Themes

Download PDF Print Page Citation Share Link

Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 551

Marriage
'Tis Pity She's a Whore's action revolves around love and marriage, though for Ford, the two are not necessarily synonymous. Florio indicates that his daughter Annabella may choose any suitor she loves. He encourages her match with Soranzo, however, for financial reasons rather than emotional ones. The same seems true of Richardetto, who hopes to marry his niece Philotis to Donado's foolish but wealthy nephew Bergetto. Again, his aim is marriage not for love but for money. Ironically, the close family ties of the only two people who do seem to love each other—Giovanni and Annabella—prevent their incestuous love from being validated by society in marriage.

Illustration of PDF document

Download 'Tis Pity She's a Whore Study Guide

Subscribe Now

Love
The play presents examples of many kinds of love. First, the obviously forbidden but powerful incestuous love—which may be better described as lust—between Giovanni and Annabella. Next is the adulterous love between Soranzo and Hippolita. Richardetto does not seem like either a loving husband or caring ward for his niece. His wife Hippolita's love for Soranzo turns to murderous revenge. Her extreme passions lead to disaster, foretelling the play's ending and the destruction of Giovanni and Annabella.

The play also offers examples of love for financial reward, a kind of mercenary love. Gimaldi and Bergetto want to marry Annabella, primarily for her money. Bergetto shows the presence of bawdy love in his discussion of prostitution. Finally, Soranzo and Giovanni, among other characters, discuss the ideals of "Neoplatonic" and "Courtly Love." Their understanding of the ideals of love function ironically to elucidate their imperfect characters. Soranzo is overheard reading a courtly love sonnet, subsequently revealing that his attitudes toward love are not in the least courtly. Giovanni's disingenuous arguments in favor of consummating his incestuous relationship with his sister stem in part from Neoplatonic ideas.

Justice
As in any story of crime and punishment, law and justice figure prominently in Ford's tragedy. Complicating things here, though, is the fact that while the lovers may be wrong, no one else in their world seems right. The play offers no ethical standard or admirable role model. It is impossible not to see the irony when, at the play's end, Donado describes the tragic turn of events as "strange miracle of justice." After all, Annabella, who has repented, has been murdered. Vasques, who plotted the lovers' murder, is freed by the Cardinal, who also grants a reprieve to Grimaldi, whom he knows to be guilty of murder. The Cardinal then confiscates the lovers' property. While in the first act, the Friar says that "heaven is just,'' there appears to be little justice in the world Ford presents.

Religion
Religion in the sense of sin and ethics plays a central role in the play, though religion as spirituality seems to offer no solutions to the lovers' problems. While Bonaventura, the Friar, appears a relatively positive figure, his prayers and advice seem largely ineffectual and go unheeded by all save Annabella. Religion condemns the lovers' actions, but the Friar's advice offers little help and the actions of the other clerical figures seem overtly hypocritical—the Cardinal offers sanctuary to Grimaldi, a known murderer, and at the play's end, takes possession of the lovers' land in the name of the church. Overall, the play reveals religion not as spiritual and ethical but as worldly and corrupt.

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
Previous

Chapter Summaries

Next

Characters