’Tis Pity She’s a Whore, by John Ford



40 I have reluctantly followed the 4to, (which has no division of scenes,) and begun the fourth Act here. The reader will see, as he proceeds, the impropriety of this arrangement. After all, there is but a choice of evils; for as some time must necessarily have elapsed (two days according to Vasques) since the death of Poggio, sufficient would hardly be gained on the score of probability to justify disturbing the author’s distribution of the story; though it might be wished-that this scene had concluded the third Act.

A Room in Florio’s House. — A Banquet set out. — Hautboys.

Enter the Friar, Giovanni, Annabella, Philotis, Soranzo, Donado, Florio, Richardetto, Putana, and Vasques.

Friar. These holy rites perform’d, now take your times
To spend the remnant of the day in feast;
Such fit repasts are pleasing to the saints,
Who are your guests, though not with mortal eyes
To be beheld. — Long prosper in this day,
You happy couple, to each other’s joy!

Soranzo. Father, your prayer is heard; the hand of goodness
Hath been a shield for me against my death;
And, more to bless me, hath enrich’d my life
With this most precious jewel; such a prize
As earth hath not another like to this.
Cheer up, my love; and, gentlemen, my friends.
Rejoice with me in mirth: this day we’ll crown
With lusty cups to Annabella’s health.

Giovanni. Oh torture! were the marriage yet undone,
Ere I’d endure this sight, to see my love
Glipt by another, I would dare confusion,
And stand the horror of ten thousand deaths.

Vasques. Are you not well, sir?

Giovanni. Prithee, fellow, wait;
I need not thy officious diligence.

Florio. Signior Donado, come, you must forget
Your late mishaps, and drown your cares in wine.

Soranzo. Vasques!

Vasques. My lord.

Soranzo. Reach me that weighty bowl.
Here, brother Giovanni, here’s to you,
Your turn comes next, though now a bachelor;
Here’s to your sister’s happiness, and mine!
[Drinks, and offers him the bowl.

Giovanni. I cannot drink.

Soranzo. What!

Giovanni. ’Twill indeed offend me.

Annabella. Pray do not urge him, if he be not willing. [Hautboys.

Florio. How now! what noise is this?

Vasques. O sir, I had forgot to tell you; certain young maidens of Parma, in honour to madam Annabella’s marriage, have sent their loves to her in a Masque, for which they humbly crave your patience and silence.

Soranzo. We are much bound to them; so much the more,
As it comes unexpected: guide them in.

Enter Hippolita, followed by Ladies in white Robes with Garlands of Willows, all masked.

Music And A Dance.

Soranzo. Thanks, lovely virgins! now might we but know
To whom we have been beholding for [this] love,
We shall acknowledge it.

Hippolita. Yes, you shall know:
What think you now? [Unmasks.

Omnes. Hippolita!

Hippolita. Tis she;
Be not amaz’d; nor blush, young lovely bride,
I come not to defraud you of your man:
Tis now no time to reckon up the talk
What Parma long hath rumour’d of us both;
Let rash report run on! the breath that vents it
Will, like a bubble, break itself at last.
But now to you, sweet creature; — lend your hand —
Perhaps it hath been said, that I would claim
Some interest in Soranzo, now your lord;
What I have right to do, his soul knows best:
But in my duty to your noble worth,
Sweet Annabella, and my care of you,
.Here, take, Soranzo, take this hand from me,
I’ll once more join, what by the holy church
Is finished and allow’d. — Have I done well?

Soranzo. You have too much engaged us.

Hippolita. One thing more.
That you may know my single charity41
Freely I here remit all interest
I e’er could claim, and give you back your vows;
And to confirm’t — reach me a cup of wine —
[Vasques gives her a poisoned cup.
My lord Soranzo, in this draught I drink
Long rest t’ ye! —[she drinks]— look to it, Vasques. [Aside.

Vasques. Fear nothing —

Soranzo. Hippolita, I thank you; and will pledge
This happy union as another life.
Wine, there!

