“Are you so dazed by this man’s hocus-pocus, that all the world, save him, is out of focus?” asks Cléante, addressing Orgon in Moliere’s play, Tartuffe. Orgon is indeed taken in by Tartuffe, who disguises himself as a priest and worms his way into the household. Blinded by his own desire for religious approval, Orgon makes Tartuffe his heir. Through numerous plot twists (including overheard seductions), the family is in chaos and on the verge of being thrown out their own house—until the King arrests Tartuffe and gives this dark comedy a happy ending.
If I were to write a story of an impostor, I don’t think I’d make it a comedy. Would you? And what disguise would your trickster adopt?
Tartuffe reminds me of when, in my first year of college, a student from another college presented himself at our dorm as a friend of friends, and asked to sleep on our couch for the weekend. He wasn’t actually a student or a friend, and he didn’t leave after the weekend. He turned out to be bumming his way across campus, ‘borrowing’ what he needed and making up stories to gain access. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s still spinning stories and living off trusting stooges somewhere. (Too bad we hadn’t read Tartuffe yet!)
Writing Prompt: Imagine an orderly family or other group (roommates? friends on a camping trip?), who are visited by someone who isn’t who they seem, and who soon begins to divide and conquer or otherwise create mayhem. Sketch out a rough plot, then write the opening scene.