Character Analysis M. Orgon


Whereas Tartuffe is the obvious hypocrite and scoundrel, Orgon is a much more complex character. In the past he obviously had served the king honorably and had tended to his estates in a rational and dignified manner. It is indicated that prior to the opening of the play, he was a sane man who was respected by his family and friends. The question, therefore, arises as to why he has become such an absurd and ridiculous person.

Some critics have suggested that Orgon, having reached middle age, now needs to attach himself to some type of a religious person and Tartuffe is the most readily accessible. Many scenes in the play ridicule the type of character who can no longer participate successfully in society and who then retires from society and attacks it. Orgon's religious fanaticism, however, seems more directly correlated to his basic nature, which is characterized by Cléante as being extravagant and uncontrolled in all respects.

Having once adopted a life of piety, Orgon tries to become the epitome of the pious person and goes to absurd extremes both in his words and deeds. In contrast, when he discovers the hypocrisy of Tartuffe, he reverses himself and determines to hate and persecute all pious men. Orgon, then, seems to be a man of extravagant excesses who never steers his course along a rational, middle course, but instead, fluctuates between absurd extremes.

It is interesting to note that part of the objection to the play was that Orgon, while expressing many of the basic tenets of the church and, while performing deeds consistent with the devout man, was presented as a dupe whose actions demonstrated that he did not live by the standards of common sense, good taste, moderation, and the other qualities admired by Molière's age.

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