Vasques. You shall have none; neither shall you pledge her.

Hippolita. How!

Vasques. Know now, mistress she-devil, your own mischievous treachery hath kill’d you; I must not marry you.

Hippolita. Villain!

Omnes. What’s the matter?

Vasques. Foolish woman, thou art now like a firebrand, that hath kindled others and burnt thyself:— troppo sperar, inganna — thy vain hope hath deceived thee; thou art but dead; if thou hast any grace, pray.

Hippolita. Monster!

Vasques. Die in charity, for shame. — This thing of malice, this woman, hath privately corrupted me with promise of [marriage,] under this politic reconciliation, to poison my lord, whilst she might laugh at his confusion on his marriage-day. I promised her fair; but I knew what my reward should have been, and would willingly have spared her life, but that I was acquainted with the danger of her disposition; and now have fitted her a just payment in her own coin: there she is, she hath yet42 — and end thy days in peace, vile woman; as for life, there’s no hope, think not on’t.

Omnes. Wonderful justice!

Richardetto. Heaven, thou art righteous.

Hippolita. O ’tis true,
I feel my minute coming. Had that slave
Kept promise — O my torment! — thou, this hour,
Hadst dy’d, Soranzo — heat above hell-fire! —
Yet, ere I pass away — cruel, cruel flames! —
Take here my curse amongst you; may thy bed
Of marriage be a rack unto thy heart,
Burn blood, and boil in vengeance — O my heart,
My flame’s intolerable — may’st thou live
To father bastards; may her womb bring forth
Monsters — and die together in your sins,
Hated, scorn’d, and unpitied! — oh — oh — [Dies.

Florio. Was e’er so vile a creature!

Richardetto. Here’s the end
Of lust and pride.

Annabella. It is a fearful sight.

Soranzo. Vasques, I know thee now a trusty servant,
And never will forget thee. — Come, my love,
We’ll home, and thank the heavens for this escape.
Father and friends, we must break up this mirth;
It is too sad a feast.

Donado. Bear hence the body.

Friar. [Aside to Gio.] Here’s an ominous change!
Mark this, my Giovanni, and take heed! —
I fear the event; that marriage seldom’s good,
Where the bride-banquet so begins in blood.


41 My single charity.] i. e. pure, genuine, disinterested charity.

42 She hath yet.] The old copy has a considerable double break here, probably from some defect in the M.S.


A Room in Richardetto’s House.

Enter Richardetto and Philotis.

Richardetto. My wretched wife, more wretched in her shame
Than in her wrongs to me, hath paid too soon
The forfeit of her modesty and life.
And I am sure, my niece, though vengeance hover,
Keeping aloof yet from Soranzo’s fall,
Yet he will fall, and sink with his own weight.
I need not now (my heart persuades me so,)
To further his confusion; there is One
Above begins to work; for, as I hear,
Debates already ’twixt his wife and him
Thicken and run to head; she, as ’tis said,
Slightens his love, and he abandons her’s:
Much talk I hear. Since things go thus, my niece,
In tender love and pity of your youth,
My counsel is, that you should free your years
From hazard of these woes, by flying hence
To fair Cremona, there to vow your soul
In holiness, a holy votaress;
Leave me to see the end of these extremes.
All human worldly courses are uneven,
No life is blessed but the way to heaven.

Philotis. Uncle, shall I resolve to be a nun?

Richardetto. Ay, gentle niece; and in your hourly prayers
Remember me, your poor unhappy uncle.
Hie to Cremona now, as fortune leads,
Your home your cloister, your best friends your beads;
Your chaste and single life shall crown your birth,
Who dies a virgin, lives a saint on earth.

Philotis. Then farewell, world, and worldly thoughts, adieu!
Welcome, chaste vows, myself I yield to you.


