How does John Ford make Tis Pity She’s A Whore dramatic, shocking and entertaining for a contemporary audience

A contemporary audience at 1586 would have very different tastes and ideas than today. Then, tragedies were very common and the sex, murder and revenge fuelled, exotic setting of Italy was a common setting for many dramas. So in order for Ford to make ‘Tis Pity She’s A Whore dramatic, shocking and entertaining he had to use appropriate devices. The theme of the narrative is a very shocking one indeed as it deals with the main protagonist committing incest. This was the first play to do so and therefore would have been a very controversial topic.

Although at the time incest within the lower caste was seen as acceptable the higher classes and religious groups were opposed to it. But it is important to note that at the time scandals of incest were circulating amongst the upper classes which may have caused those particular individuals to relate to ‘Tis Pity She’s A Whore in a way. As the admission for ‘Tis Pity She’s A Whore, which was performed in the Phoenix theatre, would be high, this means that the audience would consist of mainly only higher-class individuals.

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So they would find the fact that the main protagonist commits incest and goes against the word of the church (as seen through the advice of the Friar) very shocking indeed. Fords representation of the Cardinal as a corrupt church figure can also be seen as a shocking implicit statement against the church. Ford has possibly done this to maintain shock and consequently interest from the audience. Giovanni’s ultimate defiance of religion would also have be seen as shocking. In Act 5 his manner towards religion and the Friar is very insulting. “A life of pleasure is Elysium”- his abhorrent comment towards religion underlines this.

Another place where Ford uses shock tactics to thrill and captivate the audience is through controversial racial remarks as spoken through Putana- “dost think I am a Turk or a Jew? ” Shock is also emphasised through the use of ‘Omnes’ which is all the characters speaking at once. In Act 4 scene 1, the surprise appearance of Hippolita is underlined as shocking through the Omnes cry of “Hippolita! “. Dramatic effect could be attained by Ford in ‘Tis Pity She’s A Whore through the effective use of stage settings. As the Phoenix theatre is relatively small and intimate. The use of candlelight will have emphasised the drama and tension.

This is used in scenes such as in Act 3 when Annabella confesses to the Friar. The stage directions in this scene claim there are ‘wax lights’ which will create shadows adding intrigue and therefore drama. Drama is also maintained through dialogue. Dramatic rhyming couplets are a common technique used by Ford at important plot points. This can be seen as Annabella plans suicide and ends her soliloquy with the rhyming couplets of ‘breath’ and ‘death’. Drama is also upheld through tension, as deception and dissimulation are common themes. This means many of the characters are two-faced and have many personal agendas of vengeance.

Soliloquies by those particular characters such as Vasques will have the audience on the edge of their seat, as they will wish to discover his motives. Tragedy is the main theme of ‘Tis Pity She’s A Whore which means dramatic scenes are plentiful. The tragic death of Bergetto, Act 3 scene 7, with the makeup of lots of blood pouring out of him will have been a very dramatic scene. Entertainment will be the hardest thing for Ford to produce for a contemporary audience. But he uses a lot of methods to try and do this. The comedy characters of Bergetto and Poggio are used to add lighthearted humour.

Bergetto is established as the foolish comedy character through the fact that he is called a ‘blockhead’, a ‘dunce’ and a ‘fool’. The slapstick comedy involving him, such as in Act 2 scene 3, will be very entertaining to the audience. The wit and language used will have also be found to be entertaining by the audience. An example is Vasques conscious witty remark “you I think have e’en hit it” with ambiguous definitions. Implicit sexual remarks may also be found amusing and entertaining by the audience such as Bergettos sexual implication of “I have a monstrous swelling”.

Tis Pity She’s A Whore has many scenes which contain different events occurring with different characters. This will allow the audience to sustain interest, as they will not be watching the same characters the whole time. This will also maintain a certain degree of suspense as the audience may be eager to wait for the next scene involving particular characters so narrative enigmas can be revealed. Ultimately, John Ford uses a number of useful devices that include stage directions, characters, dialogue and costumes to make ‘Tis Pity She’s A Whore dramatic, shocking and entertaining for a contemporary audience.