Tis a Pity She's a Whore Background

Tis a Pity She's a Whore Background

'Tis a Pity She's a Whore is a tragedy written in the early 1620s by John Ford. It was first published in 1633 and in its original published form was entitled "Tis Pitty Shee's a Whoore". It was first performed between 1629 and 1633 in repertory by the Queen Henrietta's Men at the Cockpit Theater. This was an enormous compliment to the play; Queen Henrietta's Men was the second most revered playing company of actors in London during this era behind The King's Men. The Company was formed in 1625 at the start of the reign of Charles I, by theatrical impresario Christopher Beeston, and was named in honor of their new Queen, Henrietta of France.The leading actors of the day performed in the play, including William Sherlock, Anthony Turner and Richard Perkins.

The play's first publication was by Nicholas Okes for the bookseller Richard Collins. Ford dedicated the printed play to John Mordant, the first Earl of Peterborough and Baron of Turvey.

The play is extremely controversial because it deals with the subject of incest in an entirely too gentle manner. In fact it is so difficult to comprehend Ford's view of his main character and the instigator of the incest that it would be hard to imagine this work being accepted by any publisher today, let alone being performed as a first-time play on the stage. The play centers around a recent graduate of Bologna University, Giovanni, who has developed feelings of incestuous passion for his sister, Annabella. Despite being told by his Friar that these desires come from a place of evil, Giovanni confesses his feelings to his sister, and she immediately reciprocates. Their relationship, including their first sexual experience together, is given the blessing of Annabella's tutoress, whose name, Putana, literally means "whore".

Annabella realizes that she will not be able to marry her brother and therefore continues to entertain suitors. She finds out that she is pregnant and agrees to marry the suitor she likes the best in order to avoid a scandal. He finds out about her pregnancy, and when she warns Giovanni that their secret has been revealed he comes to her room with a dagger, stabs her to death, and then attends a feast with all of the play's other characters with her heart still impaled on the end of the dagger.

Even at the time of its release, the subject of incest made the play one of the most controversial in English Literature. In fact, when a collection of Ford's plays was released in 1831, this play was omitted entirely. There was also discomfort regarding the title and in certain collections the play has been given the slightly more disingenuous title of "Giovanni and Annabella". It was performed in the Samuel Pepys era - the diarist writes of seeing it - but was not performed again until 1923. It was not just the subject matter and the title that offended; most condemned Ford's failure to villainize his hero and felt that he treated Giovanni all too benevolently. Although the play continued to be performed throughout the Twentieth Century and was accepted rather than condemned, it was still an uncomfortable play to watch because incest was presented as an unstoppable force of nature rather than as something that goes against it.

Although this is the work that Ford is most famous for, he was, in fact, one of the most prolific playwrights of the reign of Charles I. All his plays center around a conflict between passion and morality. Unfortunately, as is the case with most pre-Restoration playwrights, much of his work has not survived. There are many lost plays whose performance has been documented, including "Keep the Widow Waking" which he wrote with William Rowley and John Webster. Ford was also renowned as a poet.

The play has been adapted for the big screen several times, in Europe, including Sweden in 1966 under the title "My Brother, My Love" and in Belgium as "Tis A Pity She's A Whore" in 1978.

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