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Tartuffe Discussion Questions

Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

''Tartuffe'' is a five-act play by the great playwright Molière. These questions can help lead your class through a discussion on the play's characters, plot, and themes.

Tartuffe

Tartuffe is a 1664 play by Molière, and one of the most famous works of the great French playwright. The comedy centers around the themes of hypocrisy as a seemingly pious man works to defraud the wealthy family that has accepted him as a guest in their house. These questions are intended for students who have both read the script and seen the play performed; however, the questions are also easily modified for classes that have only read the play and not yet been able to watch it.

Questions about Characters

  • Who is Tartuffe? How are we first introduced to Tartuffe? Is it by seeing him speak, or hearing others speak about him? What do they say about him? How does this interaction establish the tone, conflict, and themes of the play?
  • Who are the family members involved in the drama? Who is Orgon? Who is Elmire? Who is Madame Pernelle? Who are Damis and Mariane? Map out the relationships between these characters? How are we introduced to each of these characters? What matters to each of these characters? What are their priorities? What are their character traits, strengths, and weaknesses?
  • At the start of the play, how does each member of the family feel about Tartuffe? Who supports Tartuffe? Who does not? Why?
  • Describe Tartuffe's personality. What are his positive traits? What are his negative traits? What is the first thing we see him do? How do we get different glances of his true personality throughout the entirety of the play? How is he able to convince such upstanding people to trust him so thoroughly? How is Tartuffe able to work his way out of being exposed so many times? What does this reveal about him?

Questions about Plot

  • In one sentence, explain what this play is about.
  • In your opinion, what are the most important plot points in this play? How is the conflict first established? How is it escalated? Where does the conflict reach its climax? How is it resolved?
  • Tartuffe, as a play, is more about examining characters and personalities than major action. How does this plot let us deeply explore each character, and Tartuffe in particular? How does the structure of the five-act play facilitate this?
  • Is the resolution of this play an example of deus ex machina? What does that term mean in theatre? How is it applied here? Is that a bad thing?

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