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  • Title: The Honest Whore, Parts 1 and 2: Analysis of the Plays
  • Author: Joost Daalder

  • Copyright Digital Renaissance Editions. This text may be freely used for educational, non-profit purposes; for all other uses contact the Editor.
    Author: Joost Daalder
    Peer Reviewed

    The Honest Whore, Parts 1 and 2: Analysis of the Plays

    1The Title of Part 1

    Until very recently editors, scholars, and other interested readers have invariably referred to ‘The Honest Whore, Part 1’ by that name, or else ‘Part 1 of The Honest Whore’, in accordance with the title-page of the first 1604 quarto, which described the play as ‘THE/ Honest Whore,/ With,/ The Humours of the Patient Man,/ and the Longing Wife./’ Of course the 1604 title-page did not yet refer to ‘Part 1’: that would only have happened if there definitely was a ‘Part 2’, either in existence or to come, and if that fact had to be communicated on the title-page of 1 The Honest Whore. But the first published version of the play clearly established its title as, in effect, ‘The Honest Whore’, and logically enough the sequel was published in 1630 as ‘The Second Part of the Honest Whore [etc.]’.

    Ever since, the two plays have been known as Parts 1 and 2 of ‘The Honest Whore’, until in 2007, in the Oxford Middleton, Paul Mulholland decided to use the title ‘The Patient Man and the Honest Whore’ for Part 1. His reasoning for this decision was that he aimed ‘to recover the title that on the testimony of contemporaries had currency at or near the time of the play’s original performance.’[1] One may, of course, immediately object that the title of ‘The Honest Whore’, as such, must also have had currency, or else it would not have been chosen for the first quarto: why, in the case of a popular play, would anyone select, for a printed version, a title not already known as a result of the play’s popularity on the stage?

    Mulholland also contends that his title ‘restores the balance of the play, giving a unified double paradox where the editorially conventional title provides a single paradox and a consequent sense of incompleteness. ... The proverbial expression cited at 2.74 [TLN 229 in this edition], “he who cannot be angry is no man”, establishes the paradoxical basis of “the patient man” and the terms by which he is intended to match “the honest whore”. Patience is conventionally seen as a feminine attribute, as, for example, in Dekker’s Patient Grissil, and is incompatible with common conceptions of virility.’[2]

    It is indeed true that the expression ‘He that cannot be angry is no man’ is proverbial (Dent M172). This does not, however, imply the extreme proposition that patience is ‘incompatible with common conceptions of virility’. The proverb does not say that men are, or should be, angry all or most of the time – merely that he who is not capable of ever being angry is ‘no man’. There is another, very different proverb that actually alludes to a man as a model of patience: ‘As patient as Job’. Unsurprisingly, this occurs on the same page (613) as ‘Patient Grisel’ in The Oxford Dictionary of English Proverbs (1970), along with ‘Patient men win the day’. Clearly such sayings (all of them documented in ODEP with citations from Renaissance texts) suggest that it was considered possible, and a virtue, for men to be patient as well as women. We must remember, too, that shrews are common in Renaissance literature, and obviously not models of patience.

    5The idea that patience was seen as ‘incompatible with common conceptions of virility’ has, all in all, little or no substance to support it, and in any case there is certainly no reason for thinking that such a title as ‘The Patient Man and the Honest Whore’ would provide a ‘unified double paradox’. It is, indeed, a paradox for a whore to be ‘honest’ in the modern English sense of ‘chaste’, as it is inevitably inherent in a whore’s conduct not to be chaste. However, it is not inevitably inherent in a man’s conduct to be impatient. Mulholland does not compare like with like. He should also have given more thought to the fact that Candido’s outlook is that of a Stoic, and that Stoicism is a male philosophy. The practice of patience – ‘the suffering or enduring (of pain, trouble, or evil) with calmness and composure’ (OED sb. 1a) – was central in its pursuit, and Senecan Stoicism was widely influential exactly during this period of English history, notably from around 1599-1611.[3]

    The even more important question is, however, whether Mulholland’s title ‘The Patient Man and the Honest Whore’ is in any sense more authoritative than ‘The Honest Whore’. I would argue that it is not, as the title ‘The Honest Whore’ was chosen for the first printed edition, and we have no evidence whatever that Dekker (or Middleton) disapproved of it, or that it was not already current. Furthermore, we must take into account that there were two titles (in documents, not as titles of actual books) that preceded the publication of the printed book. I produce these titles below in their original spelling:

    (1) Philip Henslowe’s title, as recorded by him early in 1604 when he made an advance payment: ‘Thomas deckers & Midelton in earneste of ther playe Called the pasyent man & the onest hore.’(2) The title entered in the Register of the Stationers’ Company by Thomas Man, Jr on 9 November 1604: ‘Entred for his copye vnder the hand of mr Pasfeild A Booke called. The humours of the patient man. The longinge wyfe and the honest whore.’

