Tartuffe was first presented as a private production for King Louis XIV of France in 1664. The king did appreciate the play, but it was banned because of it’s criticism of the Catholic church. Moliere protested against the ban and was finally allowed to present the play again in 1667 for the king. However, it was banned again and not presented before the public until 1669.
Tartuffe begins with the family of Orgon, a rich nobleman, who has fallen under the clutches of a bogus Man of God, Tartuffe, who has insinuated himself into the family. Orgon has been made the dupe of Tartuffe, even though the rest of his family recognize Tartuffe as a hypocritical imposter only out to get money from Orgon and his family. The odious man makes advances on Orgon’s wife and at the same time is getting Orgon to force his daughter in marriage to him. Orgon, blinded by Tartuffe, forces his family in obedience to his wishes and makes them bow to Tartuffe as a religious and pious person.
Marianne, Orgon’s daughter, is in despair at the thought of marrying Tartuffe and is in love with Valere, a young gentleman. But Marianne is obedient and meek and needs her smart and outspoken maid, Dorine, to help her and Valere out of their predicament.
Elmire, Orgon’s wife, is incensed at Tartuffe’s duplicity as he attempts to seduce her behind her husband’s back. She then finds a way to get revenge on him by hiding her husband in the room to witness the affront Tartuffe is making on the master and mistress of the house.
Orgon finally discovers Tartuffe’s real character, but it appears too late. Tartuffe has gotten Orgon to sign papers which give away all of his wealth and estate to Tartuffe. However, at the end of the day, the King saves the family from ruin and gives Tartuffe his just deserts. Thus, Moliere both honors the King and achieves a happy ending for his comedy.