The Seduction of Elmire in the Play Tartuffe
In Act Three, Scene Three of Tartuffe, Tartuffe makes his first attempt to seduce Elmire. In trying to persuade her to have sex with him, Tartuffe uses several cunning tricks.
Tartuffe uses a religious argument as his first trick in his attempt to seduce Elmire. He flatters Elmire by telling her that her beauty is a work of God. He states that it would be a sin not to pine after someone as beautiful as Elmire. Tartuffe continues to flatter Elmire with his passionate religious argument by comparing her beauty to God:
How could I look on you, O flawless creature,
And not adore the Author of all Nature,
Feeling a love both passionate and pure,
For you, his triumph of self-portraiture?
This argument is a clever trick Tartuffe uses to try and seduce Elmire. Tartuffe tries to convince Elmire that by having sex with her he is praising God for God’s exquisite creation. By comparing her to God, he is also trying to fool Elmire into believing that he is a truly religious person.
Tartuffe uses false humility as his second clever trick into convincing Elmire to have sex with him. Tartuffe constantly puts him self down while simultaneously making Elmire appear to be superior to him. He uses this trick to try and arouse sympathy and pity form Elmire. Aside from admitting to his inferiority to Elmire he also displays false humility by giving Elmire total control of the situation:
You are my peace, my solace, my salvation;
On you depends my bliss---or desolation;
I bide your judgement and, as you think best,
I shall be either miserable or blest.
Tartuffe gives Elmire control of the situation by telling her that she is the key to his happiness. If Elmire refuses to have sex with him, Tartuffe states that his life will be unbearable. His third and final way in which Tartuffe practices false humility is by blaming Elmire’s beauty for his indecent behavior. He wants Elmire to believe that he truly tried to resist his passionate feelings towards her, but her beauty was to strong.
Tartuffe used a variety of methods to try and seduce Elmire, but he used false humility for two very important reasons. Tartuffe used false humility to prove his superiority. Tartuffe wants Elmire to believe he feels inferior to her when the truth is just the opposite. Another reason Tartuffe chose to use false humility is because he loves the attention he receives from Elmire. By putting himself down, Tartuffe is expecting Elmire’s pity and praise in return. Tartuffe enjoys using different tactics to seduce Elmire. This is not because he is interested in actually sleeping with Elmire, but because manipulating others is one of the only things in life that gives him pleasure.
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