Of Excess and Incest

Behind its pomp, the Italian city of Parma festers and pullulates with lust and greed. Everyone has secrets, and is faithless to them. Violence, nihilism, and corruption rule the day; love itself is just a lubricant to more swiftly fetch one to the grave. The atmosphere of 'Tis Pity She's a Whore, John Ford's 17th-century classic play, is like the black calk on a mirror's back, reflecting Romeo and Juliet's lightsome and impassioned Verona in macabre distortions. Whereas Romeo and Juliet were merely star-crossed lovers, the lovers in 'Tis Pity are double-crossed as well. As dramaturge Ben Nadler writes, "In Ford's play the nurse ends her life being tortured, the friar gives up on his young ward, the clown is wrongly assassinated, and the lovers just happen to be incestuous."

A bright young scholar, Giovanni, falls in love with his innocent and beautiful sister Annabella

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