Fiction > Harvard Classics > Molière > Tartuffe
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Jean Baptiste Poquelin Molière (1622–1673).  Tartuffe.
The Harvard Classics.  1909–14.
 
Act IV
 
Scene V
 
 
TARTUFFE,  ELMIRE;  ORGON  (under the table)

Tartuffe

They told me that you wished to see me here.
 
Elmire

Yes. I have secrets for your ear alone.
But shut the door first, and look everywhere
For fear of spies.
(TARTUFFE goes and closes the door, and comes back.)  We surely can’t afford        5
Another scene like that we had just now;
Was ever anyone so caught before!
Damis did frighten me most terribly
On your account; you saw I did my best
To baffle his design, and calm his anger.        10
But I was so confused, I never thought
To contradict his story; still, thank Heaven,
Things turned out all the better, as it happened,
And now we’re on an even safer footing.
The high esteem you’re held in, laid the storm;        15
My husband can have no suspicion of you,
And even insists, to spite the scandal-mongers,
That we shall be together constantly;
So that is how, without the risk of blame,
I can be here locked up with you alone,        20
And can reveal to you my heart, perhaps
Only too ready to allow your passion.
 
Tartuffe

Your words are somewhat hard to understand,
Madam; just now you used a different style.
 
Elmire

If that refusal has offended you,
        25
How little do you know a woman’s heart!
How ill you guess what it would have you know,
When it presents so feeble a defence!
Always, at first, our modesty resists
The tender feelings you inspire us with.        30
Whatever cause we find to justify
The love that masters us, we still must feel
Some little shame in owning it; and strive
To make as though we would not, when we would.
But from the very way we go about it        35
We let a lover know our heart surrenders,
The while our lips, for honour’s sake, oppose
Our heart’s desire, and in refusing promise.
I’m telling you my secret all too freely
And with too little heed to modesty.        40
But—now that I’ve made bold to speak—pray tell me.
Should I have tried to keep Damis from speaking,
Should I have heard the offer of your heart
So quietly, and suffered all your pleading,
And taken it just as I did—remember—        45
If such a declaration had not pleased me,
And, when I tried my utmost to persuade you
Not to accept the marriage that was talked of,
What should my earnestness have hinted to you
If not the interest that you’ve inspired,        50
And my chagrin, should such a match compel me
To share a heart I want all to myself?
 
Tartuffe

’Tis, past a doubt, the height of happiness,
To hear such words from lips we dote upon;
Their honeyed sweetness pours through all my senses        55
Long draughts of suavity ineffable.
My heart employs its utmost zeal to please you,
And counts your love its one beatitude;
And yet that heart must beg that you allow it
To doubt a little its felicity.        60
I well might think these words an honest trick
To make me break off this approaching marriage;
And if I may express myself quite plainly,
I cannot trust these too enchanting words
Until the granting of some little favour        65
I sigh for, shall assure me of their truth
And build within my soul, on firm foundations,
A lasting faith in your sweet charity.
 
Elmire  (coughing to draw her husband’s attention)

What! Must you go so fast?—and all at once
Exhaust the whole love of a woman’s heart?        70
She does herself the violence to make
This dear confession of her love, and you
Are not yet satisfied, and will not be
Without the granting of her utmost favours?
 
Tartuffe

The less a blessing is deserved, the less
        75
We dare to hope for it; and words alone
Can ill assuage our love’s desires. A fate
Too full of happiness, seems doubtful still;
We must enjoy it ere we can believe it.
And I, who know how little I deserve        80
Your goodness, doubt the fortunes of my daring;
So I shall trust to nothing, madam, till
You have convinced my love by something real.
 
Elmire

Ah! How your love enacts the tyrant’s role,
And throws my mind into a strange confusion!        85
With what fierce sway it rules a conquered heart,
And violently will have its wishes granted!
What! Is there no escape from your pursuit?
No respite even?—not a breathing space?
Nay, is it decent to be so exacting,        90
And so abuse by urgency the weakness
You may discover in a woman’s heart?
 
Tartuffe

But if my worship wins your gracious favour,
Then why refuse me some sure proof thereof?
 
Elmire

But how can I consent to what you wish,
        95
Without offending Heaven you talk so much of?
 
Tartuffe

If Heaven is all that stands now in my way,
I’ll easily remove that little hindrance;
Your heart need not hold back for such a trifle.
 
Elmire

But they affright us so with Heaven’s commands!
        100
 
Tartuffe

I can dispel these foolish fears, dear madam;
I know the art of pacifying scruples
Heaven forbids, ’tis true, some satisfactions;
But we find means to make things right with Heaven.
 
(’Tis a scoundrel speaking.) 1
        105
There is a science, madam, that instructs us
How to enlarge the limits of our conscience
According to our various occasions,
And rectify the evil of the deed
According to our purity of motive.        110
I’ll duly teach you all these secrets, madam;
You only need to let yourself be guided.
Content my wishes, have no fear at all;
I answer for’t, and take the sin upon me.
 
(Elmire coughs still louder.)

Your cough is very bad.
        115
 
Elmire

        Yes, I’m in torture.
 
Tartuffe

Would you accept this bit of licorice?
 
Elmire

The case is obstinate, I find; and all
The licorice in the world will do no good.
 
Tartuffe

’Tis very trying.
        120
 
Elmire

        More than words can say.
 
Tartuffe

In any case, your scruple’s easily
Removed. With me you’re sure of secrecy,
And there’s no harm unless a thing is known.
The public scandal is what brings offence,        125
And secret sinning is not sin at all.
 
Elmire  (after coughing again)

So then, I see I must resolve to yield;
I must consent to grant you everything,
And cannot hope to give full satisfaction
Or win full confidence, at lesser cost.        130
No doubt ’tis very hard to come to this;
’Tis quite against my will I go so far;
But since I must be forced to it, since nothing
That can be said suffices for belief,
Since more convincing proof is still demanded,        135
I must make up my mind to humour people.
If my consent give reason for offence,
So much the worse for him who forced me to it;
The fault can surely not be counted mine.
 
Tartuffe

It need not, madam; and the thing itself…
        140
 
Elmire

Open the door, I pray you, and just see
Whether my husband’s not there, in the hall.
 
Tartuffe

Why take such care for him? Between ourselves,
He is a man to lead round by the nose.
He’s capable of glorifying in our meetings;        145
I’ve fooled him so, he’d see all, and deny it.
 
Elmire

No matter; go, I beg you, look about,
And carefully examine every corner.
 
Note 1. Molière’s note, in the original edition. [back]
 

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