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Revenge and Gender in Classical, Medieval and Renaissance Literature$
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Lesel Dawson and Fiona McHardy

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9781474414098

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: May 2020

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474414098.001.0001

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‘Brother Unkind’: Annabella’s Heart in ’Tis Pity She’s a Whore

‘Brother Unkind’: Annabella’s Heart in ’Tis Pity She’s a Whore

(p.122) Chapter 6 ‘Brother Unkind’: Annabella’s Heart in ’Tis Pity She’s a Whore
Revenge and Gender in Classical, Medieval and Renaissance Literature

Sara Eaton

Edinburgh University Press

This chapter explores Giovanni’s pursuit of Annabella’s heart in John Ford’s Tis Pity She’s a Whore, suggesting that it is the Courtly lover’s necessary abject position in relation to the beloved which explains the play’s ambivalent representation of Anabella’s sincerity, her honesty, and the reason Giovanni casts her murder as revenge. Ford’s depiction of Annabella’s rhetoric, her stage positions, her unfathomability, even her death, is consistent with the representation of a courtly love lady, the seemingly chaste, silent, and obedient actor, either a virgin or a whore, appearing regularly in early modern literature and theatre. Revenge, however, is part of courtly love’s ideology, according to Slavoj Žižek’s seminal essay, ‘Courtly Love, or, Woman as Thing’, and Giovanni’s expectations for Annabella’s behaviour exposes the contradictions inherent in the courtly love rhetoric found in the play. Rather than being sadistic towards his sister, luring her into incest and then killing her, Giovanni has all the marks of an abject masochist, as does Annabella.

Keywords:   John Ford, ’Tis Pity She’s a Whore, courtly love, masochism**, Slavoj Žižek, sincerity, heart

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