Tartuffe written in 1664 by Jean-Baptise Poquelin Moliere both challenges and supports traditional gender stereotypes for women. During this time period women were looked at much differently than they are today. Women were supposed to be subservient to the men in their lives. The women I chose to talk about are Dorine and Mariane. These two women displayed opposite characteristics making the traditional role of women conflicting throughout the story.
Dorine is the first women I will talk about in this paper. She had many characteristics throughout this play that I found to be very comical but at the same time noble. I believe that Dorine’s character challenges the tradition roles for women. Dorine is considered to be Mariane’s servant or lady in waiting. Dorine’s character in this play is very honest and blunt. She did not hold back what she was thinking. She had no problem telling Mariane, Orgon and Tartuffe how she felt. This was very unusual behavior for women in this time, especially for a lady in waiting.
The first encounter I am going to talk about is that between Dorine and Orgon. Orgon is trying to have a private conversation with his daughter and Dorine walks in an interrupts. In Act II, Scene II we see Dorine speak her mind about Mariane marrying Tartuffe. Starting around line 13 we see a Dorine interrupt Mariane and speak on her behalf:
ORGON. “Daughter, I mean it; you’re to be his wife.”
DORINE. “No, don’t believe your father; it’s all a hoax”
Back in these times no women would speak back to a man like that, let alone someone they worked for. This demonstrates her bold character. Dorine and Orgon’s arguing goes back and forth for the rest of the scene. Around line 86 we Dorine keeps interrupting Orgon and he is getting very angry:
ORGON. “Don’t interrupt me further. Why can’t you learn
That certain things are none of your concern?”
DORINE. “It’s for your own sake that I interfere”
For every comment, statement or question that Orgon threw out during this scene Dorine has a witty response very quickly.
The next encounter is between Dorine and Mariane. Even though this is not a male/female encounter it still shows Dorine’s bluntness. Dorine is supposed to be Mariane’s maid, but yet she is very honest with her. In the next scene we see Dorine outraged at the fact that Mariane did not stick up for herself:
DORINE. “Well, have you lost your tongue, girl? Must I play
Your part, and say the lines you ought to say?
Faced with a fate so hideous and absurd,
Can you not utter one dissenting word?”
MARIANE. “What good would it do? A father’s power is great.”
These two lines really show the contrast between the two girls. Mariane is clearly demonstrating the subservient girl that does what she is told. Knowing that you are not allowed to question what is being said. Then you have Dorine that disagrees completely. She wants Marianne to be more open and to stick up for herself. Very opposing female roles played between these two characters.
The last encounter I am going to talk about is between Dorine and Tartuffe in Act V, Scene VII. This is the mildest outbursts we see from Dorine, but yet she is still there putting her two cents in. We see Dorine say: “How he exploits the name of Heaven! It’s shameless.” (5.7.5) She has no fear to speak what is on her mind. Again we see her chime in and say: “All that we most revere, he uses to cloak his plots and camouflage his ruses.”(5.7.25) It seems that whenever there is an argument going on Dorine is magically there putting in her comments. She depicts the complete opposite of how women in the time were expected to act. I think it added a great deal of comedy to the play.
Mariane is the other woman I will talk about in this paper. She is the female character that represents the traditional gender stereotypes during this time period. Mariane is Orgon’s daughter and is very willing to do whatever her father asks of her. The readers get the image and impression that Mariane is a quiet character throughout his play. We see her described by Madame Pernelle in Act I, Scene I when she says: “And you, his sister, seem so pure, So shy, so innocent, and so demure” (1.1.22-23). Throughout the rest of the play many actions prove that she is shy and innocent.
The first of those actions is Mariane is not able to stick up for herself as the other characters do. For example in Act II, Scene II Orgon is pushing Mariane to accept the marriage to Tartuffe. Even though Mariane is in love with Valere and wants to marry him she does not stick up for herself and protest. Instead, it is her maid Dorine that is trying to convince Orgon to change his mind. It becomes clear in the following scenes that she does not want to go against her father.
Moving on to Act II, Scene III we see Mariane speak about not wanting to go against her father, “A father’s power is great” (2.3.5). A woman’s role during this time was to be subservient to their fathers and then to their husbands. Mariane is very afraid to go against her father because she has always obeyed him. We see Dorine try to convince Mariane to stick up for herself in Act II, Scene III:
DORINE. “Tell him one cannot love at a father’s whim;
That you shall marry for yourself, not him;
That since it’s you who are to be the bride,
It’s you, not he, who must be satisfied…”
MARIANE. “I’ve bowed so long to Father’s strict control,
I couldn’t oppose him now, to save my soul”
Mariane did not want to go against her father. She wanted to hear the advice of Dorine but yet did not want to follow it. Mariane seems to act very dramatic and helpless. Mariane demonstrates the quality of being very gullible. In Act II, Scene IV Mariane is talking with Valere. She asks him for his advice and he explains that he thinks it’s a good idea for her to marry Tartuffe, and she believes him.
As you can see there are two very opposite women represented throughout this play. Dorine is outspoken and vey direct, whereas Mariane is quiet and obedient. Mariane fits the traditional role of a woman during this time. She was faithful to her father and would do what he asked of her, this is what was expected of women. Dorine on the other hand challenged the traditional role of women during this time. She was a maid and spoke what was on her mind. It did not matter who it was, she was always honest. This created a humorous tone to the play, but for this time she was very out of line.
1.) Lawall, Sarah. The Norton Anthology of Western Literature. 8th. 2. New York, NY: W.W Norton & Co Inc, 2006. 10-67. Print.
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