'Tis Pity She's a Whore
'Tis Pity She's a Whore (original spelling: 'Tis Pitty Shee's a Who[o]re) is a tragedy written by John Ford. It was likely first performed c. 1626 or 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.
|'Tis Pity She's a Whore|
Title page from 1633 printing
|Written by||John Ford|
|Date premiered||between 1629 and 1633|
Giovanni, recently returned to Parma from university in Bologna, has developed an incestuous passion for his sister Annabella and the play opens with his discussing this ethical problem with Friar Bonaventura. Bonaventura tries to convince Giovanni that his desires are evil despite Giovanni's passionate reasoning and eventually persuades him to try to rid himself of his feelings through repentance.
Annabella, meanwhile, is being approached by a number of suitors including Bergetto, Grimaldi, and Soranzo. She is not interested in any of them, however. Giovanni finally tells her how he feels (obviously having failed in his attempts to repent) and finally wins her over. Annabella's tutoress Putana (literally, "Whore") encourages the relationship. The siblings consummate their relationship.
Hippolita, a past lover of Soranzo, verbally attacks him, furious with him for letting her send her husband Richardetto on a dangerous journey she believed would result in his death so that they could be together, then declining his vows and abandoning her. Soranzo leaves and his servant Vasques promises to help Hippolita get revenge on Soranzo, and the pair agree to marry after they murder him.
However, Richardetto is not dead but also in Parma with his niece Philotis. Richardetto is also desperate for revenge against Soranzo, and convinces Grimaldi that to win Annabella, he should stab Soranzo with a poisoned sword. Unfortunately, Bergetto and Philotis, now betrothed, are planning to marry secretly in the place Richardetto orders Grimaldi to wait. Grimaldi mistakenly stabs and kills Bergetto instead, leaving Philotis, Poggio, and Donado distraught.
Annabella resigns herself to marrying Soranzo, knowing she has to marry someone other than her brother. She subsequently falls ill and it is revealed that she is pregnant. Friar Bonaventura then convinces her to marry Soranzo before her pregnancy becomes apparent.
Meanwhile, Donado and Florio go to the cardinal's house, where Grimaldi has been in hiding, to beg for justice. The cardinal refuses due to Grimaldi's high status and instead sends him back to Rome. Florio tells Donado to wait for God to bring them justice.
Annabella and Soranzo are married soon after, and their ceremony includes masque dancers, one of whom reveals herself to be Hippolita. She claims to be willing to drink a toast with Soranzo, and the two raise their glasses and drink, on which note she explains that her plan was to poison his wine. Vasques comes forward and reveals that he was always loyal to his master, and in fact he poisoned Hippolita. She dies spouting insults and damning prophecies to the newlyweds. Seeing the effects of anger and revenge, Richardetto abandons his plans and sends Philotis off to a convent to save her soul.
When Soranzo discovers Annabella's pregnancy, the two argue until Annabella realises that Soranzo truly did love her and finds herself consumed with guilt. She is confined to her room by her husband, who plots with Vasques to avenge himself against his cheating wife and her unknown lover. On Soranzo's exit, Putana comes onto the stage and Vasques pretends to befriend her to gain the name of Annabella's baby's father. Once Putana reveals that it's Giovanni, Vasques has bandits tie Putana up and put out her eyes as punishment for the terrible acts she has willingly overseen and encouraged.
In her room, Annabella writes a letter to her brother in her own blood, warning him that Soranzo knows and will soon seek revenge. The friar delivers the letter, but Giovanni is too arrogant to believe he can be harmed and ignores advice to decline the invitation to Soranzo's birthday feast. The friar subsequently flees Parma to avoid further involvement in Giovanni's downfall.
On the day of the feast, Giovanni visits Annabella in her room, and after talking with her, stabs her during a kiss. He then enters the feast, at which all remaining characters are present, wielding a dagger on which his sister's heart is skewered and tells everyone of the incestuous affair. Florio dies immediately from shock. Soranzo attacks Giovanni verbally, but Giovanni stabs and kills him. Vasques intervenes, wounding Giovanni before ordering the bandits to finish the job.
