By Julia Prest (auth.)
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Extra resources for Controversy in French Drama: Molière’s Tartuffe and the Struggle for Influence
This diversity of royal preceptors demonstrates the fact that the young king was subject to a range of influences even at the level of his own private education. Péréfixe and Le Vayer would encounter one another in the years that followed, first as fellows of the Académie Française (of which Péréfixe became a member in 1654) and later, if McBride is correct in attributing the Lettre sur la comédie de l’imposteur to Le Vayer, on opposing sides of the Tartuffe controversy (see Chapter 5). It has already been suggested that Louis XIV’s Mémoires bear the stamp of the influence of Mazarin and Péréfixe.
While the question of Louis’s adultery has received adequate attention,5 its centrality to the Tartuffe controversy has been underestimated, and the insights it brings to the discussion have been largely overlooked. While I am emphatically not suggesting that the character or role of Tartuffe is in any way modeled on the king, I shall demonstrate that just as Tartuffe’s sensuality made the dévots uncomfortable in 1664, so also—and more significantly, as well as more enduringly—did Louis XIV’s. Among other reasons, then, Molière’s play was met with hostility in dévot circles because it coincided, temporally and temperamentally, with a mondain and overtly sensual Louis.
38 Controversy in French Drama At first sight, this appears to conform to the vrai-faux model according to which true and false devotion are dichotomized and yet resemble one another closely (and it is of course the close resemblance that requires the would-be clear distinction suggested by dichotomy). Critics typically seize upon the opposition of good and bad works and of vice and virtue—their likeness and their potential for confusion. But the distinction being made is in fact rather more subtle: It is between the good works resulting from true devotion (une véritable dévotion) and those motivated by a vain ostentation that will either taint those good works or exist alongside bad ones (it is not entirely clear which).
Controversy in French Drama: Molière’s Tartuffe and the Struggle for Influence by Julia Prest (auth.)