    Matthew Baird suggested long ago that the authorial manuscript that was entered on 9 November may have carried the title ‘The Humors of the Patient Man, the Longing Wife, and the Honest Whore’.[4] This is indeed possible. Even so, the play on the stage may well have been known simply as The Honest Whore: in a theatrical context, the manuscript title ‘The Humors of the Patient Man, the Longing Wife, and the Honest Whore’ would have been clumsy and longwinded. However, the fact remains that Mulholland, if he felt he ought to use a pre-print title, ought to have chosen this longer one which was officially entered in the Stationers’ Register in November, not the one which Henslowe wrote down when he made his advance payment many months before.

    Be that as it may, the 9 November title also demonstrates that the claim about the so-called ‘double paradox’ is very weak, as it in effect refers to three characters, viz. Candido, his ‘Longing Wife’ (Viola), and Bellafront. Furthermore, the structure of 1 The Honest Whore as a whole does not justify Mulholland’s title or his claims about it either. There are not two plots, but, as George R. Price recognises, three: a ‘romantic plot’ (involving the Duke, Infelice, Hippolito, and Doctor Benedict), a ‘morality plot’ (with Bellafront at its centre, but with Hippolito and Mattheo important in it as well), and a ‘comic plot’ (with Candido as its protagonist).[5] Hence the claims about ‘balance’ and ‘a unified double paradox’ are also faulty in ignoring the third plot. Furthermore, the title ‘The Honest Whore’ does not in any way imply that no comparisons can be drawn between characters, situations, and themes that operate within the play as a whole. Titles for plays of the period do not suggest that The Honest Whore is in any way particularly ‘reductive’: The Merchant of Venice does not, as a title, suggest that Shylock is any less important or interesting than Antonio; Cymbeline is not, as a character, exactly the centre of interest in the play named after him; and thus one might go on.

    Most people who have written on 1 The Honest Whore have treated the Candido scenes as having the status of a sub-plot – not as though their status is equal to the other two interlaced plots, or even to what Price calls, by itself, Bellafront’s ‘morality plot’. Reviews of the 1998 production in the Globe (which I shall discuss in ‘The plays in performance’) indicated clearly that viewers did not even remotely think of the Candido strand as having a status of similar weight to that of a main plot. In what follows I shall, however, try to do justice to the broad spectrum of the play, and I certainly do not regard the Candido scenes as unimportant. But Mulholland seems to me greatly to exaggerate Candido’s importance, and to focus too much on him and Bellafront as the pivotal characters in 1 The Honest Whore. I feel it is quite extreme to claim, as Mulholland does, that at the end of 1 The Honest Whore ‘Bellafront, in her Magdalen-career, stands with the linen-draper as a model of Christian fortitude’,[6] and, as importantly, the play in general does not stress such Christian links. Moreover, Bellafront’s tough time as a ‘Magdalen’ and ‘Patient Grissil’ figure is still to come, in 2 The Honest Whore.

    Questions of Genre

    10The general tendency is to view 1 and 2 The Honest Whore (either together or as separate plays) as belonging to the genre of ‘city comedy’. In a loose kind of way, the term works well enough as indicating something like ‘a comedy portraying life in the city of London’. Douglas Bruster points out that R.C. Bald appears to have been the first person to use the term ‘city comedy’, in 1934.[7] Many readers will not find themselves surprised to see Jean E. Howard write the following in a distinguished essay about 1 and 2 The Honest Whore (which she defensibly refers to as, in effect, one play, The Honest Whore). She lists, in addition to The Honest Whore, plays like Measure for Measure, Westward Ho, etc., and remarks:

    The genre of city comedy to which these plays belonged became popular after 1598 [when William Haughton’s Englishmen for my Money appeared] for its depiction of urban life, especially the life of England’s own burgeoning metropolis, London. Rather than highlighting the aristocratic figures who dominate the main plots of tragedy and of historical drama, city comedy focuses attention on merchants and shopkeepers, their wives and apprentices, along with city gallants and the occasional court figure or low-life type such as the prostitute or canting rogue.[8]

