The Raw and the Cooked in Ford’s ’Tis Pity She’s a Whore

  • Mathew R. Martin Brock University
Keywords: John Ford, Early Modern English Drama,


John Ford’s ’Tis Pity She's a Whore concludes by confronting the onstage audience, and the offstage audience I would contend, with the completely raw, with the undifferentiated dead meat of the real. This moment of traumatic confrontation confounds the patriarchal symbolic order within which Giovanni and his society articulate their opposition in terms of nature and culture. It constitutes the Lacanian anamorphotic blot or stain whose obtrusion in the play’s final moments reveals the secret complicity between the Petrarchan poetics of Giovanni’s incestuous desire and the mercantile metaphors of the exchange of women. Through ostensibly competing symbolic systems, both attempt to domesticate or 'humanize' the traumatic, material real that constitutes the unstable and unrecognizable threshold of 'civilization'. In its concluding moments Ford’s play steps beyond that threshold, with shattering consequences.