Tartuffe and Sor Juanas Reply
Molieres Tartuffe and Sor Juanas Reply are the literary works belonging to the same historical period of the late 17th century. Both written in the Age of Enlightenment, they use reason as the main tool for proving them right. Religion is no more crucial in exploring and understanding the world; now it is a reason and rational approach. The Enlightenment does not efface religion, though, it shows that intelligence and knowledge are not hostile for the Church either.
Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz was a prominent writer and poet of the colonial period in Latin America. Early becoming a nun, Sor Juana was very keen on getting knowledge and demonstrated prominent abilities from her early years. However, Juana was renowned for her disapproval from the clergy. Reply to Sor Filotea de la Cruz was addressed to the bishop of Puebla who used a female pseudonym to publish Sor Juanas critique of Antonio Vieiras sermon. The bishops advice to Sor Juana, to concentrate on religious matters, was a usual treatment of women at that time whose circle of interests was supposed to be limited to the church and family matters and did not include poetry and other secular writings. With the necessary for a Catholic humbleness, Sor Juana gives a well-grounded response rationalizing the role of a woman in the Church and the secular world.
Beginning her self-defense by stating her desire to be less ignorant through studies, Sor Juana explains that her inclination toward letters was extremely overwhelming from the very beginning. She considered it to be her intrinsic quality, because the desire to study would not go even when she was forbidden to read and would stay with her as a state of reflection. She even gave up her socializing with friends in order to study more. Furthermore, Sor Juana says how she was hated and tormented for her love of studies and her ability to write poetry not only by her persecutors, but by her friends and well-wishers who warned her that she might lose her soul due to her shrewdness and wit.
Defending her studies, Sor Juana enforces her argument by giving examples from the Bible and secular history. From the extremely wise Queen of Sheba to Esther to her contemporaries Queen of Sweden and the Duquesa of Abeyro, Sor Juana gives an extended list of women from different ages and different countries who were educated and intelligent. She explains that by ordering women to be silent in church, Apostle Paul did not mean that they are forbidden to study. They should not teach in public and should not be too loud during the sermon. By quoting Scripture, Sor Juana writes, it is not only licit for [women] to study, write, and teach privately, but it is very beneficial and useful for them to do so. In addition, Sor Juana points out that education can help in theological learning. She gives a long list of examples where general knowledge of history, traditions, and customs help in understanding the Scripture.
Apart from the obvious for us benefits of knowledge, Sor Juana mentions how womens intelligence could have been used at that time. Being afraid of perils of seduction by male teachers, parents preferred to leave their daughters unpolished and uncultured. With educated women, it would not be the case if the teaching profession were passed from one generation of women to the next. Thus defending all womens right to knowledge Sor Juana stresses that every person should evaluate his/her ability to study. Insomuch as knowledge can be a sword in the hands of a madman, only a qualified person can teach, whether a man or a woman.
Molierealso uses rationality to fight his battle to explore how reason can be used both to deceive and to find out a lie. Tartuffe, or The Hypocrite is centered on a seemingly virtuous man who insinuates himself into favor of the rich man Orgon. The first example of how Orgon likes Tartuffe strikes the reader in Act 1. Coming home from being away and asking about his family, Orgon waves all the servants remarks about his wife ailments in order to pay all his attention to Tartuffes well-being, And how / About Tartuffe? Each reply about Tartuffes great health and sound sleep is echoed by exclamatory Poor man! Hisobsession with Tartuffe is so great that Orgon arranges for his daughter to marry him and eventually disinherits his own son and makes a property over to the scoundrel Tartuffe.
Orgons mother, Madame Pernelle, is another victim of irrationality. While the whole family and servants see Tartuffes tricks, Madame Pernelle insists on his holiness and truthfulness while rudely admonishing everyone present. Such unreasonable blindness is possible only because both Orgon and Madame Pernelle are deceived by Tartuffes appearance of a pious man. By loud prayers, deep-drawn sighs and great ejaculations Tartuffe was believed to be a truly religious person. Orgon is so emotional about Tartuffe that he is at a loss at Cleantes request to say what kind of person Tartuffeis is, He is a man ... who ... ah! ... in fact ...a man. With poor reasoning, Orgon explains his understanding of that zealous Christian, He humbly kissed the earth at every moment; / And when I left the church, he ran before me / To give me holy water at the door. Even Tartuffes infatuation with Orgons wife, Elmire, becomes a pro bono service for him, He censures everything, and for my sake / He even takes great interest in my wife; / He lets me know who ogles her, and seems / Six times as jealous as I am myself. In fact, just a pinch of common sense would greatly help Orgon to see through Tartuffe.
The voice of reason comes from a few characters. From the very beginning, the audience is entertained by sharp-witted remarks from Dorine, Orgons daughters maid, who does her best to prevent Mariane from marrying Tartuffe instead of her fiance Valere. Orgons brother-in-law, Cleanteis, is a constant struggle to make Orgon to see reality. The character of Cleante is not only to offer logical reasoning, but he also is an example of a true Christian. He urges Orgon not to hold a grudge on Tartuffe and forgive him and explains how a true Christian can define right people from wrong people, ...Yet they're no braggadocios of virtue, / They do not make insufferable display, / And their religions human, tractable... However, with all reasoning and discussions about Tartuffes behavior, Orgon stubbornly insists on his opinion. Only Elmire could shake Orgons unwavering faith in his favorite when she makes her husband hide under the table to see Tartuffes advances with his own eyes. The last figure who represents the power of reason is quite unexpectedly the King who overcomes the situation of irrationality, when naive Orgon loses his estate to cunning Tartuffe, by restoring his wealth due to his loyal service.
In conclusion, it can be said that Enlightenment thinkers believed that all disputes could be solved with calm reasoning. All irrationality or passionate reactions are to be made fun of. Moliere excels in ridicule; while Sor Juana, not resorting to direct mocking, uses slight irony addressing the bishop My most illustrious senora and Dear lady. Personally, I was convinced in both cases. In Reply to Sor Filotea, Juana Ines de la Cruz successfully proved her point that women are entitled to education as much as men. The reader was taken slowly and logically from more general information about her childhood and her inclination to specific examples of prominent women quoted in Latin. In Tartuffe, Moliere showed the main threats to rationality: emotions and the lack of common sense. With an emphasis on rationality, the play is successful in getting Molieres point across of how much we have a stake in trying to use reason as principle of action.
Lastly, in order to exercise our abilities of rational beings, we need to use our intuition and knowledge and through constant practice develop the understanding of right and wrong.