    In general, with perhaps some minor reservations, one can see 1 and 2 The Honest Whore as fitting Howard’s description well enough. Her definition is a fairly broad one of subject matter, and usefully excludes authorial attitudes. To many people, however, ‘city comedy’ means something more specific, and, one would have to say, more narrow. Bruster, with justification, observes that it was in 1968, and as a result of Brian Gibbons’s ‘highly influential Jacobean City Comedy, that “city comedy” earned official status as a Renaissance subgenre.’ He goes on to state that in his study Gibbons insists that ‘City Comedy may be seen as a distinct dramatic genre with a recognizable form and conventions of theme, setting and characterization’, and that ‘the plays are all satiric and have urban settings, with characters and incidents appropriate to such settings; they exclude material appropriate to romance, fairy tale, sentimental legend or patriotic chronicle’. Bruster also mentions that one of Gibbons’s primary goals was ‘to show that the dramatists of Jacobean City Comedy articulated a radical critique of their Age’.[9]

    It will be seen that in comparison with Howard’s definition, Gibbons’s does not fit 1 and 2 The Honest Whore, and it is therefore not surprising that these plays are not included in his book. They are not in any significant sense satiric, and they do include material appropriate to romance: indeed, of the three plots in 1 The Honest Whore, one may appropriately be designated as romantic. There is no doubt that there is a group of plays that can with great accuracy be described in the terms which Gibbons uses, and there is an excellent match between his definition and his examples. To him, Jonson, Middleton, and Marston are the writers who produced city comedy. A difficulty that has nevertheless in practice arisen – to some extent, at any rate – is that, as we can see, different critics do not use the term ‘city comedy’ in one and the same way. Even Howard’s definition poses somewhat of a problem for the first Honest Whore play, in that the romantic plot does include aristocrats. While in Part 2 a romantic component is much less prominent, both the Duke and Hippolito (who plays a major part) are aristocrats, and to that extent are not typical of ‘city comedy’.

    Or, one may add, of ‘citizen comedy’. This was a term introduced by Alexander Leggatt, writing a little later than Gibbons.[10] In general, Leggatt’s concept of ‘citizen comedy’ includes more than does Gibbons’s definition of ‘city comedy’. Thus Leggatt presents material on 1 and 2 The Honest Whore in his Citizen Comedy (1973), as well as in his later Jacobean Public Theatre (1992), which in theory can include any play, such as 1 and 2 The Honest Whore, which is Jacobean and belongs to the world of the public as distinct from the private theatre. His work on the Honest Whore plays, in both books, is excellent.

    In his earlier book, Leggatt explains that by ‘citizen comedy’ he means primarily ‘comedy set in a predominantly middle-class social milieu’.[11] For the most part, 1 and 2 The Honest Whore fit this criterion, especially because Leggatt’s concept of ‘the middle class’ is quite broad (including even gallants). Once again a problem is that our plays do include the aristocracy: however, Leggatt evidently sees the aristocracy as not having a very central role in these plays, and that view is perhaps not unreasonable. A very minor problem is that Milan (the setting for our plays) is not London, but the presence of the Bedlam and Bridewell scenes points to London, and in many other important respects ‘Milan’ is in effect equivalent to ‘London’. Dekker takes great delight in offering us scenes that very clearly suggest, in a supposedly ‘realistic’ manner, the vibrancy of London city life as he knows it.

    15Leggatt insists far less on the satiric as a ‘marker’ than does Gibbons. He does include 1 and 2 The Honest Whore among his citizen comedies. In general, he takes a commendable interest in a number of comedies which end up in a neglected zone if we classify as ‘comedies’, during this period, only plays that are either (a) Shakespearean and seen as ‘romantic’, or (b) non-Shakespearean and considered ‘satiric’. The late morality tradition, associated with the public theatre, is also given more attention by Leggatt. Thus his public theatre plays do not only include Ben Jonson’s satiric plays, but also an interesting group of quite different plays to which 2 The Honest Whore in many ways belongs.

    As Leggatt explains, the smaller private theatres between 1604 and 1611 feature racy comedies in which satire, sex and financial intrigue are the main ingredients. These are typically the kind of plays, along with those by Ben Jonson, which Gibbons sees as ‘city comedies’. The public theatre ‘citizen’ comedies, which catered for large audiences, are fewer in number but offer a distinctive and separate development. For example, when they comment on society they do not use a sardonic manner, but such direct statements as we associate with the moralities.[12] Inasmuch as 1 The Honest Whore has a link with this genre of comedies we may note that, in tune with the tradition, Hippolito lectures Bellafront in a blunt moralistic manner, without satire. He does not show the slickness of a sardonic gallant, and the tone is serious rather than one of wit.

