French playwright Moliere’s previous play, The School of Wives, had received its fair share of controversy. The storm surrounding Tartuffe, however, made The School of Wives controversy look tame by comparison. The first version of Tartuffe was presented in three acts at Versailles in 1664. While King Louis XIV enjoyed Tartuffe, the play enraged multiple religious organizations. They saw it as an affront on religion, itself. While Moliere wrote that he had no intention to mock “those things which should be revered”, it did not stop those in power (namely, the Queen Mother and the Archbishop of Paris) from banning further public performances of the play. A toned down version of the play, entitled L’Imposteur, briefly played in 1664, with the character of Tartuffe now renamed Panulpe (who was no longer a religious cleric.) The Archbishop of Paris still took offense; he promptly banned the play and threatened Moliere with excommunication.
The ban against Tartuffe was lifted in 1669, where the version to which we are accustomed premiered, commencing a successful run. The fifth act of Tartuffe is particularly famous for its obvious deus ex machina, wherein the wise and benevolent king saves Orgon from ruin. Many believe Moliere wrote the ending as a way to keep the play from being banned, again; others consider it as a generous acknowledgement of King Louis XIV’s patronage.
Tartuffe has multiple translations and English verse adaptations available in print. Because the original French script is written in rhyming verse, some translators attempt a more literal translation while others prioritize the maintenance of a verse pattern and a rhyming structure that works in English, making the translation less literal in order to accommodate. Some translations have verse used strictly throughout the play, while others mix verse with prose. Some popular translations/English adaptations include those of Donald M. Frame, Richard Wilbur, and David Ball.
The link below refers to a translation by Curtis Hidden Page for Project Gutenberg in January of 2000.
Link to full text: http://archive.org/stream/tartuffe02027gut/trtff10.txt