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Theatre / 'Tis Pity She's a Whore

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Written in 1633, 'Tis Pity She's A Whore is a Jacobean tragedy by John Ford (a different John Ford) set in Parma, Italy. The play is centered on the relationship between brother and sister Giovanni and Annabella, and explores the social ramifications of incest. Several sub-plots are woven into the story that involve Anabella's other suitors, an assassination attempt, and an unexpected return from the dead.
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This show provides examples of:

  • Abhorrent Admirer: Bergetto, an idiot who believes that a traveler really owns a horse with a head where its tail should be and compliments Annabella by saying that he likes her almost as much as he likes parmesan cheese. Sometimes portrayed with Ambiguously Gay mannerisms. Contrary to the trope, however, he isn't actually interested in Annabella, only courting her at his uncle's insistence.
  • Anguished Declaration of Love: And how. Giovanni is understandably a bit nervous about confessing his love to his own sister. He goes so far as to take out his dagger and offer it to Annabella, asking her to either return his love or kill him. After initially seeming surprised and disturbed, she declares that she was already in love with him, too.
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  • Ax-Crazy: Giovanni in the final scene.
  • Brother–Sister Incest: Giovanni/Annabella—the main plot of the show.
  • Darker and Edgier: 'Tis Pity is commonly described as "like Romeo and Juliet ...but they're brother and sister." Jacobean tragedy, as a whole, tended toward bucketloads of murder, rape, torture, insanity, and, yes, incest, as playwrights tried to shock audiences who were increasingly used to disturbing themes on stage. See The Duchess of Malfi and other plays.
  • Eye Scream: Poor Putana.
  • Karma Houdini: Grimaldi is let off completely scot-free for the murder of Bergetto. Lampshaded.
    Is this a churchman's voice? Dwells justice here?
  • Love Dodecahedron: Richardetto is married to Hippolita who's in love with Soranzo who's only interested in Annabella now, who's got a thing with Giovanni.
  • Mood Whiplash: From comedic to tragic when Bergetto is murdered by Grimaldi.
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  • Nature Adores a Virgin: Discussed by Giovanni, who snarkily questions why a woman's virginity is so prized after Their First Time with Annabella. The sexual Double Standard is something of a continuous undercurrent in the show. Ford seems to be aware of the irony that Hippolita and Annabella are branded whores for engaging in extra-marital sex while their male lovers are never taken to task.
  • Servile Snarker: Vasques, particularly in the second half of the show.
  • Title Drop: The final verse of the play.
    Of one so young, so rich in nature's store
    Who could not say, 'tis pity she's a whore?
  • Woman Scorned: Hippolita recruits Vasques to help her get bloody revenge on Soranzo at his wedding to Annabella, only to be Hoist by Her Own Petard courtesy of Vasques's backstabbing. She delivers a chilling curse in her dying words.
  • You Can't Fight Fate: An opinion repeatedly expressed by Annabella and Giovanni, among others.

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