Summary and Analysis
Act I: Scenes 2-3
When Madame Pernelle leaves, Cléante refuses to see her to the door because he has heard enough of her foolish prattle. He cannot understand how Tartuffe has so totally deceived her, but then Dorine points out that her master, Orgon, is even more deceived: One would actually have to see for himself in order to believe what great folly Orgon has fallen into. She explains the many ways in which Tartuffe has already duped Orgon and the many tedious sermons that they all have to listen to constantly.
Elmire returns and tells Cléante that, because her husband is coming, she feels the need of a rest before seeing him. Damis requests Cléante to question Orgon about Mariane's wedding because if Mariane is not allowed to marry Valère, Damis would not be received as a suitor for Valère's sister.
These two short scenes serve mainly to establish the influence which Tartuffe has over Orgon and to push the plot forward by introducing the matter of the wedding.
In Dorine's analysis of the influence which Tartuffe has over Orgon, we see again that she is the shrewd, practical realist who sees directly into the fundamental principles of things. Her explanation of Tartuffe's effect allows the reader to side with Dorine and, when Orgon appears on the stage, we are then prepared for Dorine's interpretation of her master. In other words, Molière is making certain that we have the right perspective.
In characterizing the influence which Tartuffe has over Orgon, Dorine says that Orgon loves Tartuffe better than "mother, child, or wife." This statement will appear several more times in the play, and in its purest sense characterizes the religious man who will give up all earthly ties in order to follow a saintly life. At this point, the idea is not fully developed; it will be later on. At present, it is enough to note that the idea surely applies to Orgon, because in the next scenes, he shows no concern for the wishes of his own daughter.
In a sense the only plot element in the play is the question of whether or not Mariane will be allowed to marry Valère. It is typical in Molière that the actual plot of the drama is considerably less important than his intent to satirize certain types of individuals. Consequently, the plot, for what it is, is not established until the third scene when Damis asks Cléante to inquire about the forthcoming wedding between his sister and Valère.