Penned in 1664 by French actor and playwright Jean-Baptiste Poquelin (called ‘Molière’), Tartuffe has become one of the most frequently performed stage plays of all time. It is the immortal tale of a crafty hypocrite who feigns honesty, human compassion, and piety, but in reality takes advantage of his naïve and gullible benefactor in a calculating and ruthless manner. This delicious, sharp-witted, and insightful comedy/farce has been delighting audiences for more than three centuries!
Molière, born in 1622, was definitely influenced by the farcical style of the Italian commedia dell’arte, in the usage of social satire and lots of broad physicality. However, his plays represent a far more accomplished structure, and characters of infinitely greater depth and variety, than their Italian predecessors. He gained great popularity already during his lifetime, enthralling Parisian audiences with such ‘hits’ as The School for Wives, The Miser, The Doctor in Spite of Himself, and The Bourgeois Gentleman. The first performances of Tartuffe, though well received by attendees, met with controversy due to its mockery of religiosity; and King Louis XIV was compelled to ban further performances following the strong objections of the Roman Catholic Church. Molière wrote a second version of the play in 1667, The Hypocrite (L’Imposteur), which still failed to appease his detractors. But, as scandal makes for good box office, all of Paris could hardly wait to see his play; and in 1669, upon approval of a reading by the papal legate, the King finally allowed it to be published and performed.
Tartuffe is written in dashingly rhymed couplets, perfectly rendered into English verse by Richard Wilbur.
by Jean Baptiste Poquelin de Moliere
(translated into English verse by Richard Wilbur)
Directed by Rhonda Goldstein
Jun. 15, 16, 17, 21, 22, 23, 24, 28, 29, 30, Jul. 1 2012
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