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Princess de Cleves , Tartuffe, Nathan the Wise: a study of Irony Essay

In Princess de cleves which is believed to be written by Madam La Fayette irony has been used to describe the heroine who is torn between her duty and love. While her heart is passionate about her lover, her sense of duty towards her husband and above all the societal norms forbade her to do so. In the very first scene the writer describes about the splendor and magnificence of the court of Henry II ,it is inhabited by beautiful ladies and handsome gallants.

The heroine gets impressed by it but her mother warns her against false appearances because she knows that outwardly these people are attractive but inwardly they are all jealous of each other. “If you judge by appearances in this place…you will often be deceived, because what appeals to be the case hardly ever is. ”(Introduction, Princess de cleves by Penguin Classics pg. 4). Here we see a form of situational irony because the princess takes the outward appearances of people to be their true self while they are quite contrary to it.

Again when she refuses to see Nemours but he is brought to her room by her own husband; it is a dramatic irony for the husband who is unaware that Nemours is his wife’s lover. Princess de Cleves questions the false norms of the society which demand that princess should follow the path of duty while heart yearns for love. Her world is ruined by her passion but throughout the novel she pretends that she is in control of her life. In the end her mother’s words: ‘what appeals to be the case hardly ever is’ are applicable to her as well. Jazz 2

Tartuffe, a comedy by Moliere mocks at the people who are befooled by hypocrites in the name of religion. In Act I when Orgon returns home, he asks his maid Dorine about the news of the family, Dorine reports that Madam was down with fever and headache but Orgon is more concerned about his ‘friend and mentor’ Tartuffe’s health. Dorine reports that he is well but Orgon says that he is a ‘poor man. ’ The dialogue continues and Dorine reports that Madam could not take her supper nor could she sleep but Tartuffe ate up two patridges and half a leg of mutton and slept quite well Orgon again calls him ‘poor man.

’ We experience a verbal irony in the following comment by Dorine “they are both doing well and I’ll go straightway and inform my mistress how pleased you are at her recovery. ”( by Wilbur ActI , Scene II) In the next scene when Orgon is talking to Cleante , he says that Tartuffe has totally transformed him and now he has no love for his wife, children or mother he can even see them dying without caring a snap to which Cleante replies “Your feelings are humane , I must say brother! ”( by Wilbur ActI , scene VI).

Here we see a verbal comedy because Cleante actually means it is ‘inhuman’. Through the irony in this play Moliere emphasizes that people should not be gullible to religious zealots, as Cleante says that wise men ‘do not make noise of their deeds of honor’ and ones who do so are actually hypocrites fooling people. Jazz 3 In the poem Nathan the wise Lessing questions the reality of all the religions. When all the religions believe in God then why each considers his religion to be superior?

This is itself an irony. In act III when Nathan appears before sultan Saladin he thinks that he will be asked to part with his money because he has been told by Al Hafi that sultan just wants to rob people and Nathan is just like any other trader who supplies him with money . On the contrary sultan asks him to answer his question –which religion is better or is preferred by Nathan because Sultan considers Nathan as a wise man who can answer his questions.

This may be described as a form of structural irony where the unexpected thing happens . As Nathan says “I came prepared with cash-he asks truth. Truth? as if truth too were cash—a coin disu’d”( Taylor and Lewes, Act III). Lessing uses structural irony in Act IV when Friar tells Nathan that he is the same man who gave him the girl child. Nathan says that his own family was burnt alive by Christians but he brought up the Christian girl as his own child and looked after her lovingly.

Friar is touched and says that Nathan is a true Christian. “Nathan you are a true Christian! Yes, by God” Nathan: “Heaven bless us! What makes me to you a Christian makes you to me a jew. ”(Taylor and Lewes, act IV). Here they are praising again their own religions but fail to realize the oneness of their Gods. This poem gives a strong message that we have different religions and faiths and we consider our religion to be superior which teaches us to worship ‘our’ God but who , ironically is one .

Works Cited Cave , Terence (translator) Princess de cleves Oxford world classics. UK (13 march ,2009) <http://www. books. google. com/> La Fayette. The Princess de Cleves Penguin classicsUK. (first published, March 1678) Lessing Ephraim Gotthold. Nathan the Wise translated by Taylor William And Lewes lee Charles, Leipzig 1868. (14 march 2009) <http://www. books. google. com/> Wilbur, Richard(translator) Tartuffe: comedy in five acts “A Harvest/HBJ book”( first published 1669)

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