Summary

Download PDF Print Page Citation Share Link

Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1220

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.

Illustration of PDF document

Download The Honest Whore, Parts I and II Study Guide

Subscribe Now

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 locked up his formal gown, so that, when he was summoned to a meeting of the city Senate, he lacked the proper clothes to wear. But the imperturbable Candido fashioned a gown out of a tablecloth. Wearing this and with a nightcap on his head, he went to the meeting.

Meanwhile Bellafront, chastened by her love for Hippolito, had resolved to give up her shameless life, and so had turned all the gallants out of her house. Her first seducer had been Matheo, who ironically told her that an honest whore is an impossibility. Still determined to win Hippolito’s love, Bellafront gained entrance to his house in the disguise of a page. There she found the count gazing at a picture of the supposedly dead Infelice. When Bellafront revealed her identity, he rudely repulsed her again, and she resolved to leave Milan. As she left the house, Hippolito received a note from the duke’s physician asking for an interview.

During these events, the drubbed Fustigo had hired two bullies to take revenge upon Candido’s apprentices. Viola had ordered one apprentice to dress in his master’s clothes, but again Candido, who returned still wearing the tablecloth, refused to take offense and merely changed his own clothes for those of an apprentice. Just as his wife was declaring him insane, the two bullies entered; seeing Candido in the distinctive garb of an apprentice, they started to beat the poor old man. Again the faithful apprentices came to the rescue, but Candido would not let them hurt his assailants. However, Viola entered with two officers and, under the pretext that Candido was mad, had him bound and carried off to Bethlem Monastery—that is, to the London insane asylum. He meekly submitted.

In the meantime the physician informed Duke Gasparo that he had poisoned Hippolito, but he also warned his master that, having done this deed for gold, he might well be hired to poison the duke. Duke Gasparo instantly banished him with the curt statement that rulers often hate the man by whom their plots are carried out. As soon as he was alone the doctor revealed the true situation: he had not poisoned Count Hippolito. He also informed the count of Infelice’s feigned death and promised to bring the lovers together in the chapel of Bethlem Monastery, where they could be married.

Viola, beginning to feel that she had gone too far in her efforts to vex her husband, had repaired to Duke Gasparo’s palace to seek a warrant releasing Candido from the madhouse. Unfortunately, just as the duke was about to sign the order for the linen-draper’s release, a courier brought the news that Hippolito was not dead and that he and Infelice were to meet at the monastery that afternoon for their marriage. Matheo had carelessly revealed the secret. In a desperate attempt to foil the lovers, Duke Gasparo and his courtiers rode in disguise to the monastery, leaving Viola’s warrant unsigned.

Hippolito and Infelice had already arrived at the monastery and were planning to be married that evening. When Matheo arrived with the news that the duke had learned of their intention and was on his way to prevent the wedding, the friar who was to marry them promised to perform the ceremony and to get them out of the building disguised as monks. They were hurried out of sight just as the duke and his followers arrived. The situation became one of great confusion. Bellafront entered, having come to the monastery earlier in the day under pretext of madness. The disguised lovers also came into the room where the duke was, as did Viola, her servant, and Candido. When the various disguises had been thrown off, the duke suddenly relented, forgave Infelice and Hippolito, permitted their marriage, and gave justice to Bellafront by marrying her to Matheo, the man who had first seduced her. Even Viola knelt to ask Candido’s forgiveness for the vexations that she had subjected him to. Patient to the end, he forgave her and then delivered to the assembly a long harangue on patience as the greatest of all virtues.

Unlock This Study Guide Now

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-hour free trial
Next

Critical Essays

Explore Study Guides