Annabella, the female protagonist in John Ford’s play, ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore, ultimately dies after trying to meet the conflicting demands that her brother and father place on her. While her brother, Giovanni, commands her to be his clandestine lover, her father, Florio, expects her to marry a socially appropriate man and bear a child. These demands closely resemble the real-life demands that Queen Elizabeth I’s subjects placed on her because they simultaneously wanted her to fulfill their erotic desires, marry a politically appropriate man, and produce an heir to the throne. Ford’s play “was first published in 1633,” thirty years after the death of Queen Elizabeth I, but “nostalgia… in the late 1620’s and 1630’s… [drove] people…to measure a worsening political situation against inevitably heightened memories or impressions of what life had been like under the great queen” (Morris vii; Barton 724). While it’s not clear whether this nostalgia for the reign of Elizabeth drove Ford when he wrote his play, there are clear parallels between the demands that were placed on the factual Elizabeth and on the fictional Annabella; moreover, there are striking parallels between the responses to the two women’s deaths.
Both women were expected to forever remain objects of male erotic desire, and the characteristics of Elizabeth that evoked erotic desire in her subjects parallel the characteristics of Annabella that elicit erotic desire in Giovanni. Just as “courtiers paid homage to Elizabeth as an ever-youthful yet unapproachable object of desire[,]” Giovanni confesses to Annabella, “[T]he view / Of thy immortal beauty hath untuned / All harmony both...
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Morris, Brian. Introduction. ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore. By John
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