    This group of public theatre plays features action so arranged as to teach an erring protagonist – usually a prodigal, like Mattheo in 2 The Honest Whore – the error of his ways and to bring him to a morally proper frame of mind. In fact, in 1 The Honest Whore Bellafront can, I would tentatively suggest, be viewed as, to an extent, a female equivalent, in being an extravagant sinner, and in need of similar correction: she is converted, and permanently so. Alexander Leggatt discovers, in plays like these, a debt to the continental and ancient prodigal tradition, which was not only concerned with e.g. lavish spending, but dissolute behaviour in general: it included bawds, for example, as well as those who behave like the prodigal son in the Bible. Thus the tradition of ‘New Comedy’, that of Plautus and Terence, had a strong influence on Renaissance prodigal plays.[13]

    A further important point that distinguishes this group is that the moral basis of the play is usually very clear, and often explicit: the faults of Bellafront and Mattheo are quite obvious, explained at length, and we are left in no doubt as to how they should behave. Some of the plays in this group are How a Man May Choose a Good Wife From a Bad (c.1602), The Fair Maid of Bristow (c.1604) and The London Prodigal (also c.1604). As Leggatt points out, ‘the moral earnestness, and the grave dangers which some of the characters run, produce a seriousness of tone that takes us, at times, close to domestic tragedy; indeed, these plays have sometimes been called tragicomedies.’[14]

    It is interesting to note that, before Citizen Comedy was written, Michael Manheim had already, in 1965, drawn attention to the same three relatively unknown plays as having kinship with 2 The Honest Whore. He sees the period of this type of (very popular) domestic comedies – a term which he himself uses – as extending from around 1600 to 1608. They contrast seeming and actual virtue, chiefly in sexual matters. These comedies use tests to reveal hypocrisy and deceit (which are condemned) and virtue and patience (which are glorified). Perhaps Angelo and Hippolito are guilty of lack of self-knowledge as much as the more serious faults which Manheim justifiably imputes to them. The heroine (Bellafront) is typically a patient and long-suffering wife (in the Patient Grissil tradition). The hero (Mattheo) is a prodigal husband – not necessarily just evil, but irresponsible and incapable of dealing with incredible bad luck (as in gambling). Some of the plays (including 2 The Honest Whore) show us a youth who is overcome with lust for the patient wife (as is obviously true of Hippolito). All three characters are tested: the wife doubly so (by both the prodigal and the would-be lover), and she is the only one who passes the tests. However, at the end (and this does happen in 2 The Honest Whore) the youth and the husband repent.

    20A further feature of these plays is at times the presence of a disguised protector, like Orlando, or the Duke in Measure for Measure, who at least in theory guarantees the audience that eventually all will end well. One major trial Bellafront needs to overcome is that men continue to believe that she is a whore long after she has abandoned that calling, and Orlando is instrumental in helping her, finally, to establish a spotless reputation as a redeemed woman.[15]

    From what Leggatt and Manheim say, we can conclude how 2 The Honest Whore, at least, fits, as a particular type of drama, into the historical development of English Renaissance plays. It is part of a subgenre of comedies which developed from around 1598 justifiably called ‘city comedies’ or ‘citizen comedies’, although the presence of aristocratic characters makes the example perhaps less than pure in this case. More importantly, however, we can determine that this comedy does not fit the Gibbons mould of city comedy, which is much associated with private theatres (though Jonson wrote for the public stage), but a different branch of city/citizen comedy which may suitably be called ‘domestic comedy’, intended to be performed in a public theatre. Partly, especially if we think of Mattheo as a dominant character, 2 The Honest Whore is of course also a ‘prodigal play’. In addition, it is not at all inappropriate to think of it as a tragicomedy, in that the action much of the time suggests that it is moving towards a tragic conclusion, which is however averted: the ending is definitely that of comedy, characterised by general contentment, harmony and reconciliation. Not, of course, for everyone: for example, Bots is punished for his misdeeds, but such an event is not at all incompatible with the idea of a happy ending for those who are deserving. The Merchant of Venice has a happy ending for the Venetians but not for Shylock, and at the end of Twelfth Night Malvolio exits with the statement ‘I’ll be revenged on the whole pack of you!’ (Internet Shakespeare EditionsTLN 2548). Even though he may be persuaded to change his mind he is hardly likely to see the outcome of events as, for him, a happy one.

