'Tis Pity She's a Whore

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Reading Questions

  1. Who are the main characters, and what are their relationships to each other?
  2. What kind of character is Bergetto? What kind of actor do you think should play him, and why?
  3. Why does Richardetto want vengeance on Soranzo? How does he seek to achieve it?
  4. What arguments does Giovanni give to the Friar for his love of Annabella?
  5. Which characters know of Giovanni and Annabella's love?
  6. When do Giovanni and Annabella consummate their love?
  7. Giovanni is an educated man, often described in terms of his intelligence—he is “over-bookish” (2.vi.118). Why is it important for the play that he be a man of the mind? Trace the images of wit, knowledge, and learning.
  8. What is the relationship between science (or empiricism) and religion in the play? What is Giovanni's “almost blasphemy”?
  9. How, according to the Friar, can Annabella redeem herself?
  10. Do you think it's significant that Grimaldi is a servant to the Pope's Nuncio, and a friend to the Cardinal? How is Catholicism treated in the play? Remember that though the play is set in Italy, it is thoroughly English.
  11. Who does Grimaldi plan to kill in 3.vii?
  12. Why does Hippolyta want Soranzo dead? Who does she employ to do it, and why? With what promises? What actually happens?
  13. Is Grimaldi punished for murdering Bergetto? Why/not?
  14. What is a court masque, and how is it used in the play? What other feasts/entertainments do we see, and what happens at each?
  15. Who dies, and in what order? By whose hands?
  16. Where does Richardetto send Philotis, and why? Why don't you think this isn't considered for Annabella? How are women perceived in the play? Consider the footnotes as well as the dialogue and plot. Remember that at this time in English theater history, women would still not have been performing on stage. Who gives the title line?
  17. Is this play “a wretched, woeful woman's tragedy” (5.i.8), or a play about incest? Something else entirely? What would it mean for the play if it were principally a woman's tragedy?
  18. This is a play as much about “justice” as it is about “vengeance.” What does the play have to say about “justice”?
  19. What reasons does Vasques give for his actions? Do you believe him? Do you think we're meant to believe him fully?
  20. What happens to the “gold and jewels” (5.vi.148) of the dead, left without heirs?
  21. All of the plot can be said, in a sense, to radiate outward from the marital status of Annabella. Why is this important? How does this help us interpret the play?
  22. Keep track of the class divisions in the play—what classes are represented (find evidence in the text)? Who is of a more/less privileged rank? What does such structure bring to the play?
  23. Who are we supposed to sympathize with in the play, and why?
  24. This is also a play about the unpretty, rough, sharp side of polite society—what happens when such secrets are kept, when such possibilities remain unacknowledged and buried? This is a play in part about secrets—literal and metaphorical—as well as their revelation. What hidden things are exposed in this play?
  25. This play does not obey the unity of time; a long period of time is compressed into around 3 hours of performance. How long does the story take, in the world of the play?
  26. Accordint to the introduction in the edition you're reading, this is an emphatically ordinary world, “seldom touched by the politics of state” (19); it is “lived-in,” and even commonplace. Many critics have a hard time seeing this for the incest. What do you think about this?
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