43 Scene II.] As the play is now divided, this conversation takes place on the way home from the marriage-feast, or immediately after it; and, in either case, before Richardetto could have heard a word of what he informs his niece —

Debates already ’twixt his wife and him

Thicken and run to head; she, as ’tis said,

Slightens his love, and he abandons hers:

Much talk I hear.]

Enough, and more than enough of improbability would perhaps remain, were even the arrangement recommended in a former page to take place; but the most glaring part ot it would certainly be removed or weakened by the change.


A Chamber in Soranzo’s House.

Enter Soranzo unbraced, and dragging in Annabella.

Soranzo. Come, strumpet, famous whore! were every drop
Of blood that runs in thy adulterous veins
A life, this sword (dost see’t?) should in one blow
Confound them all. Harlot, rare, notable harlot,
That with thy brazen face maintain’st thy sin,
Was there no man in Parma to be bawd
To your loose cunning whoredom else but I?
Must your hot itch and pleurisy of lust,
The heyday of your luxury,44 be fed
Up to a surfeit, and could none but I
Be pick’d out to be cloak to your close tricks,
Your belly-sports? — Now I must be the dad
To all that gallimaufry that is stuff’d
In thy corrupted bastard-bearing womb! —
Why, must I?45

Annabella. Beastly man! Why? —’tis thy fate.
I sued not to thee; for, but that I thought
Your over-loving lordship would have run
Mad on denial, had you lent me time,
I would have told you in what case I was:
But you would needs be doing.

Soranzo. Whore of whores!
Darest thou tell me this?

Annabella. O yes; why not?
You were deceived in me; ’twas not for love
I chose you, but for honour; yet know this,
Would you be patient yet, and hide your shame,
I’d see whether I could love you.

Soranzo. Excellent quean!
Why, art thou not with child?

Annabella. What needs all this,
When ’tis superfluous? I confess I am.

Soranzo. Tell me by whom.

Annabella. Soft,46 ’twas not in my bargain.
Yet somewhat, sir, to stay your longing stomach
I am content t’ acquaint you with; The man,
The more than man, that got this sprightly boy —
(For ’tis a boy, [and] therefore glory, sir,47
Your heir shall be a son)—

Soranzo. Damnable monster!

Annabella. Nay, an you will not hear, I’ll speak no more.

Soranzo. Yes speak, and speak thy last.

Annabella. A match, a match!
This noble creature was in every part
So angel-like, so glorious, that a woman,
Who had not been but human, as was I,
Would have kneel’d to him, and have begg’d for love. —
You! why you are not worthy once to name
His name without true worship, or, indeed,
Unless you kneel’d, to hear another name him.

Soranzo. What was he call’d?

Annabella. We are not come to that;
Let it suffice, that you shall have the glory
To father what so brave a father got.
In brief, had not this chance fall’n out ’as it doth,
I never had been troubled with a thought
That you had been a creature; — but for marriage,
I scarce dream yet of that.

Soranzo. Tell me his name.

Annabella. Alas, alas, there’s all! will you believe?

Soranzo. What?

Annabella. You shall never know.

Soranzo. How!

Annabella. Never; if
You do, let me curs’d.

Soranzo. Not know it, strumpet! I’ll rip up thy heart,
And find it there.

Annabella. Do, do.

Soranzo. And with my teeth,
Tear the prodigious letcher joint by joint.

Annabella. Ha, ha, ha! the man’s merry.

Soranzo. Dost thou laugh?
Come, whore, tell me your lover, or by truth
I’ll hew thy flesh to shreds; who is’t?

Annabella. Che morte pin dolce che morirepcr amore? [Sings.

Soranzo. Thus will I pull thy hair, and thus I’ll drag
Thy lust be-leper’d body through the dust — [Hales her up and down.
Yet tell his name.

Annabella. Morendo in grazia dee morire senza dolore.48 [Sings.

Soranzo. Dost thou triumph? the treasure of the earth
Shall not redeem thee; were there kneeling kings
Did beg thy life, or angels did come down
To plead in tears, yet should not all prevail
Against my rage: dost thou not tremble yet?

