Arts > Speaking in tongues

06 June 2018 | by Mark Lawson

Speaking in tongues

Speaking in tongues



In an instructive accident of the calendar, London premieres on consecutive nights last week featured clashes of religious culture and national languages: in opulent revivals of Molière’s Tartuffe at the Theatre Royal Haymarket and Brian Friel’s Translations at the National Theatre.

Tartuffe has the distinction of having provoked the Archbishop of Paris to threaten immediate excommunication to anyone who read it. At the Versailles premiere in 1664, Molière’s patron, King Louis XIV, enjoyed the comedy about a trickster who, by sweet-talking, steals the house and wife of a rich man. However, the Catholic cardinals were horrified that the title character was a religious hypocrite, who invokes God and Scripture to enact his scam.


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