Giovanni, unlike Annabella, refuses to repent for his violations against Christianity. I am particularly interested in how he morphs Annabella into a godlike figure in this last image. He refers to her as being able to give “grace”–a particularly Christian idea referring to God’s forgiveness of people (5.6.104). Here Annabella is able to give grace, rather than God, demonstrating Giovanni’s further lack of Christianity.
Through out the entire play, I’ve gravitated towards Ford’s need to reinforce character’s actions with the material or physical. We spoke about this in class a bit, but blood was a constantly repeated, tears were. But also non-bodily physical expressions of emotion are used throughout, such as swords, and the letter- which appears in Act 5. The tangibility of these objects and substances counteract the invisibility or intangibility of love and incest, so I wonder if Ford implemented the physical material embodiments of their emotions, to balance out what can’t be seen or touched. There is almost a sense of evidentiary support or justification that Ford provides to the reader, through these objects, as if he is self aware or suspecting that readers/audience member might not believe the presence of incest or buy into their love.
While I don’t think Ford’s aim is to condone incest, I do think Annabella and Giovanni are in somewhat of a unique position because of the society in which they live. All of the characters seem to ignore the potential consequences of their actions and behave in completely selfish ways. I think that we must consider Annabella and Giovanni’s incestuous relationship within this context. Their relationship is a result of a dangerous society that simultaneously lacks rule and asserts immoral laws because the leaders themselves, such as the cardinal, are immoral. I think that Ford is more making a statement about the nature of society than incestuous relationships in general.
In discussing ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore, we’ve talked a bit about whether or not we’re meant to identify with Annabella and Giovanni’s plight and root for their success, whatever that success means. If we are meant to be on their side, this would imply condoning incest at large. However, in Act V Scene 5, Giovanni frames their relationship in this way: “[W]hen they but know / Our loves, that love will wipe away that rigour / Which would in other incests be abhorred” (Ford 234). Giovanni says this in telling Annabella the ways in which he hopes society will see their relationship after they have died. In framing their relations this way, does he see his and Annabella’s transgression as an exception to the rule that incest is universally deplorable? If so, why are he and Annabella special? What are the conditions for an acceptable/unacceptable incestuous relationship?
I was interested in the way that Giovanni does not fully trust Annabella until he hears her talking to Soranzo. In this scene, Giovanni says from above, “Why now I see that she loves me” (3.2.54). Of course, Annabella has already told Giovanni of her love for him, but he did not fully trust her until he heard her speak to Soranzo. It is interesting that he did not trust her at first, as he does not give much of an indication of that before this point. It is also interesting that if there were a lack of trust, it is this conversation that convinces him that her love is true. What makes her initial words untrustworthy to Giovanni? Why is this conversation so convincing for him?
In reading ‘Tis Pity, I found Ford’s use of the word ‘whore’ to describe Annabella interesting when put in comparison with the other characters in the play. It is the Cardinal, arguably the most corrupt character, who uses it, and when Annabella’s actions are put in comparison to the other male roles, Giovanni, the Cardinal, Soranzo, it almost seems that Ford is calling Annabella’s condemnation as a whore into question, since her transgressions seem entirely trivial compared to the male corruption rampant in the play.
Similarly to Raisa, I also looked at ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore in terms of doubling and mirroring. In Act 1, Scene 2 when Annabella and Giovanni confess their love to each other, they recite the same lines to each other in what resembles a mock marriage ceremony. She kneels first and says “On my knees, / Brother, even by our mother’s dust, I charge you, / Do not betray me to your mirth or hate; / Love me, or kill me, brother” (1.2.243–246). Giovanni then repeats the same lines, calling her “Sister,” except he changes “our mother’s dust” to “my mother’s dust” (1.2.247). Based on this simple word change in otherwise identical speeches, it seems that Annabella is more closely holding on to their endogamous status, whereas Giovanni claims the family ancestry for himself. In terms of Quilligan’s argument, it seems to me that this small difference shows the extent to which Annabella is conscious of keeping herself within the family and claiming her sociopolitical connections.
I think another way that Giovanni attempts to justify his love/desire for his sister is through appropriating the lexias of different forms of discourse. For example, in the opening lines, he uses both medical and religious language to justify his relationship. More broadly, I think that Ford could be making a broader point about the limits of logic and reason and is asking us to look closer when a form of reason seems complete and unwavering–such as the Friar’s interpretation of religion.
Giovanni is a student. The Friar, a prevalent character in the play, is his tutor. Florio, Giovanni and Annabella’s father, without knowing of their incestual relationship, urges his son to “forsake/ This over-bookish humour” (2.6.114-15). Giovanni makes something that on the surface is irrational–his desire for his sister–appear rational by viewing it through different theoretical lenses in act 1, scene 2. Once logically justifying his love to himself, and to his sister, Annabella discloses that she, indeed, harbors desire for her brother. Only after Giovanni’s multifaceted argument supporting his union with Annabella do the two commence their incestuous relationship.
Similar to our class discussion of doubling in “The Duchess of Malfi,” the first two acts of Ford’s play seem to reveal how Giovanni and Annabella (siblings) are in love because of their ‘sameness,’ a factor that normally obstructs erotic desire (we’ve previously explored this mirroring in Donne’s “The Cannonization”: “By us; we two being one, are it.”)
Annabella’s beauty is “the frame and composition” which Giovanni follows. He is not in love with her character, or her intelligence, or her “soul,” even though Neoplatonic tradition argues that the body is just a vessel for the soul (and that the soul will be released when the body dies).