Written in 1664, Tartuffe tells how a conniving, smarmy man weasels his way into the hearts and home of Orgon’s family. Using religious phrases and trite retorts, Tartuffe gains the admiration of Orgon, the paterfamilias, much to the disbelief of the rest of the family. The action of the play is how the family attempts to show Orgon Tartuffe’s true nature, which includes scheming, hiding, and shouting. The play is a prime example of a French farce, but it often felt like an episode of Fraiser in rhyming couplets.
Moliere attempted to point out the hypocrisy of the Catholic Church in his day, and he was successful. In its day, the play was attacked for its anti-Catholic sentiment. Modern-day readers will not think it is that controversial since we have been raised by television-evangelist, con-artist types as duplicitous villains. A sneaky, sweaty, oversexed religious guy as a caricature is old news.