'Tis Pity She's a Whore

by

John Ford

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Religious Piety vs. False Idols Theme Analysis

Themes and Colors
Passion, Lust, and Bloodlust Theme Icon
Desire vs. Duty Theme Icon
Injustice Theme Icon
Religious Piety vs. False Idols Theme Icon
Female Sexuality vs. Social Expectation Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in 'Tis Pity She's a Whore, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Religious Piety vs. False Idols Theme Icon

Christian religious beliefs are the lens through which the characters in ’Tis Pity judge their own behavior and the behavior of others. However, the moral complexity of navigating the conflict between their desires and the convoluted social and religious norms of their society means that the characters struggle to identify what is truly good in the eyes of God. Many characters fall victim to false idols and corrupted theological justifications for sin, which shows that religion—though it can be a righteous and helpful guide—can also be easily manipulated for immoral purposes.

The Friar and the Cardinal epitomize the conflict between true and false religious morality. While the Friar is genuinely moral and devoted to God, the Cardinal pretends to be deeply religious, though his primary concerns are earthly matters such as wealth. The Friar’s commitment to God ultimately leads him to leave the church, because he thinks he can best serve God by shepherding Giovanni through his precarious spiritual predicament. He advises Giovanni to always think about the pathway to heaven, no matter how painful it is to follow on earth, and the Friar’s own choices show that one does not need an institution or its associated power to lead a pious life. The Cardinal, by contrast, does not believe Grimaldi should have to suffer legal consequences for murdering Bergetto because Grimaldi has noble blood. The Cardinal shows more concern for status and power than for seeing that Grimaldi face the consequences of his actions. Despite having all the trappings and titles of a religious figure, the Cardinal does not put his professed values into practice, showing that just because someone has a religious title does not mean they are a trustworthy spokesman for God’s word.

False religion is also pitted against true religion in the arguments Giovanni and the Friar have over Giovanni’s love for Annabella. The Friar is again the voice of Christian virtue here, while Giovanni twists the Friar’s words to justify his sinful desires, creating arguments that disguise his immoral actions in the language of religion. For example, when the Friar tells Giovanni that physical beauty is a reflection of the beauty of a person’s soul, Giovanni twists these words to mean that what is beautiful is good, and therefore his love for Annabella is good since he finds her beautiful. Giovanni also claims that, since devotion to God is good, his devotion to Annabella must also be good. He refuses to acknowledge that this effectively replaces God with Annabella, improperly lifting her to the status of a god.

The creation of false idols out of the object of one’s romantic affection is only one example of false religion against which the play warns. Early in the play, Puttana warns Annabella that Donado intends to make his nephew Bergetto into a “golden calf” (a Biblical reference to a false idol made from the gold objects of the Israelites) so that she will not be able to resist his advances. By tricking Annabella into believing that Bergetto writes eloquent love letters and has great riches, Donado tries to tempt Annabella into loving him even though Bergetto is a fool and a fraud. Annabella sees through Bergetto’s facade with relative ease, so he never amounts to much of a “golden calf.” However, Ford’s allusion to the golden calf suggests that wealth and riches can easily supplant God as an object of worship. Likewise, Giovanni begins to idolize Annabella herself, turning away from religious piety in favor of romantic (and incestuous) love. But as the Biblical tale would suggest, both wealth and lovers are hollow objects of worship compared to the real God.

Throughout the play, love, power, status, and other earthly forces take on the outward appearance of divinity, but in fact these lead the main characters away from the true religious piety that the Friar represents. The play is consistent in maintaining its view that religious virtue represents the only true path to happiness, though it is not always as confident in religious figures themselves, such as the Cardinal. The play shows how easily earthly goods can be disguised as spiritual goods, making the various characters and their moral predicaments all the more complex and sympathetic. Without denying the ultimate truth of a higher moral power, the play adds complexity to seemingly simple moral questions, and shows why it can be so difficult for humans to obey God.

