Le Tartuffe ou L'Imposteur

by Moliere

Hardcover, 1991




Hestia Press (1991)


The translation into English verse of one of Molière's most masterful and most popular plays. "A continuous delight from beginning to end" (Richard Eberhart). Introduction by Richard Wilbur.

User reviews

LibraryThing member jburlinson
Quite enjoyable, but unable really to compete with Richard Wilbur's translation of Moliere's classic play. Malleson tends to focus on the comedy and, while this can certainly be entertaining, it sometimes overshadows or even distorts some of the more subtle elements. Just one example: in the climactic scene where Tartuffe is tricked into exposing his lascivious intentions, Orgon, the husband, keeps trying to emerge from under the table where he's been hiding, only to have his wife struggle to shove him back into place in order to keep him concealed before Tartuffe notices him. This leads to some genuine slapstick, certainly, but at the expense of two, rather telling, points: (1) Orgon truly only loses control when Tartuffe starts to abuse him personally. Orgon is able to keep his composure throughout the seduction, otherwise. (2) Elmire, the wife, is actually in danger of losing control of the situation (and herself?), as opposed to being, as in Malleson's version, very much in command. This translation also includes a preface derived from "L'Impromptu de Versailles," which, I'm guessing, plays nicely on stage but doesn't really add much as an appetizer.… (more)
LibraryThing member gbill
Moliere’s most famous play, concerning the obsequious and hypocritical houseguest Tartuffe. Mildly entertaining, but just OK in my book.

Just one quote, on old age:
“As long as ‘twas in her power to make conquests, she did not balk any of her advantages; but when she found the luster of her eyes abate, she would needs renounce the world that was on the point of leaving her; and under the specious mask of great prudence, conceal the decay of her worn-out charms.”… (more)
LibraryThing member jpsnow
Now this was funny and meaningful. It has a great history, being banned by those whom it attacked. The preface and 3 requests of the king are a work in themselves.
LibraryThing member leebot
This is a fabulous contemporary translation. We saw this version performed at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland. As a theater major well-acquainted with other translations, I was wondering how this one would compare, and we were very impressed. The language is humorous and accessible to modern audiences, yet remains faithful to the rhythmic meter and period feel.… (more)
LibraryThing member MissLizzy
I read this for my History of Theatre class, and loved it immediately, although several of my classmates did not. It seems that a lot of people these days have trouble with the language and rhythm of the plays by people like Moliere and Shakespeare, and even the novels of Austen and Dickens. As with most of the plays that I've read and then seen, I really enjoy the live performance more--Moliere's characters in particular simply pop off the page.… (more)
LibraryThing member LisaMaria_C
Moliere has long been on my to-read list because his comedies were on a list of "100 Significant Books" I was determined to read through. The introduction in one of the books of his plays says that of his "thirty-two comedies... a good third are among the comic masterpieces of world literature." The plays are surprisingly accessible and amusing, even if by and large they strike me as frothy and light compared to comedies by Aristophanes, Shakespeare, Wilde, Shaw and Rostand. But I may be at a disadvantage. I'm a native New Yorker, and looking back it's amazing how many classic plays I've seen on stage, plenty I've seen in filmed adaptations and many I've studied in school. Yet I've never encountered Moliere before this. Several productions of Shakespeare live and filmed are definitely responsible for me love of his plays. Reading a play is really no substitute for seeing it--the text is only scaffolding. So that might be why I don't rate these plays higher. I admit I also found Wilbur's much recommended translation off-putting at first. The format of rhyming couplets seemed sing-song and trite, as if I was reading the lyrics to a musical rather than a play. As I read more I did get used to that form, but I do suspect these are the kinds of works that play much better on stage than on the page.

Tartuffe is the second play by Moliere I've read out of five; this one, about over-religiosity and hypocrisy is my favorite. The title character Tartuffe is a conman who prays on the religious sensibility and man-crush of his patron Orgon. The scene in particular where Orgon responds to reports of his wife's illness by repeatedly asking, "But what about Tartuffe" nearly had me laughing out loud. The character of the pert and shrewd lady's maid Dorine is particularly delightful.
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LibraryThing member pocketmermaid
I read this for my World Lit II class. I'm glad it was assigned because I really enjoyed it - way more than I expect I would enjoy a French play from the 17th century. But the subject of religious hypocrites never go out of style. Tartuffe is a major tool, and a master manipulator who, sadly, reminds me of someone I know.

