Top critical review
Didn't make me laugh
on 19 May 2010
Moliere is considered one of France's leading playwrights, often compared to Shakespeare. He is famous for his comedy and 'La Tartuffe', or 'The Imposter' is perhaps his best-known play. Therefore I came to this expecting great things, but was utterly underwhelmed by the plotting and characterisation. Even Shakespeare's flimsiest comedies have interesting twists and turns, plenty of muddles and misunderstandings, and some emotional depth to the characters but there was none of that here.
In summary: Orgon, a wealthy man, takes in the hypocrite Tartuffe, thinking he's very holy - all his family see through Tartuffe and try to enlighten Orgon without success - Orgon decides that his daughter will marry Tartuffe, and signs over his property to the hypocrite - he sees Tartuffe attempt to seduce his wife (she has persuaded him to hide under the table to observe) and realises his mistake - is it too late? no! Tartuffe is arrested and all live happily ever after.
I imagine it could be funny in a slapstick way as a live performance, if you like pantomime humour, but plot-wise it was dull, plodding and predictable. As far as I could judge the French text was very elegant and witty, and seemed easier than Shakespearean English. If I were to go back and read it again I'm sure I'd find many more allusions, puns and clever observations that I missed; but I'm not sure I'll bother.
Incidently, this edition had plenty of notes, introductions, character studies etc. as well as pictures of the play being performed - a good edition if you have to study the play.