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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
The Hypocrite
By Molière (1622–1673)
 
        
From ‘Tartuffe’: Translation of Charles Heron Wall
  
  [The scene, from the third act of the play, is the house of M. Orgon. His wife, the virtuous and shrewd Elmire, has long doubted the rectitude of Tartuffe’s attentions to her, but cannot induce her foolish husband to believe the man a cheat and a libertine at heart, so excessive is his assumption of piety and abstraction from the world. With the aid of Dorine the maid, Damis has been concealed in the next room.]

TARTUFFE  [as soon as he sees Dorine, speaks loudly and in a pious tone to his servant, who is not on the stage].—Laurent, lock up my hair-shirt and my scourge; and pray Heaven ever to enlighten you with grace. If anybody comes to see me, say that I am gone to the prisons—to distribute my alms.  1
  Dorine  [aside]—What boasting and affectation!  2
  Tartuffe—What is it you want?  3
  Dorine—To tell you—  4
  Tartuffe—Put more modesty into your speech, or I will leave you at once.  5
  Dorine—You need not, for I shall soon leave you in peace; and all I have to say is, that my lady is coming into this room, and would be glad to have a moment’s talk with you.  6
  Tartuffe—Alas! with all my heart.  7
  Dorine  [aside]—How sweet we are! In good troth, I still abide by what I said.  8
  Tartuffe—Will she soon be here?  9
  Dorine—Directly. I hear her, I believe; yes, here she is. I leave you together.  [Exit.]  10
Enter Elmire
  Tartuffe—May Heaven, in its great goodness, ever bestow on you health of body and of mind, and shower blessings on your days, according to the prayer of the lowest of its servants.
  11
  Elmire—I am much obliged to you for this pious wish; but let us sit down a moment to talk more comfortably.  12
  Tartuffe  [seated]—Have you quite recovered from your indisposition?  13
  Elmire  [seated]—Quite. That feverishness soon left me.  14
  Tartuffe—My prayers have not merit sufficient to have obtained this favor from Heaven; but I have not offered up one petition in which you were not concerned.  15
  Elmire—Your anxious zeal is really too great.  16
  Tartuffe—We cannot have too great anxiety for your dear health; and to give you back the full enjoyment of it I would have sacrificed my own.  17
  Elmire—You carry Christian charity very far, and I am under much obligation to you for all this kindness.  18
  Tartuffe—I do only what you deserve.  19
  Elmire—I wished to speak to you in private on a certain matter, and I am glad that nobody is here to hear us.  20
  Tartuffe—And I also am delighted. It is very sweet for me, madame, to find myself alone with you. I have often prayed Heaven to bestow this favor upon me; but till now it has been in vain.  21
  Elmire—For my part, all I want is, that you should speak frankly, and hide nothing from me.  22
[Damis, without being seen, half opens the door of the room to hear the conversation.]
  Tartuffe—And my wish is also that you will allow me the cherished favor of speaking openly to you, and of giving you my word of honor, that if I have said anything against the visits which are paid here to your charms, it has never been done out of hatred to you; but rather out of an ardent zeal which carries me away, and from a sincere feeling of—
  23
  Elmire—I quite understand it to be so, and I feel sure that it all proceeds from your anxiety for my good.  24
  Tartuffe  [taking her hands and pressing them]—It is really so, madame; and my fervor is such—  25
  Elmire—Ah! you press my hand too much.  26
  Tartuffe—It is through an excess of zeal. I never intended to hurt you.  [Handling Elmire’s collar.]  Heaven! how marvelous this point-lace is! The work done in our days is perfectly wonderful; and never has such perfection been attained in everything.  27
  Elmire—It is true. But let us speak of what brings me here. I have been told that my husband intends to break his word, and to give you his daughter in marriage. Is that true? Pray tell me.  28
  Tartuffe—He has merely alluded to it. But, madame, to tell you the truth, that is not the happiness for which my soul sighs; I find elsewhere the unspeakable attractions of the bliss which is the end of all my hopes.  29
  Elmire—That is because you care not for earthly things.  30
  Tartuffe—My breast, madame, does not inclose a heart of flint.  31
  Elmire—I know, for my part, that all your sighs tend towards Heaven, and that you have no desire for anything here below.  32
  Tartuffe—Our love for the beauty which is eternal stifles not in us love for that which is fleeting and temporal; and we can easily be charmed with the perfect works Heaven has created. Its reflected attractions shine forth in such as you; but it is in you alone that its choicest wonders are centred. It has lavished upon you charms which dazzle the eye and which touch the heart; and I have never gazed on you, perfect creature, without admiring the Creator of the universe, and without feeling my heart seized with an ardent love for the most beautiful picture in which he has reproduced himself. At first I feared that this secret tenderness might be a skillful assault of the Evil One; I even thought I would avoid your presence, fearing you might prove a stumbling-block to my salvation. But I have learnt, O adorable beauty, that my passion need not be a guilty one; that I can reconcile it with modesty; and I have given up my whole soul to it. I know that I am very presumptuous in making you the offer of such a heart as mine; but in my love I hope everything from you, nothing from the vain efforts of my unworthy self. In you is my hope, my happiness, my peace; on you depends my misery or bliss: and by your verdict I shall be forever happy, if you wish it: unhappy, if it pleases you.  33