Lots of good nuggets of prose and quotable dialogue here. It's pretty much as awesome as awesome can get.
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LibraryThing member jburlinson
Wilbur's translation is a marvel and has all the awards to prove it. Even on the page, the couplets read so easily! And he sacrifices none of the subtlety of suggestion. What's fun is to get someone else to read it aloud with you (ideally, someone of the opposite sex), so you can appreciate how finely the rhymes and meter sound.… (more)
LibraryThing member leslie.98
This full cast recording of Tartuffe was excellent! A great way to finish the digital audiobook of "The Moliere Collection" (I listened to this 5th play last knowing that it is a favorite of mine).
LibraryThing member AliceAnna
I prefer the version in verse, but in any event, the story is wonderful. The language of Moliere (even if translated) is what makes it all really work.
LibraryThing member trilliams
The humor's a bit outdated, and it's rather short, but if you know anything about how strong the church was in the 1600s then this is the boldest play you will ever read. The balls, Moliere, the balls.
LibraryThing member varwenea
Reading the introduction of Moliere’s 1664 “Tartuffe”, I noted several distinctions for this celebrated play.
- It is the most frequently produced play in the French language and considered to be Moliere’s best.
- The play was written entirely in rhymed iambic pentameter (or according to Wiki – in 1,962 twelve-syllable lines [alexandrines] of rhyming couplets).
- The play was so “famous” (or as it turns out - “infamous”) that King Louis XIV refused a private performance request from Queen Christina of Sweden and no public performances were allowed for 5 years, i.e. it opened widely in 1669.

The third bit caught my attention as I pondered (before reading the play) what was so different about this play that the King kept it from the public for 5 years.

“Tartuffe” is the main character and subject of the play where he is a vagrant and a pious fraud, who fooled and influenced the wealthy Orgon and his mother. Much to the chagrin of his other family members, Orgon fell deeply under the spell of Tartuffe, believing all his martyr-like yet self-promoting speeches, so much so that he disowned his son, broke a promise of marriage for his daughter to a loyal young man, and instead offered her to Tartuffe. Believing all of Tartuffe’s preaches and trusting him, Orgon renounced his wealth and contractually signed his possessions to Tartuffe, including a briefcase with confidential and damning information, which is then used against Orgon upon the reveal of the betrayal. The happy ending came when the enlightened King intervened, nullifying the contract, pardoning Orgon, and arresting Tartuffe for fraud.

Moliere was quite explicit with his condemnation of the church. “Who could imagine that devout façade could hide such double-dealing wickedness?... he’s the last religious man I’ll trust; in future I’ll recoil from them in horror.” 1664 is far too early and risky for the arts to openly mock the church. On the other hand, the King was presented as the all-seeing wise and mighty hero who swooped in to save Orgon. In short, it is a (perhaps unintended) bold piece of literature that pitted the King against the Church. Though my book’s introduction didn’t include this, I found articles online that validated my hunch. The French Roman Catholic Church was displeased with the play; the Archbishop of Paris issued an edict banning it with the threat of excommunication. Meanwhile, King Louis XIV got his jollies from the play and protected Moliere from excommunication.

To be honest, with my modern mind, the plot sounded so preposterous that it is laughable. Though putting on a lens of time, I believe that is the intended appeal of this play – mocking the gullibility of the wealthy and the falsehood of piety. Surely, such was a provocative rarity then. Without being able to read it in French, the charm of the alexandrines rhymes is absent. However, there are indentations that mark the pace of lines; these remain to be affective even in English.

Favorite Character: Dorine, the maidservant who was vocal and spoke the truth and obviousness and never held her tongue regardless who she is addressing. You go girl!

3.5 stars for the play
+0.5 star considering the original publication year
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LibraryThing member Velmeran
A fun little spoof with strong female characters.
LibraryThing member tjsjohanna
The comedy of this play walked the fine line between humor and tragedy. In the modern world there are all kinds of people insisting that black is white and white is black and declaring others crazy for not believing, so Tartuffe is readily believable. The appeal to the king is overt - the ending is resolved through the "wisdom and benevolence" of the king in the play. Even so, the story is a powerful warning against hypocrisy.… (more)
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