Shakespeare’s statement "hold as t'were a mirror up to nature, to show virtue her own feature, scorn her own image, and the very age and body of the time his form and pressure" (Barber, 44) , this is a statement that tends to define what these two plays exude in their themes. It is a comment that is to be found in Shakespeare’s play the hamlet. Here Shakespeare means that playwrights in their plays should use their skills to reflect directly the various aspects of the society that need to be restored by using these plays as a means to restore social order. These two playwrights Moliere and Sheridan use comedies to reflect the natural manners of people and to remind them of virtue, hypocrisy and poking fun at these social aspects especially in the 17th and 18th century when these plays were written. Here in a most artistic way the playwrights employ their skills to reflect what is true in peoples hearts and manners on stage to make them see what they do unconsciously and how they look but for the sole reason of reminding them virtue and thus help restore social order.
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Tartuffe is a play by Moliere which was written in 17th century in France. This was during the era of king Louis XIVwho was reining in France. At this time there was the emergence of ideas of independent thinking thus the period of illiteracy and uninformed people who followed the church unquestioningly were abating. Moliere was among those artists whose works depicted those paradigm shifts in the society. Tartuffe was a play whose main theme was the satire of religious hypocrisy. It a combined work produced by the changes brought about by the intellectual freedom and also of those shifts taking place in Europe at that time. The characters also represent the aspects of society that were in process or being affected by these transformations into the renaissance culture (Bevington, 212-254). There are four characters; orgon,Tartuffe, dorine and cleante with each character representing the various aspects of society that Moliere noted to be in conflict and thus he use them to highlight and also quicken the changes and awarenes that are taking place during this time. For example Tartuffe is a symbol of the church.
The method the play is written was actually a new invention during this period called comedy of manners. Such plays are comedies tat often poke fun at an artificial and complex society or a social group. They mostly put their interests on the fashion, manners the outlook of life of the people at the times thus their name. they had stereotypical characters and also incorporated exaggerated whims while the main emphasis was the play come out as a satire of the manners of the social group portrayed in the action but with the direction of restoring the social order in the end (Bradley, 27).
Tartuffe pokes fn at the Christian church established at the time with catholic church forcing the king to ban the play several times since it was a satire of the religious hypocrisy. For example Tartuffe is a symbolism of this religious hypocrisy, He claims to have no worldly aspirations, but seeks to enjoy all the comforts of wealth in the name of keeping it out of less pious hands. At the center of these forces, the target of which they seek to influence is Orgon. The treasures of this world I quite despise; Their specious glitter does not charm my eyes, (Chambers, 167-181) Tartuffe"tms efforts to control and manipulate Orgon and his household (society as a whole) and to enrich himself at their expense mirror the aspects of the Church that Moliere has set his wit against. Orgon symbolizes the establishment in society, and even the atmosphere of Absolutism. Tartuffe is the prime target of Moliere"tms satire. It is the common sense of the masses that is given voice by Dorine, in balance with the philosophical reason represented by Cleante.
The upheaval of the Reformation with the blossoming of Renaissance ideas independent of the Church provided an environment where this hypocrisy was beginning to be exposed. Others are aware of the hypocrisy, but it is Cleante who is able to best rationally identify and articulate the nature of Tartuffe"tms hypocrisy. In order to live a life in the good graces of God, members of society needed to follow the dictates of whatever the Churrch deemed appropriate. The base elements of the Church, as portrayed by Tartuffe, use the promise of salvation as a means to gain entree into the lives of the unsuspecting populace, only to drain them of their resources and their freedom of thought. Beyond giving voice to the collective underclass, Dorine's assertiveness is also indicative of the coming emergence of women from diminished status. Cleante portrays a counter to the religious hypocrisy of Tartuffe. While Dorine, and the masses, have little actual power or control, they are astute to the workings of the world around them, and have the increasing ability to voice some opinions about them. Society is shown to be not quite out of the grip of blind faith and not quite ready to embrace the age of reason.
School for scandal is a play by Sheridan which is both celebrates and condemns the irreverence of the 18th century. School for scandal was a cultural part of the colonization culture in India. It is celebrated in the hero Charles , a hard drinking guy and who is ready to “knock down” his glorious ancestors and yet is beloved and reform able. It is then condemned in the villain Joseph surface who is a hypocrite, a man of sentiment who seeks to advance himself by defaming his brother. Charles surface is charitable and is faithful in love on the other hand Joseph his brother is greedy and malicious. The two brothers in the play help depict the theory of moral sentiment, a cult of feeling and moralistic expression that had emerged in the later half of the 18th century. Here hypocrisy is also exposed in josephs manner of pretence and selfish ambitions.
In both books, Shakespeare’s statement applies in their way of artistic style used to deliver the themes and to get to the audience. The playwrights use their comedies and the stage to put the society, its manners and fashion on stage in such a comic and satirical manner that the audience can’t help amused and provoked by seeing themselves in the play. The stage becomes like a mirror to reflect the society and help restore social order through these plays since the message is delivered so realistically and in a way very provoking.