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Book Title: 'Tis a Pity She's a Whore, John Ford|
The author of the book: John Ford
Edition: Not Avail
Date of issue: September 13th 2007
ISBN 13: 9781405861861
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 2.60 MB
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While the theme of incestuous love is teased at in John Webster’s The Dulcess of Malfi, the controversial Tis Pity She’s a Whore smacks the Jacobean Theater audience with a brother-sister love. While the play outwardly condemns the abhorrent taboo with the presence of church leaders to provide moral and ethical authority figures, Ford challenges the audience his audience with his juxtaposition of this otherwise-romantic love between Giovanni and Annabella with the normal yet abhorrent relationships among Hippolita and the men in her lives, including her legal relationship with her husband Richardetto. It would seem as if that the accepted normal love relationship in the tragedy are even more monstrous than the condemned love affair among the siblings. And probably with the intent of critiquing the Church as well, Ford ends his tragedy not with the just sermon from a friar but with a greedy Cardinal demanding that he collects all the jewels of the numerous deceased for the Church. So it seems that the only triumphant character in the end is the uptight and unforgiving Church figures.
Ford pushes a very modern idea: how one can be a helpless tragic character if he does not conform with the ideals of the society or of any institution. For the first scene of the play, Giovanni is repentant and is aware of his sin by loving his sister sexually. While he can easily be the target of many criticisms and hatred, he defends himself by proclaiming the truth in all sincerity. He does love his sister and we believe him. Yet the audience is also reminded that it is not right as the presence of the Friar would remind us that in Christianity, this incestuous love is damnable. But if we remove the presence of religion and recall how some kingdoms in the past had and promoted incestuous marriages in order to keep power and money in the family. The incest case between Giovanni and Annabella are not as grave or as horrifying as that of Oedipus and Jocasta, but the audience are constantly reminded that it is.
The more we see the other suitors of Annabella, we are more reminded of how the incestuous relationship with Giovanni, if one considers everything about the other suitors, seem much better than what Grimaldi, Soranzo, and Bergetto are offering. None of these men love Annabella as much as Giovanni does. Even Florio, their father, does not understand Annabella at all. It is also quite remarkable that the only unfortunate character who does not condemn the relationship is Putana, who from her name alone, reminds us of the pitiful title of the play, as well as the condemnation that she would endure under the scrutinizing eyes of the other characters. Her mutilation, blinding, and burning at stake are all symbolic of the societal and religious judgment on the people who would support this taboo. Without being given a chance to explain herself, she is degraded into and regarded a witchlike fiend which should be punished and killed without remorse.
In an otherwise romantic Romeo-and-Juliet-type of play, where their environment are full of hatred and are not in love, we see that the accepted man-woman relationships are heavily flawed. Hippolita, being the central figure of three relationships--with her husband Richardetto who is seeking revenge against her and Soranzo, with Soranzo whom she had a previous relationship with, and Vasques who pretends to love her--are all sour and ugly relationships which are full of nothing but evil intentions and quests for vengeance and betrayals. Towards the end, these characters deserve their fate: Hippolyta is betrayed by Vasques for her betrayal of her husband, Soranzo is stabbed by Giovanni for damning his beloved Annabella and for exposing their love, Vasques is banished into exile where his multiplicable loyalties will be reduced to none, and it seems that Richardetto is avenged and is alive for being able to resist his further intentions of exacting his vengeance upon those who wronged him.
The stabbing of Annabella by Giovanni is not murderous but almost suicidal as well. Giovanni has killed a part of him by doing so and thus is protecting Annabella from the unforgiving world she lives in. Her heart skewered on Giovanni’s sword can be seen as an act of vengeance towards the entire world who want to see their relationship end; by doing so, he would feel the satisfaction of having won against the unaccepting world around them while displaying (literally) and unabashedly how he captured the heart of the one he loves and damn them all who wouldn’t understand.
But as the play ends with a quote that echoes the title, the tragedy sends the final word where Annabella is judged and pronounced a whore, the same way how vindictive moralistic authority figures and supporters would when they encounter such a rebellious and immoral person who challenges the norm. Ford, even though he ends with this sentence, a judgment remark, it is entirely possible that he is actually sending off a question or a challenge beyond the final sentence of the play: what do we call those people who see the Annabellas of the world as whores?
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Read information about the authorJohn Ford (baptised 17 April 1586 – c. 1640?) was an English Jacobean and Caroline playwright and poet born in Ilsington in Devon in 1586.
Ford left home to study in London, although more specific details are unclear — a sixteen-year-old John Ford of Devon was admitted to Exeter College, Oxford on 26 March 1601, but this was when the dramatist had not yet reached his sixteenth birthday. He joined an institution that was a prestigious law school but also a centre of literary and dramatic activity — the Middle Temple. A prominent junior member in 1601 was the playwright John Marston. (It is unknown whether Ford ever actually studied law while a resident of the Middle Temple, or whether he was strictly a gentleman boarder, which was a common arrangement at the time.)
It was not until 1606 that Ford wrote his first works for publication. In the spring of that year he was expelled from Middle Temple, due to his financial problems, and Fame's Memorial and Honour Triumphant soon followed. Both works are clear bids for patronage: Fame's Memorial is an elegy of 1169 lines on the recently-deceased Charles Blount, 1st Earl of Devonshire, while Honour Triumphant is a prose pamphlet, a verbal fantasia written in connection with the jousts planned for the summer 1606 visit of King Christian IV of Denmark. It is unknown whether either of these brought any financial remuneration to Ford; yet by June 1608 he had enough money to be readmitted to the Middle Temple.
Prior to the start of his career as a playwright, Ford wrote other non-dramatic literary works—the long religious poem Christ's Bloody Sweat (1613), and two prose essays published as pamphlets, The Golden Mean (1613) and A Line of Life (1620). After 1620 he began active dramatic writing, first as a collaborator with more experienced playwrights — primarily Thomas Dekker, but also John Webster and William Rowley — and by the later 1620s as a solo artist.
Ford is best known for the tragedy 'Tis Pity She's a Whore (1633), a family drama with a plot line of incest. The play's title has often been changed in new productions, sometimes being referred to as simply Giovanni and Annabella — the play's leading, incestuous brother-and-sister characters; in a nineteenth-century work it is coyly called The Brother and Sister. Shocking as the play is, it is still widely regarded as a classic piece of English drama.
He was a major playwright during the reign of Charles I. His plays deal with conflicts between individual passion and conscience and the laws and morals of society at large; Ford had a strong interest in abnormal psychology that is expressed through his dramas. His plays often show the influence of Robert Burton's The Anatomy of Melancholy.
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