  Elmire—Quite a gallant declaration. But you must acknowledge that it is rather surprising. It seems to me that you might have fortified your heart a little more carefully against temptation, and have paused before such a design. A devotee like you, who is everywhere spoken of as—  34
  Tartuffe—Ah! Although a devotee, I am no less a man. When your celestial attractions burst upon the sight, the heart surrenders, and reasons no more. I know that such language from me seems somewhat strange: but after all, madame, I am not an angel; and if you condemn the confession I make, you have only your own attractions to blame for it. As soon as I beheld their more than human beauty, my whole being was surrendered to you. The unspeakable sweetness of your divine charms forced the obstinate resistance of my heart; it overcame everything—fasting, prayers, and tears—and fixed all my hopes in you. A thousand times my eyes and my sighs have told you this; to-day I explain myself with words. Ah! if you consider with some kindness the tribulations and trials of your unworthy slave, if your goodness has compassion on me and deigns to stoop so low as my nothingness, I shall ever have for you, O marvelous beauty, a devotion never to be equaled. With me your reputation runs no risk, and has no disgrace to fear. Men like me burn with a hidden flame, and secrecy is forever assured. The care which we take of our own reputation is a warrant to the woman who accepts our heart, that she will find love without scandal, and pleasure without fear.  35
  Elmire—I have listened to you, and your rhetoric expresses itself in terms strong enough. Are you not afraid that I might be disposed to tell my husband of this passionate declaration, and that its sudden disclosure might influence the friendship which he has toward you?  36
  Tartuffe—I know that your tender-heartedness is too great, and that you will excuse, because of human frailty, the violent transports of a love which offends you, and will consider, when you look at yourself, that people are not blind, and that flesh is weak.  37
  Elmire—Others might take all this differently; but I will endeavor to show my discretion. I will tell nothing to my husband of what has taken place; but in return I must require one thing of you,—which is to forward honestly and sincerely the marriage which has been decided between Valère and Marianne, and to renounce the unjust power which would enrich you with what belongs to another.  38
  Damis  [coming out of a side room where he was hidden]—No, madame, no! All this must be made public! I was in that place and overheard everything. Heaven in its goodness seems to have directed my steps hither, to confound the pride of a wretch who wrongs me, and to guide me to a sure revenge for his hypocrisy and insolence. I will undeceive my father, and will show him in a clear, strong light the heart of the miscreant who dares to speak to you of love.  39
  Elmire—No, Damis: it is sufficient if he promises to amend, and endeavors to deserve the forgiveness I have spoken of. Since I have promised it, let me abide by my word. I have no wish for scandal. A woman should despise these follies, and never trouble her husband’s ears with them.  40
  Damis—You have your reasons for dealing thus with him, and I have mine for acting otherwise. It is a mockery to try to spare him. In the insolent pride of his canting bigotry he has already triumphed too much over my just wrath, and has caused too many troubles in our house. The impostor has governed my father but too long, and too long opposed my love and Valère’s. It is right that my father’s eyes should be opened to the perfidy of this villain. Heaven offers me an easy opportunity, and I am thankful for it. Were I not to seize it, I should deserve never to have another.  41
  Elmire—Damis—  42
  Damis—No, I will, with your permission, follow my own counsel. My heart is overjoyed; and it is in vain for you to try and dissuade me from tasting the pleasure of revenge. I will at once make a full disclosure of all this. But here is the very person to give me satisfaction.  43
Enter Orgon
  Damis—Come, father, we will treat your arrival with a piece of news which will somewhat surprise you. You are well rewarded for all your caresses, and this gentleman well repays your tenderness. His great zeal for you has just shown itself, and stops at nothing short of dishonoring you. I have overheard him here, making to your wife an insulting declaration. She, amiable and gentle, and in her too great discretion, insisted upon keeping the matter a secret from you; but I cannot encourage such shamelessness, and I think it would be an offense to you were I to be silent about it.
[Exit Elmire.]