Annabella. At what? to die! no, be a gallant hangman;
I dare thee to the worst: strike, and strike home;
I leave revenge behind, and thou shalt feel it.

Soranzo. Yet tell me ere thou diest, and tell me truly,
Knows thy old father this?

Annabella. No, by my life.

Soranzo. Wilt thou confess, and I will spare thy life?

Annabella. My life! I will not buy my life so dear.

Soranzo. I will not slack my vengeance. [Draws his sword.

Enter Vasques.

Vasques. What do you mean, sir?

Soranzo. Forbear, Vasques; such a damned whore Deserves no pity.

Vasques. Now the gods forefend! And would you be her executioner, and kill her in your rage too? O ’twere most unmanlike; she is your wife, what faults have been done by her before she married you, were not against you: alas! poor lady, what hath she committed, which any lady in Italy in the like case would not? sir, you must be ruled by your reason, and not by your fury; that were inhuman and beastly.

Soranzo. She shall not live.

Vasques. Come, she must: you would have her confess the authors of her present misfortunes, I warrant you; ’tis an unconscionable demand, and she should lose the estimation that I, for my part, hold of her worth, if she had done it: why, sir, you ought not, of all men living, to know it. Good sir, be reconciled; alas, good gentlewoman!

Annabella. Pish, do not beg for me, I prize my life
As nothing; if the man will needs be mad,
Why let him take it.

Soranzo. Vasques, hear’st thou this?

Vasques. Yes, and commend her for it;49 in this she shews the nobleness of a gallant spirit, and be — shrew my heart, but it becomes her rarely. — [Aside to Sor.] — Sir, in any case smother your revenge; leave the scenting out your wrongs to me; be ruled, as you respect your honour, or you marr all. —[Aloud.]— Sir, if ever my service were of any credit with you, be not so violent in your distractions: you are married now; what a triumph might the report of this give to other neglected suitors! ’tis as manlike to bear extremities, as godlike to forgive.

Soranzo. O Vasques, Vasques, in this piece of flesh,
This faithless face of hers, had I laid up
The treasure of my heart. Hadst thou been virtuous,
Fair, wicked woman, not the matchless joys
Of life itself, had made me wish to live
With any saint but thee: deceitful creature,
How hast thou mock’d my hopes, and in the shame
Of thy lewd womb even buried me alive!
I did too dearly love thee.

Vasques. This is well; follow this temper with some passion; be brief and moving, ’tis for the purpose. [Aside to Sor.

Soranzo. Be witness to my words thy soul and thoughts;
And tell me, didst not think that in my heart
I did too superstitiously adore thee?

Annabella. I must confess, I know you lov’d me well.

Soranzo. And would’st thou use me thus! O Annabella,
Be thou assured, whoe’er the villain was
That thus hath tempted thee to this disgrace,
Well he might lust, but never loved like me.
He doated on the picture that hung out
Upon thy cheeks, to please his humorous eye;
Not on the part I lov’d, which was thy heart,
And, as I thought, thy virtues.

Annabella. O, my lord!
These words wound deeper than your sword could do.

Vasques. Let me not ever take comfort, but I begin to weep myself, so much I pity him; why, madam, I knew, when his rage was over-past, what it would come to.

Soranzo. Forgive me, Annabella: though thy youth
Hath tempted thee above thy strength to folly,
Yet will I not forget what I should be,
And what I am, a husband; in that name
Is hid divinity: if I do find
That thou wilt yet be true, here I remit
All former faults, and take thee to my bosom.

Vasques. By my troth, and that’s a point of noble charity.

Annabella. Sir, on my knees —

Soranzo. Rise up, you shall not kneel.
Get you to your chamber, see you make no shew
Of alteration; I’ll be with you straight:
My reason tells me now, that “’tis as common
To err in frailty as to be a woman.”
Go to your chamber. [Exit Ann.

Vasques. So! this was somewhat to the matter: what do you think of your heaven of happiness now, sir?

