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Robert Browning (1812–1889). A Blot in the ’Scutcheon.
The Harvard Classics. 1909–14.

Act V Scene VII

Softly, sir, softly; do not run so fast;

You haven’t far to go to find your lodging;

By order of the prince, we here arrest you.

Traitor! You saved this worst stroke for the last;

This crowns your perfidies, and ruins me.

I shall not be embittered by your insults,

For Heaven has taught me to endure all things.

Your moderation, I must own, is great.

How shamelessly the wretch makes bold with Heaven!

Your ravings cannot move me; all my thought

Is but to do my duty.

You must claim

Great glory from this honourable act.

The act cannot be aught but honourable,

Coming from that high power which sends me here.

Ungrateful wretch, do you forget ’twas I

That rescued you from utter misery?

I’ve not forgot some help you may have given;

But my first duty now is toward my prince.

The higher power of that most sacred claim

Must stifle in my heart all gratitude;

And to such puissant ties I’d sacrifice

My friend, my wife, my kindred, and myself.

The hypocrite!

How well he knows the trick

Of cloaking him with what we most revere!

But if the motive that you make parade of

Is perfect as you say, why should it wait

To show itself, until the day he caught you

Soliciting his wife? How happens it

You have not thought to go inform against him

Until his honour forces him to drive you

Out of his house? And though I need not mention

That he’d just given you his whole estate,

Still, if you meant to treat him now as guilty,

How could you then consent to take his gift?

Tartuffe(to the OFFICER)
Pray, sir, deliver me from all this clamour;

Be good enough to carry out your order.

The Officer
Yes, I’ve too long delayed its execution;

’Tis very fitting you should urge me to it;

So therefore, you must follow me at once

To prison, where you’ll find your lodging ready.

Who? I, sir?

The Officer

But why to prison?

The Officer

Are not the one to whom I owe account.

You, sir (to Orgon), recover from your hot alarm.

Our prince is not a friend to double dealing,

His eyes can read men’s inmost hearts, and all

The art of hypocrites cannot deceive him.

His sharp discernment sees things clear and true;

His mind cannot too easily be swayed,

For reason always holds the balance even.

He honours and exalts true piety

But knows the false, and views it with disgust.

This fellow was by no means apt to fool him;

Far subtler snares have failed against his wisdom,

And his quick insight pierced immediately

The hidden baseness of this tortuous heart.

Accusing you, the knave betrayed himself,

And by true recompense of Heaven’s justice

He stood revealed before our monarch’s eyes

A scoundrel known before by other names,

Whose horrid crimes, detailed at length, might fill

A long-drawn history of many volumes.

Our monarch—to resolve you in a word—

Detesting his ingratitude and baseness,

Added this horror to his other crimes,

And sent me hither under his direction

To see his insolence out-top itself,

And force him then to give you satisfaction.

Your papers, which the traitor says are his,

I am to take from him, and give you back;

The deed of gift transferring your estate

Our monarch’s sovereign will makes null and void;

And for the secret personal offence

Your friend involved you in, he pardons you:

Thus he rewards your recent zeal, displayed

In helping to maintain his rights, and shows

How well his heart, when it is least expected,

Knows how to recompense a noble deed,

And will not let true merit miss its due,

Remembering always rather good than evil.

Now, Heaven be praised!

Madame Pernelle
At last I breathe again.

A happy outcome!

Who’d have dared to hope it?

Orgon(to TARTUFFE, who is being led off by the officer)
There, traitor! Now you’re…