  44
  Orgon—What do I hear! O Heaven! Is it possible!  45
  Tartuffe  [with an entire change of look, manner, and accent]—Yes, brother, I am a wicked, guilty, miserable sinner, full of iniquity, the greatest wretch that earth ever bore. Each moment of my life is overburdened with pollution; it is but a long continuation of crimes and defilement, and I see that Heaven, to punish me for my sins, intends to mortify me on this occasion. However great may be the crime laid to my charge, I have neither the wish nor the pride to deny it. Believe what is said to you, arm all your wrath, and drive me like a criminal from your house. Whatever shame is heaped upon me, I deserve even greater.  46
  Orgon  [to his son]—Ah, miscreant! how dare you try to sully the spotless purity of his virtue with this falsehood?  47
  Damis—What! the feigned meekness of this hypocrite will make you give the lie to—  48
  Orgon—Hold your tongue, you cursed plague!  49
  Tartuffe—Ah! let him speak; you blame him wrongfully, and you would do better to believe what he tells you. Why should you be so favorable to me in this instance? Do you know, after all, what I am capable of doing? Do you, brother, trust to the outward man; and do you think me good, because of what you see? No, no: you are deceived by appearances, and I am, alas! no better than they think. Everybody takes me for a good man, no doubt; but the truth is, that I am worthless.  [To Damis.]  Yes, dear child, speak; call me perfidious, infamous, reprobate, thief, and murderer; load me with still more hateful names: I do not gainsay them, I have deserved them all; and on my knees I will suffer the ignominy due to the crimes of my shameful life.  [Kneels.]  50
  Orgon  [to Tartuffe]—Ah, brother, this is too much!  [To his son.]  Does not your heart relent, traitor?  51
  Damis—What! can his words so far deceive you as—  52
  Orgon—Hold your tongue, you rascal!  [Raising Tartuffe.]  Brother, pray rise.  [To his son.]  Wretch!  53
  Damis—He can—  54
  Orgon—Hold your tongue!  55
  Damis—I am furious. What! I am taken for—  56
  Orgon—If you say one word more, I’ll break every bone—  57
  Tartuffe—In heaven’s name, my brother, do not forget yourself! I had rather suffer the greatest injury than that he should receive the most trifling hurt on my account.  58
  Orgon  [to his son]—Ungrateful wretch!  59
  Tartuffe—Leave him in peace. If I must on my knees ask forgiveness for him—  60
[He falls on his knees; Orgon does the same, and embraces Tartuffe.]
  Orgon—Alas! my brother, what are you doing?  [To his son.]  See his goodness, rascal!
  61
  Damis—So—  62
  Orgon—Peace.  63
  Damis—What! I—  64
  Orgon—Peace, I say. I know the motive which makes you accuse him. You all hate him; and I now see wife, children, and servants embittered against him. You have recourse to everything to drive this pious person from my home. But the more you strive to send him away, the more will I do to keep him. I will, therefore, to crush the pride of the whole family, hasten his marriage with my daughter.  65
  Damis—You mean to force her to accept him?  66
  Orgon—Yes, traitor; and to confound you all, it shall be done this very evening. Ah! I defy the whole household; I will show you that you have to obey me, and that I am the master here. Now, quick, retract your words, and this very moment throw yourself at his feet to ask his forgiveness.  67
  Damis—Who? I? Ask forgiveness of the villain who by his impostures—  68
  Orgon—What, scoundrel! you refuse, and abuse him besides? A cudgel! give me a cudgel!  [To Tartuffe.]  Don’t prevent me.  [To his son.]  Get out of my house this moment, and be careful you are never bold enough to set foot in it again.  69
  Damis—Yes, I shall go; but—  70
  Orgon—Quick then, decamp: I disinherit you, you scoundrel, and give you my curse besides.
[Exit Damis.]
  71
  Orgon—To offend a holy man in that way!  72
  Tartuffe—O Heaven! forgive me as I forgive him!  [To Orgon.]  If you could know the pain it gives me to see them try to blacken my character to you, dear brother—  73
  Orgon—Alas!  74
  Tartuffe—The very thought of this ingratitude is a torture too great for me to bear— The horror that I feel— My heart is so full that I cannot speak— It will kill me.  75
  Orgon  [in tears, running to the door where he drove his son out]—Wretch! how I grieve to have spared you, and not to have made an end of you on the spot.  [To Tartuffe.]  Compose yourself, brother; do not give way to grief.  76
  Tartuffe—No, let us put an end to all these painful disputes. I see what great troubles I occasion here, and I think, brother, that my duty is to leave your house.  77
  Orgon—How! surely you are not in earnest?  78
  Tartuffe—They hate me; and I see that they will try to make you doubt my good faith towards you.  79
  Orgon—What does it matter? Do you see me listen to them?  80
  Tartuffe—I have no doubt but that they will persevere in their attacks; and these very reports which you refuse to believe to-day may another time be credited by you.  81
  Orgon—No, brother; never.  82
  Tartuffe—Ah! brother, a wife can easily influence the mind of her husband.  83
  Orgon—No, no.  84
  Tartuffe—Let me go away, and thus remove from them all occasion of attacking me.  85
  Orgon—No, you will stop here: my life depends upon it.  86
  Tartuffe—Well, if it is so, I must do violence to myself. Ah, if you only would—  87
  Orgon—No!  88
  Tartuffe—I yield. Let us say no more about it. But I know how I must behave in future. Honor is a delicate matter, and friendship requires me to prevent reports and causes for suspicion. I will avoid your wife, and you shall never see me—  89
  Orgon—No, you will see and speak to her in spite of everybody. I delight in vexing people; and I wish you to be seen in her company at all hours of the day. This is not all. The better to brave them, I will have no other heir but you; and I will go at once and draw up a deed of gift, by which you will inherit all my possessions. A true, faithful friend whom I take for son-in-law is more precious to me than son, wife, or relations. Will you not accept what I propose?  90
  Tartuffe—May Heaven’s will be done in all things!  91
  Orgon—Poor man! Let us go forthwith to draw up the deed, and then let envy burst with rage!  92
 
 
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