Tis Pity She’s A Whore – John Ford (1629)

'tis pity she's a whore, Women's Shakespeare Company, New York 2002

Tis Pity She’s A Whore was and is a pretty shocking and controversial Jacobean tragedy written by John Ford about the incestuous passion and ultimate demise of the young noble Giovanni and his sister Annabella.

The tragedy is wrought with supressed desire and lustful excess, mental anguish, moral dillemma and religious fervour, right to the final frenzied massacre. The title comes from the last line of the play where the cardinal says of Annabella “who could not say. ‘Tis pity she’s a whore?'”

 ‘It was likely first performed between 1629 and 1633,  by Queen Henrietta’s Men at the Cockpit Theatre. The play was first published in 1633, in a quarto printed by Nicholas Okes for the bookseller Richard Collins. Ford dedicated the play to John Mordaunt, 1st Earl of Peterborough and Baron of Turvey.'[1]

The play has enjoyed several revivals of interest and has been referenced in many other works including Peter Greenaway’s 1989 film, The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Love. Greenaway said that the play provided the main template for the work.[2] and was adapted by Giuseppe Patroni Griffi’s for his 1971 film Addio fratello crudele starring Charlotte Rampling and Oliver Tobias. More recently the play was adapted by R.J. Tolan and presented in a ‘scruffy nightclub’ in New York by the Women’s Shakespeare Company with an all-female cast. The play will also be performed by by the ‘Cheek by Jowl’ theatre company at the barbican from Feb 16th 0 March 10th 2012.

INCEST TABOO = WHORE STIGMA? One aspect I find interesting is in connection with Claude Levi-Strauss’ theory of incest taboo. Levi Strauss in his work on the structures of kinship[3], used the global and cross-cultural taboos around incest to describe inherent human predispositions that are simultaneously part of the structures or “culture” of wider societies. Here we see incest and prostitution as occupying the same cultural ground of sexual deviation. Does the condemnation of prostitution equally suggest a global and “natural” human predisposition?

——————————————————————————————-Referenced:

1. Wikipedia entry http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/’Tis_Pity_She’s_a_Whore, viewed on January 20th 2012

2. Vernon Gras and Marguerite Gras (eds.), Peter Greenaway: Interviews, Jackson, MS, University Press of Mississippi, 2000; p. 69

3. Levi-Strauss, Claude (1947) The elementary structures of kinship: (Les structures élémentaires de la parenté) Volume 340 of Beacon paperback, published by Textstream (1969)

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This entry was posted in Art and Sexuality, The Fallen Woman and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Tis Pity She’s A Whore – John Ford (1629)

  1. velvet says:

    Will definately see this at the barcbican March 2012

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