Certain Individuals that lived in the period of time know as the Age of Reason discovered many knew inventions and advancements to improve the quality of life. When experimented with, these advantages brought forth knew ideas to extraordinary people who forever changed the way we look at life. Although many people found these discoveries to bring a great revival to mankind, others rejected these new improvements and felt as if they were defying god. These years were full of discoveries, conflicts, and new visions that of the world.
The age of reason brought on many changes to religious, political, scientific, and literary aspects of the eighteenth century. This essay will review the writings and attitudes on reason of four different authors Jean-Baptiste Poquelin Moliere, Jean Racine, Johnathan Swift and Alexander Pope. The writings that will be discussed are Moliere’s Tartuffe, Racine’s Pheadra, Swift’s Gulliver s Travels, and Pope’s Essay on Man. Moliere s and Racine s works declare that reason is capable of solving all our problems and is capable of keeping our lives and institutions of our world in order.
However, Swift and Pope are not nearly so adamant. Their works contain passages that express serious doubts that reason is able to solve many of the problems that people may face in the world today. Jean-Baptitste Poquelin Moliere s Tartuffe, is undoubtedly a satirical comedy. In Moliere s description of a satire, he was very direct as to the function. The function is to correct men s vices, using satire to ridicule them and expose them to public laughter. Although this satire is making fun of many things in the church and organized religion, it is not the only objective Moliere had in mind.
Tartuffe has many themes that reoccur through out the play. One of the main ideas and attitudes during the Age of Reason was, reason must always control passion. Due to this attitude, one theme that constantly appears through the play, is the battle between reason and passion. In Act II, Scene 4, one of the major conflicts between reason and passion is played out. Valere confronts Mariane with the rumors he has heard about her marrying Tartuffe. Throughout this entire confrontation, they are letting their passions stop them from getting what they truly want, which is each other.
Finally, Dorine brings about the reason that is needed in their situation. In lines 69-71, Dorine states, If you ask me, both of you are as mad as mad can be. Do stop this nonsense, now. I ve only let you squabble so long to see where it would get you ( ) Their passion is so strong that Valere and Mariane are blind to what the other is wanting. In this situation, Dorine plays the raisoneur, which is the person who tends to be reasonable throughout the play. Jean Racine, infused the high style of neoclassicism with the tension of human passion.
Often set in ancient times, his plays combine the Greek concept of inexorable fate with a 17th-century metaphysics and an acute sense of human nature, and exemplify a poetic diction at the same time soberly restrained and powerfully evocative. Racine’s tightly structured dramas of obsessive and destructive love, particularly in women, remain among the masterpieces of world drama. According to Racine, passion is a very strong emotional feeling that will drive someone to use up everything, including their power, family, wealth, reputation and even commit suicide.
In Phaedra, Phaedra is so much in love with her stepson Hippolytus that she can not eat or sleep. In fact, she was going insane due to her passion for him and actually wants to kill herself because of it. Her maid says to her, What frightful evil does your heart intend? You their by wrong the gods who authored you; betray the spouse to whom your faith is due; betray your children by the same stroke, and thrust their neck beneath a heavy York. Yes, on the day their mother s life is done, proud hope will stir in someone else s son-foe, the foe of all your lineage, whom an
Amazon once carried in her womb; Hippolytus… (Racine 168). Still she did not want to live without Hippolytus and went to confront him with her feelings for him. Just as Phaedra was ready to reveal her true feeling she learns that he is in love with someone else. This made her feel very jealous and ashamed so she decided to keep it quiet. Meanwhile her maid was filling Phadrea s husbands ear with tales of his son approaching his wife in an inappropriate manner. He eventually punished his son by sending him to his wrongful death.
Phaedra felt so bad she confessed the truth to her husband and restored Hippolytus good name as she tarnished her own. In the end she ends up killing herself. Johnathan Swift is considered one of the greatest masters of English prose and one of the most impassioned satirists of human nature. He wrote many pamphlets, prose, and letters about the corrupt ways of the political party leaders of his time. Many consider him to be a political satirist, although he wrote on other things as well. His work many times was also used in double.
Gulliver’s Travels would be a prime example, having been written as an allegory against the hypocrisy of society, and it also ended up serving as a child’s favorite. Swift, like Pope believed that man had too much pride and often would throw reason aside just to save face. For example, in Gulliver s Travel s, when Captain Gulliver told the Master that doctors of medicine, who were trained to save lives would rather kill their patients than admit they are wrong or they don t know how to help them. According to Swift in Gulliver s Travels, Part IV, he states,
Their predictions in real when it come to save their pride they diseases, when they rise to any degree of malignity, generally portending death, which is always in their power, when recovery is not, and therefore, upon any unexpected signs of amend false prophets, they know how to approve their sagacity to the world by a seasonable dose (Swift 259). In Gulliver s Travel s, people would lie, cheat and steal for the sake of a piece of gold. Money means power and man is always hungry for power even if it means throwing reason aside to get it.
Alexander Pope was an English poet, who modeled himself after the great poets of classical antiquity. He wrote highly polished verse, often in a didactic or satirical vein. His verse translations along with his moral and critical essays, and satires made him the foremost poet of his age. Pope used the heroic couplet with exceptional brilliance, giving it a witty, occasionally biting quality. His success made it the dominant poetic form of his century, and his poetry was translated into many languages.
Pope’s An Essay on Man is an attempt to justify and vindicate the ways of God to man, it’s also a warning that man himself is not the center of all things as his pride and lack of reason might suggest. Pope sets out to demonstrate that no matter how imperfect complex and disturbingly full of evil the universe may appear, it does function in a rational fashion. It appears unsatisfactory to man only because mans perceptions are limited by feeble moral and intellectual capacity. God is perfect and he created man is his image yet man is always unsatisfied.
The use of weak and blind in the essay tells how man is unsatisfied not be able to see things the way he would like and hence making him unhappy. If any misfortunes occur in life man still thinks it is the cause of God. As is stated in An Essay on man, Rejudge his justice, be the God of God (Pope, 122) and “In pride, in reasoning pride, our errors lie” (Pope 311). Life seems chaotic and without pattern to man when he is in the midst of it. Man has the sun and forest around him, which he takes advantage of for food, shelter and nurturing but on the other hand he blames nature for destruction and other ill cause’s.
As stated, From burning Sun where livid deaths descend (Pope 142). This line from the essay goes to extend how man questions God s justices. He has never been satisfied with creation. Everything on this earth was meant to make man happy. Man should implement to use of reason and set aside pride to learn that nature should take its cause and man must learn how to cope with it. This conflict between reason and passion that is continuously portrayed can easily teach a lesson to anybody who is ready to listen. If people were only willing to think before they react, just imagine the difference it could make.
We are not all as lucky to have a raisoneur around when we need advise, but we have that inner voice, if we would only listen. Passion can drive people to do strange things, but we also need to survive. What would the world be like if reason were the only thing that guided our actions? Would there be any love, happiness, or even fear? Moderation is the key. The question of which is superior, reason or passion, clearly is a hard one to answer. Maybe we should all take Cleante’s advise from Moliere’s Tartuffe and attempt to take the middle course, trying to balance the fine line between reason and passion.