L'Affaire Tartuffe or the Garrison Officers Rehearse Molière


111 pages
ISBN 0-921833-19-9
DDC C812'.54





Reviewed by David E. Kemp

David E. Kemp is chair of the Drama Department at Queen’s University
and the author of The Pleasures and Treasures of the United Kingdom.


The initial inspiration for this play came from an obscure historical
footnote: in 1774, British officers stationed in Montreal performed
plays by Moliиre in French. The British Parliament had just passed the
Quebec Act guaranteeing protection of the French language and Civil
Code, reopening the west to the fur trade, and enormously increasing the
power of the Roman Catholic Church by legalizing its right to collect
the tithe. Sceptics might suggest that the Quebec Act was more of a
device to keep French Canadians loyal should there be any trouble from
south of the border than it was a piece of enlightened colonial
legislation, but the historical context does make the actions of the
British soldiers especially significant.

Ackerman uses the garrison officers’ rehearsals of plays by
France’s greatest dramatist not so much to ask for peaceful
coexistence between the French and the English (although occasionally
one can detect this in the play’s subtext) but rather to call into
question the polarization of any dispute as involving two solitudes
irreparably opposed to one another. The play argues that this concept is
too simplistic and that the arguments over Quebec sovereignty combine
both reason and passion. The bilingual structure forces us to reassess
our own prejudices as the French argue for the English and vice versa.
Complicating the issue even further are those who don’t agree with
either side. L’Affaire Tartuffe is an intellectual tour de force and a
magnificent piece of theatre.


Ackerman, Marianne., “L'Affaire Tartuffe or the Garrison Officers Rehearse Molière,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 13, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/6515.