'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 2, Scene 2 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The next scene finds Soranzo in his study, reading a book of poetry by Jacopo Sannazaro. One of the poems argues that love only causes pain, unrest, and eventually animosity. Soranzo disagrees with the poem and writes his own version stating that love’s troubles cause happiness. He says that if Sannazaro had met Annabella, he would never had written that verse.
Soranzo is the last suitor of Annabella’s to whom the audience is introduced, and he seems to be the most appealing, having a good reputation (based on Florio and Puttana’s descriptions in the first act). In contrast with the other characters, he seems driven more by love than by lust at first.
Themes
Desire vs. Duty Theme Icon
Vasquez interrupts Soranzo’s poetry, upsetting him. He asks what’s wrong, and Vasquez enters with Hippolita, who is dressed in mourning. Hippolita immediately launches into a tirade, telling Soranzo how much he has wronged her. She describes how first he begged her for sex, and she pitied him. She implies that her husband died out of shame because she disgraced him, and now on top of her husband’s death, Soranzo hates her.
The seeming purity of Soranzo’s love is quickly tarnished by the introduction of Hippolita. Though he may be in love now, he has certainly given into temptation in the past. As his passions gradually overcome him, the play also tracks his downfall as he succumbs to lust and bloodlust. 
Themes
Passion, Lust, and Bloodlust Theme Icon
Related Quotes
As Soranzo tries to argue with Hippolita, she tells him not to try to talk his way out of admitting to the abuse he has done to her. She says that Annabella will rejoice at the expense of her dejection. Soranzo replies that she is “too violent,” and Hippolita once again accuses him of causing her husband’s death. She refuses to let Soranzo interject into her tirade. Vasquez tries to speak with her, saying that she is not within reason, but he doesn’t convince her to listen to Soranzo.
Soranzo’s judgement of Hippolita will later stand as an example of the hypocrisy that surrounds female sexuality and the societal expectations of chastity. Hippolita merely hurls “violent” insults when she discovers Soranzo has broken his promises, but when Soranzo discovers the same of Annabella later in the play, he becomes literally violent and threatens her with a sword.
Themes
Passion, Lust, and Bloodlust Theme Icon
Female Sexuality vs. Social Expectation Theme Icon
Hippolita continues into a monologue explaining how Soranzo had wronged her. She asks him if he did not swear that he wanted nothing more than to call Hippolita his wife and that he would marry her if her husband died. She describes how this led her to advise her husband to travel a dangerous road to Leghorn. They had heard his brother was dead and had left a daughter behind, and Hippolita asked her husband to bring his niece back from Leghorn so as not to leave her alone. He then died on the way, and Soranzo conveniently forgot his vows.
Though it is unclear whether Soranzo fell in love with Annabella before or after his affair with Hippolita, his change of heart merely makes him unfaithful, while the same change of heart in a woman like Hippolita (when she turns from her husband to Soranzo) or Annabella (later, when she proves unfaithful to her husband before her marriage) makes her a “whore.”
Themes
Female Sexuality vs. Social Expectation Theme Icon
Get the entire 'Tis Pity She's a Whore LitChart as a printable PDF.
'Tis Pity She's a Whore PDF
Soranzo argues that the vows he made to Hippolita were unlawful, and that it would be a greater sin to keep them than to break them. He tells her to look at her own sins in bringing her husband to his death even though he was a great man. Vasquez tells Soranzo that he is being unkind in not keeping his promise. Soranzo tells Vasquez he does not care and demands that Hippolita never return to his house. He exits.
Again, Ford continues to put the double standard on display. For men like Soranzo, it is easy to have a pre-marital affair and face no consequences, and apart from that they are then given license to break those pre-marital promises under the justification that they are helplessly “sinful.” Annabella does not get this chance later on in the play because she becomes pregnant.
Themes
Female Sexuality vs. Social Expectation Theme Icon
Vasquez says that Soranzo is behaving like a scoundrel. Hippolita says that she will have vengeance and begins to leave. Vasquez stops her and tells her that she does not have as much grounds for vengeance as she might think. He tells her she was too bitter and malicious, and that she came at a poor time. He tells her that if she could be milder, she might win Soranzo.
Though Vasquez also buys into the double standard, he has a more rational response than both Soranzo and Hippolita. It is Vasquez’s relatively dispassionate nature that makes him one of the most successful characters of the play and one of the only characters who survives the drama, reinforcing the play’s argument that passions can be destructive.
Themes
Passion, Lust, and Bloodlust Theme Icon
Female Sexuality vs. Social Expectation Theme Icon
Hippolita says that she no longer has an interest in Soranzo and goes on to try to flatter and seduce Vasquez with promises that he could be the master of her estate, her wealth, and herself. In return, Hippolita asks him to help execute a plot she has in mind—and to remain silent about it. Vasquez promises to help her, but he privately insinuates that Hippolita is blind to his true intentions.
Vasquez’s dispassionate nature abides even in the face of Hippolita’s offering of wealth, power, and sex. Even though Vasquez is deceptive, his rationality and logic give him power over the other characters, who are ruled by their passions.
Themes
Passion, Lust, and Bloodlust Theme Icon