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Molière’s Religious Hypocrite

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Elmire: Mais des arrêts du Ciel on nous fait tant de peur.

Tartuffe: Je puis vous dissiper ces craintes ridicules,
Madame, et je sais l’art de lever les scrupules.
Le Ciel défend, de vrai, certains contentements;
Mais on trouve avec lui des accommodements.
Selon divers besoins, il est une science,
D’étendre les liens de notre conscience,
Et de rectifier le mal de l’action
Avec la pureté de notre intention.

Elmira: Won’t holy retribution give you pause?

Tartuffe: I’ll teach you, Ma’am, that Heaven’s contradictions,
Give latitude to men of pure convictions.
It’s true that Heaven frowns on some dark acts,
Though with great men, our Lord makes higher pacts.
A pious man made study of a science,
In which, through other paths, one finds compliance,
Enabling us to balance indiscretion,
Against the zeal of one’s professed repression.

–Jean-Baptiste Poquelin (Molière), Le Tartuffe ou l’imposteur, act iv, sc v (1664) in: Œuvres complètes, vol. 1, p. 963 (G. Couton ed. 1973)(T. Mooney transl.)

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