Following the massacre, the cardinal orders Putana to be burnt at the stake, Vasques to be banished, and the church to seize all the wealth and property belonging to the dead. Richardetto finally reveals his true identity and the play ends with the cardinal saying of Annabella "who could not say, 'Tis pity she's a whore?"
- Friar Bonaventura – A friar and Giovanni's mentor
- A Cardinal – Nuncio to the Pope
- Soranzo – A nobleman (Annabella's suitor and eventual husband)
- Florio – A citizen of Parma, and father of Annabella and Giovanni
- Donado – A citizen of Parma, and uncle of Bergetto
- Grimaldi – A Roman gentleman (Annabella's suitor)
- Giovanni – Son of Florio (his name is pronounced with four syllables)
- Bergetto – Nephew of Donado (Annabella's suitor and then Philotis's fiancé/suitor)
- Richardetto – Hippolita's husband, disguised as a physician, also Philotis' uncle
- Vasques – Loyal servant to Soranzo
- Poggio – Servant to Bergetto
- Banditti – Outlaws, a criminal mob
The play's treatment of the subject of incest made it one of the most controversial works in English literature. The play was entirely omitted from an 1831 collection of Ford's plays; its title has often been changed to something euphemistic such as Giovanni and Annabella or 'Tis Pity or The Brother and Sister. Until well into the twentieth century, critics were usually harsh in their condemnations. The subject matter offended them, as did Ford's failure to condemn his protagonist. Critic Mark Stavig wrote, "Instead of stressing the villainy, Ford portrays Giovanni as a talented, virtuous, and noble man who is overcome by a tumultuous passion that brings about his destruction".
Adolphus William Ward said: ’Tis Pity she’s a Whore has been justly recognized as a tragedy of extraordinary power.
Since the mid-twentieth century, scholars and critics have shown more appreciation of the complexities and ambiguities of the work, though the treatment of the main subject remains "unsettling", in the words of Michael Billington, reviewing the 2014 production for The Guardian, because Ford refuses "to either condone or condemn incest: he simply presents it as an unstoppable force."
- The play was revived early in the Restoration era; Samuel Pepys saw a 1661 performance at the Salisbury Court Theatre. In 1894, the play was translated into French by Maurice Maeterlinck and produced under the title Annabella at the Théâtre de l'Œuvre.
- The play was not seen again in Britain until 1923, in a production by the Phoenix Society at the original Shaftesbury Theatre, and thereafter it was performed by the Arts Theatre Club (1934) and in two productions by Donald Wolfit in 1940 (Cambridge) and 1941 (The Strand Theatre).
- In 2011, Jonathan Munby directed a "Tarantino-esque" production of the play set in 1960s Italy, staged at the West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds from 7 to 28 May. Featuring an image of Christ and the Virgin Mary, the publicity poster for the play caused controversy before it even opened, and was replaced after a letter of complaint from the Roman Catholic Bishop of Leeds. In the lead roles, Damien Molony as Giovanni and Sarah Vickers as Annabella received praise for their performances.
- Between 2011–2014, theatre company Cheek by Jowl staged the play, directed by Declan Donnellan and designed by Nick Ormerod. The production toured to Brooklyn Academy of Music in New York and the Barbican Centre in London, amongst others. The production was revived with different casts in 2012 and 2014. In 2011–2012, Lydia Wilson played Annabella, and the role was played by Gina Bramhill in 2012–2013 and Eve Ponsonby in 2014.
- Michael Longhurst directed a production of the play in 2014 at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, part of the Globe Theatre, making use of period costumes and Jacobean musical instruments, as well as candlelight.
- Dommage qu'elle soit une p... (1961), French adaptation by director Luchino Visconti, performed at the Théâtre de Paris with Romy Schneider (Annabella) and Alain Delon (Giovanni).
- My Sister, My Love (Syskonbädd 1782) (1966), film adaptation by director Vilgot Sjöman, starring Bibi Andersson and Per Oscarsson
- 'Tis Pity She's a Whore (Addio fratello crudele) (1971), film adaptation by director Giuseppe Patroni Griffi, starring Charlotte Rampling and Oliver Tobias
- Filmed for BBC Two by director Roland Joffé under its original title, and transmitted on 7 May 1980. Production starred Kenneth Cranham (as Giovanni) and Cherie Lunghi (as Annabella), and used an unedited text while transferring the setting visually to eighteenth century England.
