a range of human virtues, such as compassion, human kindness, and affection. Throughout history, love has professed different meaning from one generation to another and one society to the next. For instance, in ancient Greek, there were four forms of love, including sexual/romantic, divine, kinship, and friendship. Further, some contemporary writers made further distinctions on the forms of love, such as different states of romantic love. Other non-western traditions have also distinguished the various symbols of these states (of love). Other credible theories, such as Judaism and Islamic interpretations, reveal that love has spiritual or religious meaning. All in all, the concept of love is associated with a wide diversity of meanings and uses that make the emotion unusually difficult to define and consistently interpret.

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Different Depictions of Love

Love is a broad concept that does not readily present a meaning at its mention. The 18-th century poets traveled great distances to describe their beloveds, whereas notable authors have had to counter major obstacles in the wake of conveying their “wretched ordinariness” (Molière 29). Consequently, the language of love has featured differently in many eras through using some of the great generalizing symbols, such as the rose, the heart, the fixed stars, and others (Molière 191).

In the text, Tartuffe, various forms of love can be identified from the relationship and associations of the different characters. Love is presented as a human emotion and can only be expressed in the course of interacting with fellow human beings. Also, since it is expressed through values and principles when human beings indulge in collaborative activities and/or find themselves in conflict with each other, then they can apply values, such as forgiveness, understanding, compassion, selflessness, sharing, respect for one another, and others. The novel begins on a high pitch instance where a storm is brewing in Orgon’s family. According to the opinion of his mother, Madame Pernelle, their family has become depraved and decadent as a consequence of division over the real identity of Tartuffe, a local beggar whom Orgon took in. While his family members think of him as a hypocrite, a con artist, and self-righteous individual, Orgon thinks otherwise. In fact, he is overly obsessed with him such that he does not want to hear anything from his wife. He even develops a sour relationship with his brother-in-law, Cleante, who thinks that he is insane because he is listening to an outsider more than those close to him. Cleante is surprised with the sudden change of attitude, especially because of the fact that he has postponed his (Orgon’s) daughter wedding. In addition to confirming the change of events, he does not offer any explanation but opts to say nothing further. It is an act of friendship love that Orgon has developed towards Tartuffe, such that he is blinded to see his bad, undesirable part. Tartuffe’s life tales, especially those related with divinity, have inspired him to the point that he develops a naïve belief in his advances.

Tartuffe is a French word that means hypocrite or the impostor, it was first performed in 1664, and features as one of the most celebrated literary works by Moliere (Molière 2). What is more, the main characters, Elmire and Orgon are considered as some of the most influential theatric personalities in history.

In the play, marriage is used to demonstrate and develop the theme of love further but is made more complicated. It is because the institution is not just used to express and exchange love, but is also used for political reasons, to gain mileage. Though love is perfected between couples in the text, its endeavors are hampered in all its packages. The audience is treated to the notion that marriage can only be decided by the bride’s father, and that any mistake that he makes could cost him great losses. The characters make us believe that the strength of the bonds of marriage reflect the match that has been mad, insinuating that the institution (of marriage) is critical to the wellbeing of the society. The author has used the intense drama between Mariane, Orgon, Tartuffe, and Valere to demonstrate how the institution of marriage is used to express romantic and friendship love between couples and other individuals respectively.

The most dominant form of love in the play is marriage and romantic love. The author introduces a kind of conflict that revolves around the institution of marriage. Though is overshadowed by political desires and manipulations, the union between a couple represents one of the most genuine manifestations of love. Moliere uses the marriage arrangement to her audience so that she can use it to explore a myriad of values, principles, vices, virtues, and sundry, which are either act of love or the opposite. For instance, she defines adultery as a wayward act that contradicts the principles of marriage but also ponders over some values of love, such as forgiveness of wrongs done, understanding, and others.

The third form of love expressed in the play is divine love. According to the words of Orgon: “He lost his fortune, as he says himself, because he cared for Heaven alone, and so, was careless of his interests here below. I mean to get him out of his present straits and help him to recover his estates (17). As such, he does not stop to ponder about the suspicious aspects of Tartuffe’s story. He is totally confused such that he does not listen to the members of his family when they try to show him that it is strange for a man of God to develop a sudden interest in earthly things. It is like he does not use his thinking sensory at times.

Role of Love

The relationship between love and literature is not minor, as discussions about love are not new (are timeless) and have survived humanity since time immemorial. Currently, there are many interpretations of love that cause confusion, especially with regards to the depth of love. The discussion of the central role that love plays is covered in many literary works, and in the novel, Tartuffe, it is equally significant. For instance, it deals with sufficient bargain of love, both human and divine forms (216). The author has used love to demonstrate the concepts of lust and as an obstacle to progress and other processes. One of the main characters, Tartuffe, is an impostor, who has found his way into Orgon’s family oriented household (230). His hypocritical nature makes it possible for him to convince a rather naïve and shallow Orgon with his fake qualities of humility and holiness. It makes him develop an unorthodox religious obsession with Tartuffe and even goes to the extent of compelling her daughter, Mariane, to marry him. The situation complicates things for Mariane, who already has a ready suitor that she has been dating. Consequently, Orgon acts like a bully and in Act 4, he prepares the marital contract and even declares Tartuffe his apparent heir. The audience is well aware of the affectionate attachment that Orgon has towards his family, but somehow his obsession (love) with Tartuffe signifies his downfall.


In the play, Tartuffe, various institutions arise out of love, most importantly that of marriage. In Act 4, the audience is treated to a wedding ceremony that is to formalize the forced union between Tartuffe and Marriane. Tartuffe has managed to use deceit to get into Orgon’s family to the extent that he is named the heir to his wealth and the husband to be to his daughter. The role of marriage institution is also revealed in the conflict that is facing Orgon’s family. Imperatively, the novel was considered blasphemous during its first performance, before it was banned in 1664. All in all, the themes are still relevant in this contemporary world just like in the 16th and 17th centuries. The author has demonstrated how fathers/husbands are the heads of families, and how they could be abusive towards his fellow members. Orgon is used to represent the tyrannical father figures and cunning politicians and how they are finally foreshadowed in the end. In contrast, the underlying seriousness is never sufficient to dampen Orgon’s irrepressible gaiety, as talented wives and servants help to maintain the balance of a world that is faced with the threat of cunning wives and maniacal fathers.

Love, Bondage, Freedom

The novel has clearly revealed the themes of Love and Bondage and Love and Freedom. The subject of love and bondage is demonstrated in the relationship between Orgon and his daughter, Marriane. During the initial stages of the play, the audience is treated to the deep affection that Orgon has towards his family. in Scene 1, Orgon tests the loyalty of his daughter by asking if she will obey everything that he commands. Since Marriane is a pliable daughter, she is ready to demonstrate her love for his father by doing anything he asks of her. Consequently, she is captivated in a form of mental bondage because of her unshakable loyalty to her father.

The broader theme of love and bondage, thus, concerns the predicament that Orgon has forced his daughter, and the rest of his family. He meets a stranger who professes to be poor and is not interested in material things. His love and affection for humanity make him adopt the man and provides a family and necessary provisions alongside his family. It shows a form of emotional and mental bondage that blinds some people from the truth.


The analysis has demonstrated how the concept of love is associated with a wide diversity of meanings and uses that make the emotion unusually difficult to define and consistently interpret. In the novel, Tartuffe, Orgon is obsessed with Tartuffe, such that he turns against his family in his favor. He even names him heir to his wealth and promises to give him his daughter for marriage. The reason for his sudden liking for Tartuffe is that the latter is in love with divine things and does not care about material objects.

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