Critique

Elizabethan dramatist Thomas Dekker was an extremely prolific writer, working often in collaboration with other playwrights. From a passage in Henslowe’s diary, it is known that Middleton had a hand in Part One of this play; but scholars are uncertain as to the precise amount that he contributed. The main plot, as will be seen, has a strangely inverted resemblance to that of ROMEO AND JULIET, while the subplot, although the scene is laid in Milan, gives a realistic glimpse of London shop life of that time. Both plots are, by modern standards, exaggerated and improbable. Lamb found the play “offensively crowded” with diatribes against the harlot’s profession; the reader of today, however, will not be shocked. Rather, unless he is a specialist in Elizabethan drama, he is likely to be bogged down in the plot complications, and he will hardly agree with Hazlitt that the “contrivance” of the main plot is “affecting and romantic.”

Critique

Part One of THE HONEST WHORE must have been successful on the stage, for Dekker very quickly followed it with a sequel, written entirely by himself. He was obviously endeavoring to capitalize on features of the first play, since in the second part he used all the principal characters save one and continued the subplot of the patient Candido. He ended with a scene in Bridewell, a London prison of his time, to balance the Bethlem Scene in Part One. He also continued the high moral tone of the earlier play, this time, however, making gambling as well as prostitution the object of his strictures. The new character of Friscobaldo, the outwardly stern yet inwardly forgiving father, was extravagantly admired by Hazlitt, and both he and Ernest Rhys considered Part Two superior to Part One. The modern reader will perhaps find that some of the freshness of Part One has worn off and feel that Dekker tried to carry a good thing a bit too far.

The Honest Whore, Parts I and II

Characters Discussed

Part I, 1604

Bellafront

Bellafront (BEHL-eh-fruhnt), a beautiful prostitute who yearns from the start to find one man to whom she can be true. She falls in love with Hippolito and woos him, but he is an unattainable nobleman. He does, however, prevent her from committing suicide and persuades her to reform. Having renounced her trade, she marries Matheo. In the course of the play, Bellafront becomes a symbol of marital constancy and chastity, able to maintain her resolve even in the face of poverty and other temptations.

Count Hippolito

Count Hippolito (ee-POH-lee-toh), who is in mourning over the apparent death of his devoted Infelice, whose father simply had given her a sleeping potion to forestall the marriage. Nobly born Hippolito is held in high esteem by his putative father-in-law but is unsuitable because he belongs to a rival family. A malcontented Hippolito announces eternal devotion to his late fiancée and vows to renounce forever the company of women. His tirade against prostitution convinces Bellafront to renounce her trade and initiates the reconciliation with her estranged father.

Gasparo Trebazi

Gasparo Trebazi (GAHS-pah-roh treh-BAH-tsee), the duke of Milan, who is led by a feud to oppose a marriage between his daughter Infelice and Hippolito. The duke tells Infelice that Hippolito has died, sends her into exile, and plots to poison the suitor, despite his high regard for him. After the doctor falsely reports Hippolito’s death, the duke is beset by conflicting emotions, rues his decision, and banishes the doctor. The young couple outwits him, however, and ultimately the duke must accept Hippolito as his son-in-law.

Candido

Candido (

(The entire section is 807 words.)