- A BBC Radio 3 adaptation featuring Jessie Buckley as Annabella and Damien Molony as Giovanni was adapted and directed by Pauline Harris and first broadcast on 7 January 2018.
- Schade, dass sie eine Hure war, German opera adaptation by Kerstin Maria Pöhler (libretto) and Anno Schreier (composer), world premiere on February 16, 2019, Opernhaus Düsseldorf
A song with almost the same name, "'Tis a Pity She Was a Whore", is featured on David Bowie's final studio album Blackstar (2016). "Sue (Or in a Season of Crime)", from the same album, loosely recounts the play's events from Annabella's decision to marry Soranzo to Giovanni's reception of her note written in blood.
- Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica. 10 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 641–643..
- Terence P. Logan and Denzell S. Smith, The Later Jacobean and Caroline Dramatists, Lincoln, Nebraska, University of Nebraska Press, 1978; p. 141.
- John Ford (2014) . Martin Wiggins (ed.). 'Tis Pity She's a Whore. Bloomsbury. p. 44. ISBN 9781408144312.
... rather than three as in modern Italian
- White 2012, p. 12
- White, Martin (2012). Ford: 'Tis Pity She's a Whore. Palgrave Macmillan. p. 20. ISBN 9781137006073. Retrieved 1 March 2016.
- Logan and Smith, p. 127.
- Mark Stavig, John Ford and the Traditional Moral Order, Madison, WI, University of Wisconsin Press, 1968; p. 95.
- Logan and Smith, pp. 128–9
- Billington, Michael (29 October 2014). "'Tis Pity She's a Whore review – naked passion illuminated by candlelight". The Guardian.
- Simon Baker (ed.), 'Tis Pity She's a Whore (Routledge, 1997), p. 15.
- "'Tis Pity She's A Whore". The Guardian.
- "Theatre relents after bishop's complaint over poster for 'Tis Pity She's a Whore". Yorkshire Post.
- "Playhouse poster replaced after Leeds diocese criticism". BBC News.
- "Tis Pity She's a Whore Leeds". Whats On Stage.
- "'Tis Pity She's a Whore, West Yorkshire Playhouse/The Lady in the Van, Hull Truck theatre, review". The Telegraph.
- "Cheek by Jowl Website: Previous Productions". cheekbyjowl.com. London: Cheek by Jowl Theatre Company. Retrieved 25 October 2017.
- "Sam Wanamaker Playhouse: 'Tis Pity She's a Whore". shakespearesglobe.com. Shakespeare's Globe. 2014. Archived from the original on 16 January 2015. Retrieved 12 December 2014.
- "'Tis Pity She's a Whore". BBC Genome. 7 May 1980. Retrieved 9 February 2017.
- "Drama On 3: Tis Pity She's a Whore". Retrieved 7 January 2018.
- "Revue der Opern-Parodien" by Regine Müller, Rheinische Post, 17 February 2019 (in German); Production details, Deutsche Oper am Rhein
- Vernon Gras and Marguerite Gras (eds.), Peter Greenaway: Interviews, Jackson, Mississippi, University Press of Mississippi, 2000; p. 69
- Addio, fratello crudele (1971) on IMDb – Giuseppe Patroni Griffi's 1971 feature film based upon the play
- Toch zonde dat 't een hoer is (1978) on IMDb (TV, BRT)
- 'Tis Pity She's a Whore (1980) on IMDb (TV, BBC)
- Full text, University of Adelaide Library
- Scanned text, HathiTrust Digital Library
- List of performances (incomplete)
- Timeline, characters, production history, synopsis, critical perspectives, Red Bull Theatre New York
- CurtainUp Review of 'Tis Pity – review of a modern performance by the Friendly Fire Theatre
- Reviews of the 1980 New Theatre production, directed by Declan Donnellan
'Tis Pity She's a Whore public domain audiobook at LibriVox