Moliere et son premier Tartuffe sheds light on one of the most enduring mysteries in world theatre: the nature, structure and purpose of the first and no longer extant version of his most controversial play, Le Tartuffe. The study provides a succinct overview of the problem and a close analysis of events leading up to the original performance at Versailles. A careful reading of Moliere's own defence of this version situates its overriding inspiration in his wish to satirise specific religious groupings, whilst hoping vainly to avoid censure from the religious establishment of his day. There are three appendices: the first evaluates the hypotheses of a complete or incomplete play; the second analyses the claims that Moliere took certain people as models for Tartuffe, and the final appendix seeks to reopen the question of Moliere's stance towards religion.
The conclusion is that Le Tartuffe should not be seen as inherently hostile to religion, but rather as constituting a plea for tolerance, charity and transparency in its practice, none of which runs counter to the spirit and tenets of historic Christianity.
This will appeal to lecturers and students of French Studies and Theatre Studies. -- .