'Tis Pity She's a Whore

by

John Ford

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on 'Tis Pity She's a Whore can help.

'Tis Pity She's a Whore: Act 1, Scene 2 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The second scene opens on Grimaldi and Vasquez in front of Florio’s house. Vasquez has his sword drawn, challenging Grimaldi to fight him. Grimaldi taunts Vasquez, saying that Vasquez is unequal to him because Vasquez is only a servant, while Grimaldi is a Roman soldier. Vasquez retorts that even a servant could beat Grimaldi. They continue to mock each other until Grimaldi draws his sword. They fight, and Vasquez begins to beat Grimaldi.
The second scene is the first of many acts of violence that will ensue. Swords are often used as a euphemism for male genitalia in this literary era, a device that links masculine desire, violence, and destruction.
Themes
Passion, Lust, and Bloodlust Theme Icon
Florio, Donado, and Soranzo come upon Grimaldi and Vasquez as they fight. Florio asks for an explanation as to why they’re fighting and scolds Grimaldi for fighting so close to his home. Donado concurs and adds that Vasquez starts these quarrels far too often.
Florio and Donado’s scolding of the quarrelers demonstrates that they are uninterested in the violence and bloodlust. Throughout the play, these two men are also the least interested in lust, demonstrating how closely connected those two passions are in this play.
Themes
Passion, Lust, and Bloodlust Theme Icon
Florio asks what the cause of the argument is as Annabella and Puttana enter on the balcony of the house, unseen. Soranzo chimes in that he asked Vasquez to challenge Grimaldi because he and Grimaldi are rivals for Annabella’s love, and Grimaldi has made disparaging comments about Soranzo to him. Soranzo explains that he did not want to stoop to Grimaldi’s level and challenge him himself, and so he sent Vasquez in his place. Grimaldi says he will remember this show of disrespect and be avenged. He exits.
The explanation for the fight again links lust and bloodlust, as the duel occurs because of Soranzo and Grimaldi’s rivalry over Annabella’s love. This is made even more explicit by the fact that Annabella is in view of the audience during this portion of the scene.
Themes
Passion, Lust, and Bloodlust Theme Icon
Injustice Theme Icon
Florio questions Soranzo’s actions, stating that Soranzo already has Annabella’s heart and so he should not worry about what Grimaldi says about him. He says it is natural for losers to complain. Vasquez states that Grimaldi’s words were so villainous that they would make even a gentle person angry. Florio tells him to be quiet and put away his sword, and that he would not want anyone’s blood to be spilt over the love of his daughter. Florio, Donado, Soranzo, and Vasquez exit.
As the tensions from the fight subside, the fact that Florio declares that he doesn’t want any blood to be spilt over Annabella’s love may not be an instance of explicit foreshadowing, but it certainly comes to seem ironic, as Annabella proves to be the reason behind most of the deaths in the play.
Themes
Passion, Lust, and Bloodlust Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Get the entire 'Tis Pity She's a Whore LitChart as a printable PDF.
'Tis Pity She's a Whore PDF
Annabella and Puttana, meanwhile, have been listening in on the conversation from the balcony. Puttana asks Annabella how she likes these men fighting over her. Annabella admits she doesn’t care for it much, and that she’s thinking about other things. She asks Puttana to leave her to her thoughts, but Puttana instead marvels about how many choices of suitors she has.
Society’s skewed expectations about female sexuality are on full display during this scene. Annabella is passive in her relationships with all these characters, allowing the men to initiate their pursuits of her even though Florio reveals that he is leaving the matter of Annabella’s marriage up to her.
Themes
Desire vs. Duty Theme Icon
Female Sexuality vs. Social Expectation Theme Icon
Puttana describes Annabella’s potential suitors. There’s Grimaldi, the well-built soldier, whom Puttana does not like because she says that soldiers often have hidden disfigurements, and Grimaldi also bows too submissively (with a pun on being sexually inadequate). She says she prefers Soranzo because he is wise, rich, a nobleman, handsome, healthy, generous, loving, and sexually capable (she notes that he took the widow Hippolita as a mistress when her husband was still alive). Annabella blushes at this long list and asks Puttana if she’s been drinking.
While Annabella takes on the traditional role of passive femininity and doesn’t care for the rivalries between her suitors, Puttana is encouraging of Annabella’s desire, a trait for which she is later severely punished. This is the first mention of Hippolita, who is also punished for her excessive passion—both her own desire for Soranzo and her plot for revenge against him.
Themes
Passion, Lust, and Bloodlust Theme Icon
Female Sexuality vs. Social Expectation Theme Icon
Bergetto and Poggio enter below. Puttana reveals that Bergetto is another one of Annabella’s suitors, and remarks that he is an “ape in a silken coat.” Bergetto tells Poggio that he would never spoil his clothes and leave his dinner for a fight, unlike the other men who rushed out to stop the earlier fight. Bergetto comments how there never was an older brother who was a fool. When Poggio qualifies this statement, Bergetto is upset and says he needs to buy some wit. However, Bergetto says he has another purchase in mind: Annabella. He says he only has to wash his face and change his socks. He then puts on an exaggerated walk. As the two exit, Poggio comments that he’s seen a better trot from a donkey.
