Jean-Baptiste Poquelin Moliere wrote Tartuffe during the beginning of the Age of Enlightenment. One of the main characteristics of the Age of Enlightenment was a push towards using reason over emotions to make decisions. The leaders of the enlightenment truly believed that the world could be made a better place if people did this. In Tartuffe, when the characters use their emotions to make their decisions they find themselves in undesirable situations. While those who let their emotions rule them find their lives spinning out of control, there are other characters in the play who try to approach them with reason and logic. Out of these characters the lady’s maid Dorine stands out as the voice of reason.
There are several stock characters in Tartuffe, but Dorine is not one of them. Servants are expected to be submissive and silent, but Dorine is stubborn and outspoken. She often uses sarcasm and satire to make her point. She is repeatedly chastised by Orgon and Madame Pernelle for her loose tongue. In Critical Essay on Tartuffe author David Partikian describes her character by writing, “… Dorine, has a saucy tongue, she is constantly told to shut up, and on one occasion, Orgon even tries to slap her.”(David Partikian 1)
While Dorine’s voice stands out more than the others, she is not the only character that uses reason. Cleante’s character for example, is very reasonable and well educated. In fact most would recognize him as the voice of reason, but his advice often comes across as a boring lecture. The reader can easily become lost in his drawn out pleas for Orgon to see the truth about Tartuffe. Elmire’s character also has control over her emotions, but her character does not speak out against irrationality as strongly as Dorine’s character does.
From the very beginning of the play Dorine speaks out against Tartuffe. In the first act, Dorine tells Madame Pernelle, “You see him as a saint. I’m far less awed;/ In fact, I see right through him. He’s a fraud.” (I.1.69-70) Dorine’s blunt words carry more weight than the other characters’ in this scene for several reasons. Dorine represents the average person more than anyone else in the play. She is not highly educated like Cleante and she did not have the upbringing that the other characters did. For someone in her position, a lady’s maid, to see the truth so clearly, it exaggerates the absurdity that Orgon and Madame Pernelle do not. In Dramatic Justice in Tartuffe, Myrna Kogan Zwillenberg wrote, “To be sure, Molière has taken the precaution of signaling such incidents by having the servant Dorine express her exaggerated moral outrage, a significant device which pinpoints the areas meant to be ridiculous.” (Myrna Kogan Zwillenberg 1)
It seems that Moliere was more than likely making a statement with Dorine’s character, that anyone can use their common sense. It does not take a college education or fine upbringing to see through the mask that some people present themselves with. Dorine was his way...