The Honest Whore, Parts I and II Summary

Summary (Critical Survey of Literature, Revised Edition)

In Milan, at the funeral of Infelice, daughter of Duke Gasparo, Count Hippolito refused to be restrained by his friend Matheo. Frantic with grief over the death of his beloved, he accused her father of having killed her. After a violent altercation between the two noblemen, the hearse was borne off. In Milan, also, Viola’s brother, Fustigo, had returned from sea, to find his sister married to Candido, a linen-draper, and unhappy because her husband was such a model of patience and good temper. In order to make Candido angry, Viola proposed to Fustigo—whom Candido had never seen—that he pretend to be her lover, and this plan was agreed upon.

In the meantime, at the ducal palace, it was revealed that Infelice’s death was only a trick produced by a sleeping-potion administered at her father’s command. Duke Gasparo admitted that Hippolito was a noble youth whom he would have welcomed as a son-in-law had it not been for a feud between the two families; he had, however, devised the stratagem of her supposed death to break up the love affair between her and the young count. When Infelice awoke, her father told her that Hippolito was dead. He then ordered her to go to Bergamo in order that she might recover from her grief. After she had gone, the duke’s physician offered to poison Hippolito and thus relieve the duke’s mind forever of the fear of a reunion of the lovers. To this plan the cold-blooded duke assented.

Meanwhile a merry group of Milanese gallants, planning a trick to try the famous patience of Candido, went to his shop and examined his wares, particularly a bolt of lawn at eighteen shillings the yard. When asked the length desired, one of them ordered only a pennyworth and insisted that it be cut from the middle of the piece, thereby ruining the entire bolt. To this fantastic order Candido acceded, to the fury of his wife. But the unruffled Candido served the gallants with wine and even remained calm when one of them walked off with a silver-gilt beaker. He quietly sent for the constable, got his goblet returned, and then invited the gentlemen to dinner.

After the dinner the gentlemen went to the house of a harlot named Bellafront, where they were joined by Hippolito and Matheo. Count Hippolito had never visited the house before and, still in a melancholy mood, he left after a few moments. When he returned to fetch Matheo, he found all the gentlemen gone and Bellafront alone. She immediately fell in love with him, but all she got in return was a long diatribe on the evils of prostitution. Repulsed, she tried to stab herself but was prevented by Hippolito, whose love she vowed to win at any cost.

The attempts to break the patience of Candido continued, as Fustigo put into execution the plan of pretending to be Viola’s lover. But the trick miscarried: Candido refused to be offended by his wife’s behavior. His loyal apprentices, not knowing the true situation, gave Fustigo a thorough drubbing. Next, the baffled Viola...

(The entire section is 1220 words.)

The Honest Whore, Parts I and II Summary (Critical Survey of Literature, Revised Edition)

One day Bellafront, a former prostitute now married to Matheo, the former friend of Count Hippolito, arrived at that nobleman’s house with a petition. Her husband had killed a man, but it was in fair fight and the man a notorious villain. Still, Matheo has been condemned to death. Hippolito, who was about to ride out with his wife Infelice, stayed behind to hear the petition. He took the opportunity to remind Bellafront of their old relationship and promised to help Matheo to a pardon and, if possible, to reconcile her with her unforgiving father. But it was significant that Count Hippolito showed much more interest in Bellafront than she in him.

Meanwhile, at the palace of Duke Gasparo, father of Infelice, the courtiers were talking of the marriage of Candido, an old linen-draper still famous in Milan for his patience. Viola had died, and, to the mystification of the gallants, Candido was marrying a young girl. Just as they had decided to attend the wedding feast, Hippolito entered, followed shortly by Orlando Friscobaldo, Bellafront’s estranged father. Their meeting gave Hippolito an opportunity to ask the old man about his daughter. Friscobaldo declared that he had not seen her for seventeen years, that her disgrace had been so great that he no longer considered her his child. But when Hippolito had left, with the parting remark that Bellafront was in dire poverty, the father relented and resolved to rescue his daughter. To this end, he put on the livery of a servant and, thus disguised, went to find his offspring.

At the same time, the wedding of the widowed Candido was taking place, attended by some of the gallants of the city who wished to see what sort of bride the old man had chosen. The first impression was unfavorable: when the bride was handed the wedding goblet, she broke the glass and refused to drink. Candido was as patient as ever, but he did consent to allow a nobleman to disguise himself as an apprentice so that the disguised man might try to cure the bride of her peevishness. The courtiers did not wish to see Candido saddled with another shrew.

Thanks to Hippolito, Matheo had been released from prison and had, somewhat unconvincingly, promised his wife to reform and give up gambling. When Friscobaldo arrived, disguised as a servant, he pretended to be an old family retainer discharged by Bellafront’s father. He asked Matheo for a place in his household and insisted on turning over to the latter, for safe-keeping, what he claimed to be his life’s savings: twenty pounds. His offer was enthusiastically accepted by Matheo, who took the opportunity to abuse his father-in-law. The outburst was interrupted by the arrival of Hippolito, come ostensibly to congratulate Matheo but in reality to pursue his wooing of Bellafront. He had already sent her gifts; he now left her a purse. To the delight of her disguised father—who was to convey the purse—she rejected all the gifts and resolved to remain honest.

Meanwhile, a rather labored trick was being played at Candido’s shop. The nobleman, disguised as an apprentice, arrived as if looking for work. The bride refused to prepare a room for him, whereupon Candido took the...

(The entire section is 1302 words.)