Soranzo. I carry hell about me, all my blood
Is fired in swift revenge.

Vasques. That may be; but know you how, or on whom? Alas! to marry a great woman, being made great in the stock to your hand, is a usual sport in these days; but to know what ferret it was50 that hunted your coney-burrow — there is the cunning.

Soranzo. I’ll make her tell herself, or —

Vasques. Or what? you must not do so; let me yet persuade your sufferance a little while: go to her, use her mildly; win her, if it be possible, to a voluntary, to a weeping tune; for the rest, if all hit, I will not miss my mark. Pray, sir, go in; the next news I tell you shall be wonders.

Soranzo. Delay in vengeance gives a heavier blow.


Vasques. Ah, sirrah, here’s work for the nonce! I had a suspicion of a bad matter in my head a pretty while ago; but after my madam’s scurvy looks here at home, her waspish perverseness, and loud fault-finding, then I remembered the proverb,that “where hens crow, and cocks hold their peace, there are sorry houses.” ’Sfoot, if the lower parts of a she-tailor’s cunning can cover such a swelling in the stomach, I’ll never blame a false stitch in a shoe whilst I live again. Up, and up so quick? and so quickly too? ’twere a fine policy to learn by whom: this must be known; and I have thought on’t —

Enter Putana, in tears.

Here’s the way, or none. — What, crying, old mistress! alas, alas, I cannot blame you; we have a lord, Heaven help us, is so mad as the devil himself, the more shame for him.

Putana. O Vasques, that ever I was born to see this day! Doth he use thee so too, sometimes, Vasques?

Vasques. Me? why he makes a dog of me; but if some were of my mind, I know what we would do. As sure as I am an honest man, he will ge near to kill my lady with unkindness: say she be with child, is that such a matter for a young woman of her years to be blamed for?

Putana. Alas, good heart, it is against her will full sore.

Vasques. I durst be sworn, all his madness is for that she will not confess whose ’tis, which he will know; and when he doth know it, I am so well acquainted with his humour, that he will forget all strait: well, I could wish she would in plain terms tell all, for that’s the way, indeed.

Putana. Do you think so?

Vasques. Foh, I know it; provided that he did not win her to it by force. He was once in a mind that you could tell, and meant to have wrung it out of you; but I somewhat pacified him from that; yet sure you know a great deal.

Putana. Heaven forgive us all! I know a little, Vasques.

Vasques. Why should you not? who else should? Upon my conscience she loves you dearly; and you would not betray her to any affliction for the world.

Putana. Not for all the world, by my faith and troth, Vasques.

Vasques. Twere pity of your life if you should; but in this you should both relieve her present discomforts, pacify my lord, and gain yourself everlasting love and preferment.

Putana. Dost think so, Vasques?

Vasques. Nay, I know it; sure it was some near and entire friend.

Putana. Twas a dear friend indeed; but —

Vasques. But what? fear not to name him; my life between you and danger: ’faith, I think it was no base fellow.

Putana. Thou wilt stand between me and harm?

Vasques. U’ds pity, what else? you shall be rewarded too, trust me.

Putana. Twas even no worse than her own brother.

Vasques. Her brother Giovanni, I warrant you!

Putana. Even he, Vasques; as brave a gentleman as ever kiss’d fair lady. O they love most perpetually.

Vasques. A brave gentleman indeed! why therein I commend her choice — better and better — [Aside.] You are sure ’twas he?

Putana. Sure; and you shall see he will not be long from her too.

Vasques. He were to blame if he would; but may I believe thee?

Putana. Believe me! why, dost think I am a Turk or a Jew? No, Vasques, I have known their dealings too long, to belie them now.

Vasques. Where are you? there, within, sirs!

Enter Banditti.51

Putana. How now, what are these?

Vasques. You shall know presently. Come, sirs, take me this old damnable hag, gag her instantly, and put out her eyes, quickly, quickly!

