Summary and Analysis
Act II: Scenes 3-4
After Orgon leaves to recover his composure, Dorine immediately begins to attack Mariane, who did not stand up to her father and openly refuse to marry Tartuffe. Mariane defends herself by saying that she has lived for so long under her father's strict control that she can't oppose him now. Dorine then begins to paint a picture of what it will be like to marry Tartuffe. She is realistic enough to reject Mariane's idea that she will kill herself rather than marry Tartuffe or disobey her father; such talk is sentimental drivel.
When Mariane protests that she knows of no way to defy her father, Dorine then begins to depict all of the horror of what it would be like to be Madame Tartuffe. Mariane is then so horrified of the possibility of having to marry Tartuffe that she is in total despair. Dorine consoles her by promising that they will find some line of action to prevent this absurd situation.
Valère, Mariane's betrothed, arrives and asks Mariane if it is true that she will marry Tartuffe. Mariane responds that it is her father's wish and innocently says that she does not know what to do. Valère interprets this as meaning that she is not seriously opposed to the marriage and then he insultingly advises her to enter into the marriage. Mariane then thinks that Valère no longer cares for her. The two then enter into a ridiculous lovers' quarrel until Dorine can no longer stand it. Just as Valère is about to leave, she drags him back, then stops the departing Mariane and forces them both to admit their love for each other.
Dorine's advice is to pretend to go along with Orgon's plan but to keep postponing the wedding until something can be devised. She says that she is going to enlist the help of anyone she can find.
In this scene between Dorine and Mariane, we come to understand that Mariane is the pliable daughter who finds it impossible to defy her father. She does not have the basic common sense of Dorine so as to understand that her father has become an unreasonable tyrant and thus she views her predicament as hopeless.
When Mariane cannot bring herself to oppose her father, then Dorine begins to depict the horrors of being married to Tartuffe. By showing her the distasteful details of marriage to Tartuffe, Dorine is then able to get Mariane to become more firmly resolute in opposing Orgon.
The comedy of Scene 4 depends largely upon physical actions. Dorine retires to the back of the stage, and as we observe the childish arguments between Mariane and Valère, we are constantly aware that Dorine is viewing the entire scene with comic detachment. She is merely waiting to see how absurd the two lovers can become before she steps in to reconcile them. Consequently, the comedy is that of the crossed lovers at cross-purposes, and then the entire scene is lightened by the reconciliation.
To bring about the reconciliation, Dorine must be physically alert and the reader should imaginatively re-create the physical actions called for in this particular scene. For example, Valère is about to exit from one side of the stage when Dorine has to run over and tug him back and, just as she has accomplished this, Mariane is about to exit from the other side, forcing Dorine to rush over and bring her back.
In bringing the lovers together, Dorine is the practical person who tells them that they can argue later but for the present they have to conceive some plan to stop Orgon from carrying out his project. For the present, Dorine gives them sound advice: to pretend to go along with the wedding until they can think of some way of bringing Orgon to his senses.