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Compare/contrast rousseau (confessions) to tartuffe (molière)

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    Compare/Contrast Rousseau (confessions) to Tartuffe (Molière)

    Jean-Baptiste Poquelin more commonly known by his stage name of Molière was a French playwright and actor in the 17th century who is considered one of the finest writers of comedy in western literature. Tartuffe or the Hypocrite is one of his most well known and beloved plays. He wrote and performed it in 1664 before it was eventually censored due to the cries of the devout. Jean-Jacques Rousseau is a philosopher, writer and composer who lived during the eighteenth century. His book Confession is an auto biography which covered the first fifty three years of his life. The book is divided into two parts with six books. He planned to write a third part but died before being able to do so. My thesis is that both works show how people can easily believe the words of others as long as they have some form of authority over them.

    Tartuffe follows the story of Orgon and his family and their relationship with an individual by the name of Tartuffe. Tartuffe is a man who pretends to be religious but is in fact a fraud. His pious nature does not fool anyone in Orgon’s household except Orgon himself and the rest of the story details how the family strives to make him show his true colors by setting up various traps usually involving the wife to Orgon Elmire in order for Tartuffe to incriminate himself. The family eventually succeeds in saving their home from being possessed by this con artist (Molière & Wilbur, 1968).

    The Confession follows the life of Rousseau as he speaks openly and honestly about the various stages of his life. He talks about how he forced his spouse to give up their five children for adoption in the hopes of them having a better life. How he would suddenly have urinary problems every time he would have to be integrated in society. He is not only an exhibitionist in the beginning of his career, he was also a thief, a sexual deviant and used an eleven year old for his own sexual purposes and pushes away anyone who tries to aid him. He also speaks about how he was a poor judge of character, how his friends betrayed him, how his business partners cheated him and how his life took a downward spiral (Rousseau & Cohen, 1953).

    Tartuffe is by his nature a hypocrite. He does not hide it from the audience though he does try to hide his true nature from Orgon. It is incredible however, how easily Orgon seems to buy into his words of piety and religion even though he can see several instances where the individual is being less than honest. It is only when his hypocritical behavior is right in front of him and he sees how much Tartuffe has taken from him in terms of property and his daughters hand in marriage that he refutes his claims of  being pious and throws him out of his home. In the case of Rousseau however, it is equally incredible how the insecure and apologetic personality which surrounds his work completely makes the reader disregard all of the heinous acts of his life. It can be clearly seen that Rousseau brought all these calamities upon himself, that he made these decisions not because he had no choice, but because of self interest and greed. And yet it is only due to his philosophical ideals and his tone that the reader cannot help but forgive him for his transgressions and sympathize no matter what he does.

    It is incredible how words of such hypocrisy can fail to reach peoples ears despite their open nature and how easily they can be deceived simply because of their own perceptions regarding authority in society.


    Molière, & Wilbur, R. (1968). Tartuffe. New York: Harvest Books.

    Rousseau, J.-J., & Cohen, J. M. (1953). The Confessions. New York: Penguin Classics.


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