Bergetto and Poggio are the comic relief of the play. Their engagement with idiotic diversions makes them laughing stocks to the other characters. But Bergetto’s relationship to Annabella also recalls older marriage transactions, in which the suitor with the most wealth would win the approval of a father. In this way, wealth becomes idolized over all else, and literally gives men control over women.
Themes
Religious Piety vs. False Idols Theme Icon
Female Sexuality vs. Social Expectation Theme Icon
Annabella and Puttana remark on how idiotic Bergetto is. Puttana tells her that Bergetto’s uncle, Donado, means to make Bergetto a golden calf to her in the hopes that Annabella will fall down in love to Bergetto. Puttana goes on to say that she hopes she has taught Annabella better than to fall for Bergetto, and that because she is wealthy, she is free to make any choice she wishes.
Puttana’s reference to the Biblical golden calf demonstrates how earthy possessions and idols can take the place of religion. In Donado’s eyes, wealth makes Bergetto worthy of worship as a husband, but Annabella is freed from this way of thinking because her father is wealthy in his own right and she doesn’t have to choose the person she loves based on wealth.
Themes
Religious Piety vs. False Idols Theme Icon
Female Sexuality vs. Social Expectation Theme Icon
Related Quotes
At that moment, Giovanni enters below. Annabella, who cannot fully make out who it is, says that the man who has entered is like a “celestial creature.” She wonders who it is, and comments on how he looks quite sad. Puttana sees that it is her brother. Annabella is surprised, then worried that he looks so downtrodden and seems to be crying. She tells Puttana that they should go down to see him and find out what’s wrong.
While Annabella is indifferent to her other suitors, this scene shows early hints of the love she feels for her brother, though initially she remains safely within the bounds of sisterly duty in her expressions of affection. Unlike Giovanni’s impassioned statements, Annabella’s are much more muted, highlighting the difference between the free expression of male love and lust and the tempered desire society expects of women.
Themes
Desire vs. Duty Theme Icon
Female Sexuality vs. Social Expectation Theme Icon
Giovanni, meanwhile, is crying about how he seems unable to rid himself of the love he feels. He wishes that instead of worrying about his sins, he could make the love he feels for Annabella a god and worship that god instead. He soliloquizes that he must tell Annabella how much he loves her.
Coming on the heels of Puttana’s reference to the golden calf, Giovanni’s idolization of Annabella demonstrates another step in his morale decline.
Themes
Desire vs. Duty Theme Icon
Religious Piety vs. False Idols Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Annabella and Puttana reenter, and Annabella asks Giovanni if he will tell her what is wrong. They dismiss Puttana and Giovanni asks Annabella to take his hand and walk with him. He tells her that he is sick and worries that it will cost him his life. He compliments her on her beauty, comparing her to Juno and other gods. Annabella asks if he’s mocking her, because his words are so hyperbolic. He assures her that he is not teasing her.
The stark contrast between society’s expectations surrounding male and female sexuality is again on display here. Giovanni initiates both their physical contact and the flirtation between them, while Annabella remains passive. Giovanni underscores his growing distance from God as he compares Annabella to Roman goddesses.
Themes
Desire vs. Duty Theme Icon
Religious Piety vs. False Idols Theme Icon
Female Sexuality vs. Social Expectation Theme Icon
Giovanni offers Annabella his dagger and asks her to stab him to see what is in his heart. She asks if he is serious; Giovanni says that he is and confesses to her how much he loves her. He declares that she must love him in return, or else he must die. Annabella admits that she worried that this was the case, and if it’s true, it would be better if she were dead because they are siblings.
The use of the dagger creates a link between Giovanni’s sexuality and the violence that will eventually befall the pair. While Giovanni bears his love quite plainly, Annabella is still hesitant because of the expectations that society places on her not to have sex outside of marriage—and of course she is unable to marry Giovanni, her brother.
Themes
Passion, Lust, and Bloodlust Theme Icon
Desire vs. Duty Theme Icon
Female Sexuality vs. Social Expectation Theme Icon
Giovanni tries to quell Annabella’s fears, arguing that it makes sense for siblings to love each other because nearness in blood necessitates a nearness in affection. He also reasons that the church says that he may love her. He asks whether he should live (with her love) or die. She tells him he should live, confessing that she loves him just as much, but that she had suppressed her feelings because of the social taboos on incest. They each vow to love each other—or, if one of them stops loving the other, to kill each other. They kiss several times and exit together to “kiss and sleep.”
Giovanni’s logic demonstrates how quickly he has fallen from virtue, and also how easily religion can be appropriated to suit almost any purpose. He attempts to use religious teachings and seemingly lies about what the Friar has told him to justify sinful behavior. Annabella is not as easily swayed from religious and moral duties, but ultimately both characters are ruled by their lust. Their promise to kill each other if they cannot love each other only adds to the destructive force of this passion.
Themes
Passion, Lust, and Bloodlust Theme Icon
Desire vs. Duty Theme Icon
Religious Piety vs. False Idols Theme Icon
Related Quotes