Published online by Cambridge University Press: 28 November 2010
The opening of John Ford's 1633 play 'Tis Pity She's a Whore raises questions about the connections between the closeness of family ties, the private spaces of the household and the nature of tragedy. It begins with a shocking discussion between Giovanni, son of Florio, a citizen of Parma, and a Friar. Giovanni has 'unclasped [his] burdened soul' and 'Emptied the storehouse of [his] thoughts and heart' about his love, but the Friar is appalled by what he hears (1.1.13-14). The love Giovanni describes is a passionate one for his sister Annabella with whom he goes on to have a relationship that leaves her pregnant, and he tries to justify his feelings to the Friar by explaining the closeness of the relationship between a brother and a sister:
Say that we had one father, say one womb / (Curse to my joys) gave both us life and birth; / Are we not therefore each to other bound / So much the more by nature? by the links Of blood, / of reason? nay, if you will have't, / Even of religion, to be ever one, / One soul, one flesh, one love, one heart, one all?(1.1.28-34)
The Friar, not surprisingly, does not think much of Giovanni's logic, and rather than appreciating the bonds of a shared parentage as the basis for a sexual relationship, he tells Giovanni that he's damned.