Putana. Vasques! Vasques!

Vasques. Gag her, I say; ’sfoot, do you suffer her to prate? what do you fumble about? let me come to her. I’ll help your old gums, you toad-bellied bitch! [they gag her.] Sirs, carry her closely into the coal-house, and put out her eyes instantly; if she roars, slit her nose; do you hear, be speedy and sure. [Exeunt Banditti with Putana.

Why this is excellent, and above expectation — her own brother! O horrible! to what a height of liberty in damnation hath the devil trained our age! her brother, well! there’s yet but a beginning; I must to my lord, and tutor him better in his points of vengeance: now I see how a smooth tale goes beyond a smooth tail; but soft — what thing comes next? Giovanni! as I could wish; my belief is strengthened, ’tis as firm as winter and summer.

Enter Giovanni.

Giovanni. Where’s my sister?

Vasques. Troubled with a new sickness, my lord; she’s somewhat ill.

Giovanni. Took too much of the flesh, I believe.

Vasques. Troth, sir, and you I think have even hit it; but my virtuous lady —

Giovanni. Where is she?

Vasques. In her chamber; please you visit her; she is alone. [Gio. gives him money.] Your liberality hath doubly made me your servant, and ever shall, ever [Exit Gio.

Re-enter Soranzo.

Sir, I am made a man; I have plied my cue with cunning and success; I beseech you let us be private.

Soranzo. My lady’s brother’s come; now he’ll know all.

Vasques. Let him know it; I have made some of them fast enough. How have you dealt with my lady?

Soranzo. Gently, as thou hast counsell’d; O my soul
Runs circular in sorrow for revenge;
But, Vasques, thou shalt know

Vasques. Nay, I will know no more, for now comes your turn to know; I would not talk so openly with you — let my young master take time enough, and go at pleasure; he is sold to death, and the devil shall not ransom him. — Sir, I beseech you, your privacy.

Soranzo. No conquest can gain glory of my fear.


44 The heyday of your luxury,] i. e. the height of your wantonness. — Reed. Luxury, about which the commentators on Shakspeare have drivelled out so much indecency, is simply, the French luxure, the old word for lust, and common to every writer of the poet’s age. Luxury, in the present sense of the word, is their luxe.

45 Why, must I?] The 4to is corrupt in this place, and reads, Shey, must I? Dodsley has corrected it into Say; but I prefer the expression in the text, as it seems borne out by Annabclla’s answer.

46 Soft, sir.] I have omitted sir, which spoils the verse, and appears to have crept in from the line immediately below it.

47 therefore glory, sir,] This is made out by Dodsley from the old copy, which reads, “For ’tis a boy that for glory, sir;” and has all the appearance of being genuine. The insulting and profligate language of this wretched woman, if not assumed, like that of Bianca in Lore’s Sacrifice, to provoke her husband to destroy her on the spot, is perfectly loathsome and detestable. Well sung the poet —

nihil est audacius illis
Deprensis: iram atque animos a crimine summit.

48 Morendo in grazia, &c.] This quotation is incorrectly given in the 4to. It has been amended into impiety, for which there is little occasion. We have already seen more than enough to prove that when a woman loses the sense of religion, (and Annabella, like her brother, is a fatalist,) modesty, self-respect, every virtuous, and every amiable feeling speedily follow.

49 This odious wretch has no variety in his bloody tricks: here is a repetition of the paltry artificehy which Hippolita was deceived; and Putuna is subsequently wrought upon much in the same manner. Vasques is fortunate in finding suet easy gulls.

50 to know what ferret it was.] This is the ingenious emendation of Dodsley. The 4to reads secret; and it may be conjectured that the substantive which probably followed it has been lost. The present reading, however, leaves nothing to regret.

51 Enter Banditti.] It may appear singular, that Vasques should have a body of assassins awaiting his call; before he had any assurance that they would be needed; the circumstance serves, however, to illustrate the savage nature of this revengeful villain.


Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:54