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Religious Piety vs. False Idols Quotes in 'Tis Pity She's a Whore

Below you will find the important quotes in 'Tis Pity She's a Whore related to the theme of Religious Piety vs. False Idols.
Act 1, Scene 1 Quotes

O Giovanni, hast thou left the schools
Of knowledge to converse with Lust and Death?
For Death waits on thy lust. Look through the world,
And thou shalt see a thousand faces shine
More glorious than this idol thou ador’st.

Related Characters: Friar (speaker), Giovanni, Annabella
Page Number: 1.1.57-61
Explanation and Analysis:

All this I’ll do to free me from the rod
Of vengeance; else I’ll swear my fate’s my god.

Related Characters: Giovanni (speaker), Annabella, Friar
Page Number: 1.1.84-85.
Explanation and Analysis:
Act 1, Scene 2 Quotes

The rich magnifico that is below with your father, charge, Signor Donado his uncle, for that he means to make this his cousin a golden calf, thinks that you will be a right Israelite and fall down to him presently; but I hope I have tutored you better.

Related Characters: Puttana (speaker), Annabella, Donado, Bergetto
Related Symbols: The Golden Calf
Page Number: 1.2.118-122
Explanation and Analysis:

Oh, that it were not in religion sin
To make our love a god and worship it!

Related Characters: Giovanni (speaker), Annabella
Related Symbols: The Golden Calf
Page Number: 1.2.145-146
Explanation and Analysis:
Act 3, Scene 4 Quotes

‘Twas well done, Giovanni: thou herein
Hast shown a Christian’s care, a brother’s love.

Related Characters: Florio (speaker), Giovanni, Annabella, Friar
Page Number: 3.4.32-33
Explanation and Analysis:
Act 3, Scene 6 Quotes

There stands these wretched things,
Who have dreamt out whole years in lawless sheets
And secret incests, cursing one another.
Then you will wish each kiss your brother gave
Had been a dagger’s point.

Related Characters: Friar (speaker), Giovanni, Annabella
Related Symbols: Swords and daggers
Page Number: 3.6.24-30
Explanation and Analysis:
Act 3, Scene 9 Quotes

DONADO: Is this a churchman’s voice? Dwells Justice here?
FLORIO: Justice is fled to heaven and comes no nearer.
[…]
FLORIO: Come, come, Donado, there’s no help in this,
When cardinals think murder’s not amiss.
Great men may do their wills; we must obey.
But heaven will judge them for’t another day.

Related Characters: Florio (speaker), Donado (speaker), Bergetto, Grimaldi, The Cardinal
Page Number: 3.9.93-97
Explanation and Analysis:
Act 4, Scene 3 Quotes

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.

Related Characters: Soranzo (speaker), Giovanni, Annabella, Vasquez
Page Number: 4.3.135-139.
Explanation and Analysis:
Act 5, Scene 1 Quotes

My conscience now stands up against my lust
With depositions charactered in guilt,
And tells me I am lost.

Related Characters: Annabella (speaker), Giovanni, Friar
Page Number: 5.1.6-10.
Explanation and Analysis:
Act 5, Scene 5 Quotes

ANNABELLA: What means this?
GIOVANNI: To save thy fame, and kill thee in a kiss.
Stabs her [as they kiss].
Thus die, and die by me, and by my hand.
Revenge is mine, honour doth love command.

Related Characters: Giovanni (speaker), Annabella
Related Symbols: Swords and daggers
Page Number: 5.5.84-87
Explanation and Analysis:
Act 5, Scene 6 Quotes

We shall have time
To talk at large of all; but never yet
Incest and murder have so strangely met.
Of one so young, so rich in Nature’s store,
Who could not say, ‘’Tis pity she’s a whore’?

Related Characters: The Cardinal (speaker), Annabella
Page Number: 5.5.153-156
Explanation and Analysis: