The Honest Whore, part one

The Honest Whore, part one was entered in the Stationer’s Register on November 9, 1604.   There is some disagreement on how much work Thomas Middleton actually put into it, with some experts claiming that at  most he only touched up a few points.  Indeed, the five quartos published in the period do not credit Middleton at all, but only Dekker.  Most are more generous to him however, assigning him most of Act One, and also Act Three, Scene One.  Other credit him with at least having a hand in the Candido scenes.

The 1604 quarto

The play is difficult to classify.  It resembles a city comedy, such as The Shoemaker’s Holiday, but some scenes are considerably more serious.  The Candido plot is of an entirely different mood than the Bellafront/Hippolito plot, the former being high comedy, the latter being much darker.   Darker still is the Hippolito/Infelice plot in which Hippolito retains his love for his dead beloved–who actually, is not dead at all.  The title is an oxymoron.  “Honest” was an adjective applied to chaste women, which naturally a whore could not be.

The final scene in the madhouse, in which insane people are made a source of comedy for visitors, while humorous in its own right, is about as far from today’s notions of political correctness as you may find in the drama of the period.  In Part Two a similar sequence is set in a debtor’s prison.  Dekker and John Webster were to present a similar scene in Northward Ho.

Besides my own treatment of the play, I provide a link to Chris Cleary’s web page, “The Plays of Thomas Middleton.”  As this play is a collaboration between Thomas Dekker and Thomas Middleton, Mr. Cleary has already given a treatment of it, and if I may say so, he does a far flashier job than I do–complete with annotations!  My own treatment of the play begins below the link for his.

Proceed to The Honest Whore, part one on the Thomas Middleton site.

Or, read the play from my own text:

Dramatis Personæ
Act One, Scene one
Act One, Scene two
Act One, Scene three
Act One, Scene four
Act One, Scene five
Act Two, Scene one
Act Three, Scene one
Act Three, Scene two
Act Three, Scene three
Act Four, Scene one
Act Four, Scene two
Act Four, Scene three
Act Four, Scene four
Act Five, Scene one
Act Five, Scene two

Return to Dekker page.

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