Tartuffe was written in France in 1664 by Jean Baptiste Poquelin, otherwise known as Molière. One year after attaining his law degree, at the age of twenty, he said, and I quote, “to heck with that,” and promptly joined an acting company called the Illustre Theatre. Of course this may have been because he fell in love with one of the lead actresses – but he must have been in love with acting too, because though he indulged in love affairs with many other women during his life, he never faltered in his love of the theatre. Like many a successful actor Molière learned that the best way to get the part you want is to write it yourself. He wrote over twenty plays, directing and starring in them all. The greatest influence for his writing came from his childhood experiences watching commedia dell’arte travelling performance troupes. Full of classic stock characters and household situation comedy plot-lines, commedia dell’arte was lively, funny, slapstick, ribald, and often performed with masks and on only the barest of stages. The art of the playing lay in the actor’s inventiveness, movement, and an irreverent ability to “play” to the audience. Molière transferred this art to his comedies, often with the addition of the alexandrine, rhymed hexameter verse lines. He borrowed this type of rhymed couplet from contemporary tragedies of the time, but instead of using ornate fancy sounding language, he melded it to dialogue that imitated conversational speech. Tartuffe was received well by the public but not the Roman Catholic Church. The Archbishop of Paris issued an edict threatening excommunication for anyone who watched, performed in, or read the play! Luckily for Molière however, Louis the IV disagreed. He loved it. And what the king says goes! Richard Wilbur published his English translation of Tartuffe in 1963. Others have translated it also – some in prose, and some using rhymed verse – but no other version is as popular as Wilbur’s. The rights for this translation, however, stipulate that the play must be performed in period costume, and that men play men, and women, women. Well, since Molière chose to discuss reverence by being a bit irreverent, we think we can too. See if you can tell where we take a few liberties!