Arion Lyre

68. Tartuffe by Molière, with illustrations by William Hamilton

Tartuffe, a comedy in five acts by Molière, translated and with an introduction by Richard Wilbur and illustrated by William Hamilton, 2004.


Molière, better known by that pseudonym than by his name, Jean-Baptiste Poquelin, was born and died in Paris (1622-1673). He began as an actor and by 1658 he was presenting plays at the Louvre in its rental theater. In 1664 he staged Tartuffe as a royal divertisement at Versailles, causing a scandal for it being perceived as criticism of the upper classes and anti-clerical. The king supported Molière but performances were suspended. The play was revived in 1667 under the title "Panulphe, ou L'imposteur" but was banned by the clergy.

The title character in Tartuffe is an impostor and a hypocrite. As a pious zealot, Tartuffe has insinuated himself into the prosperous home of Orgon, whose household is increasingly disturbed by the edicts of their guest against pleasure, while he gains influence over his gullible host. His wife Elmire exposes the treachery to Orgon when she arranges a liaison with Tartuffe and has her husband, hidden under a table, observe the unholy man's attempt to cuckold him.


Richard Wilbur's rhymed verse translation of Tartuffe is a treat to read, and his translations, especially of the plays of Molière, have brought him great acclaim. In addition to Tartuffe, he has translated Molière's The Bungler, Sganarelle, or the Imaginary Cuckold, The School for Husbands, The School for Wives, Don Juan, The Misanthrope, Amphitryon, and The Learned Ladies. Born in 1921, Wilbur came to prominence as a poet in the 1950s. He received the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award for his volume Things of This World (1956). Wilbur is a former Poet Laureate of the United States, a Chancellor Emeritus of the Academy of American Poets, recipient of two Guggenheim fellowships, winner of the Gold medal for Poetry from the Academy of Arts and Letters, the Bollingen Prize, and the Prix de Rome Fellowship.


The cartoonist, humor writer, and playwright, William Hamilton, is well known for his drawings in the New Yorker. His liquid line and quick capturing of character and expression provide perfect foil for the play.

The Arion Press edition is folio in format, printed by letterpress, 120 pages, with the page size at 14-7/8 by 11 inches. The type is 16-point Van Dijck composed in Monotype for the text with larger sizes handset for display and an ornamental type, Fontanesi, for the title, an initial letter, and act numbers. Photopolymer plates were used for the illustrations. The names of characters are separated from the dialogue by a curving rule. The rule, running heads, folios, the decorative type, and speeches repeated in larger type beneath the illustrations are printed in burgundy ink. The binding is full cloth over boards, the fabric of a burgundy moiré satin. It is stamped in gold with titling on the spine and front cover. The paper is Arches, a French mould-made sheet.


The edition is limited to 300 copies for sale and 26 lettered copies hors de commerce. All copies are signed by the translator and the illustrator. A portion of this edition has been reserved for subscribers to the Arion Press. The price is $600. Available

Seven original drawings by William Hamilton are available for sale. Prices on request.

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Edition: The book is folio in format, 14-7/8 by 11 inches, 120 pages, signed by translator and artist. Binding: full moiré satin cloth over boards with gold stamping on spine and front cover. The edition is limited to 300 numbered copies for sale. Price: $600.

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Also Available: Seven original drawings by William Hamilton for Tartuffe, signed and matted. Prices range from $2,000 to $2,500 each.

Act 1, Scene 1 Act 2, Scene 1 Act 2, Scene 4a Act 2, Scene 4b Act 3, Scene 7 Act 4, Scene 4 Act 5, Scene 7

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