Michael's Reviews > 'Tis Pity She's A Whore, 1633

'Tis Pity She's A Whore, 1633 by John  Ford
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's review
Nov 06, 09

bookshelves: 17th-century
Read in November, 2009

"'Tis Pity She's a Whore" is kind of wonderful, and kind of appalling, for its window into the strange world of 380 years ago, a world every bit as strange as our own.

I've read this with an organized reading group, and I'm sure I'll have a better understanding of it once the conversation kicks off. But it will be a tough sell to get me to think of this as a "good" play. It is, first of all, ridiculously lurid; it's all about enthusiastic incest, it has (counts on fingers) no less than five mostly gruesome on-stage deaths; and at one point has a character running around brandishing another character's recently-removed heart. What this is all ABOUT, other than to just to shock, is beyond me.

Well, every age has its messy thrillers, but this is no Pulp Fiction, nor even a Titus Andronicus. Only one character (Vasques) ever becomes very interesting; the others are all in lesser (Philotis) or greater (Giovanni) measure just tools of the plot, which needs to force its way through a rather dodgy logic so that there can be a spectacular swordfight at the end. Not that there's anything worng with spectacular swordfights at the end. This one, though, is undercut by a few more pages of lame dialog, minor characters having tangential conversations that shed no light on and lend no natural conclusion to everything that's just happened. Right down to the last, inaccurate word, it's a big ol' clunker of an ending.

So say I now. We'll see if I come running back after the group discusses the book to erase the above and rave about how very wonderful this play really is, once you get it.


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