    1 The Honest Whore does not fit the category of ‘domestic comedy’ nearly as easily. However, it, too, is a city comedy that belongs to a small group of plays that are not covered by Gibbons’s definition. In this case the element of romance is quite unmistakably present, and the aristocracy definitely plays a part. Also, the play is not satirical. It has a strong grounding in the morality tradition, notably in relation to Bellafront’s conversion, and it is mostly serious in tone, though a farcical element is present in the Candido scenes. The play is not strongly unified in a ‘continental’ fashion: rather, the three plots create a great deal of variety in a way which is often thought of as very ‘English’. It is unmistakably created for the public theatre. Like 2 The Honest Whore it does offer an element of tragicomedy, in that at various points there is the seeming danger of a tragic development, but, again like 2 The Honest Whore, the ending offers an image of reconciliation, harmony, and hope. I now turn to a more detailed consideration of the two plays.[16]

    Part 1: The ‘Romantic’ Plot

    The ‘romantic’ plot involves the Duke, Infelice, Hippolito, and the Doctor (Benedict). In tune with the hierarchical stratification of Dekker’s society, the very first scene is dedicated to leading members of its aristocracy, and the Duke, the most important nobleman in Milan and its head of state, is the first speaker. Infelice, as his daughter, is at much the same social level; and Hippolito, as a count, is also a high-ranking member of the nobility. At the beginning of the play we are, therefore, far removed from citizens or others typically thought of as city-dwellers. As well, the mode of presentation is not that of comedy, but rather tragedy, especially Shakespearean tragedy. Scene 1 opens in a grand, spectacular manner, combining the appearance of a comet with well-dressed aristocrats and gallants. The tragic Shakespearean note is struck by the presentation of the Hamlet-like Hippolito, dressed in black and behaving in an eccentric, high-strung manner, caused both by his own character and the occasion: the funeral of his beloved Infelice, of whom he on the one hand claims that she is not dead (TLN 31), while on the other hand he accuses the Duke of having killed her ‘by your cruelty’ (TLN 49).

    This intriguing phrase probably implies that in Hippolito’s view Infelice has died as an indirect result of the Duke’s cruel behaviour towards her. I would infer from later events that Hippolito alludes to the Duke’s opposition to Infelice becoming his wife. Thus, the potentially tragic situation is ultimately more like that of Romeo and Juliet than that of Hamlet. In 1.3 the Duke says: ‘I must confess / Hippolito is nobly born – a man, / Did not mine enemies’ blood boil in his veins, / Whom I would court to be my son-in-law’ (TLN 338-41). Both Hippolito and Infelice are at risk of becoming the victims of a family feud like that of the Montagues and Capulets.

    25However, the Duke may be a schemer (his ‘Italianate’ ways are probably one reason why the play is set in Milan), but he goes about his business in a curious way. Rather than as a matter of priority plotting to have Hippolito killed, he made Doctor Benedict administer a poison to Infelice, very much of a Romeo and Juliet kind, which would make her appear dead, but only for a set time. This is revealed (not, of course, to Hipolito) in 1.3 , when she wakes up. Although the effect is not farcical, the sudden and unexpected revival of what we had assumed to be a dead young woman creates an extravagant, exuberant effect, almost humorous like a conjuring trick. The audience is taken out of a tragic mode into a comic one, at least in the sense that it is made to feel relief. This particular situation of a near or seeming disaster which in the event is avoided is just one of many such instances in the Honest Whore plays which on a minor scale prepare the audience for an ultimately happy ending.

    Infelice is presented as a tough young lady, who has no illusions about her father, but is sent to Bergamo (some distance from Milan and Hippolito), in the belief that Hippolito is dead. Indeed, she is told that it was the news of her lover’s death which caused her temporary sickness, from which she has now recovered. At the end of the scene, when alone with the Duke, the Doctor informs the Duke that it would be easy for him to poison Hippolito and thus to cause his real death, a plan which the Duke is keen to see implemented.

    In contrast to Romeo and Juliet, where, as in Roman ‘New Comedy’, lovers take steps to thwart hostile parents, we see in this romantic plot an anti-romantic Duke who, with the aid of a supportive Doctor, seems all too likely to succeed in his efforts to thwart the young lovers. However, the Doctor is perfectly capable of acting on his own initiative and of scheming on behalf of the youngsters, which he proceeds to engage in. At the beginning of 4.4 he pretends to the Duke that he has poisoned Hippolito. The Duke, though pleased, banishes him from the court as a potential danger to himself. Dekker makes it seem as though the Doctor now turns against the Duke, but it soon becomes obvious that the Doctor was on the side of the young lovers all along. He has written to Infelice in Bergamo to tell her about her father’s deceitful and evil behaviour, and now tells Hippolito that Infelice is alive and that it will be possible for the couple to get married at Bethlem Monastery. He also explains to Hippolito in TLN 2247 that the Duke had ‘chambered’ him up (i.e. had shut him up in a chamber) after the fake death of Infelice, and that for that reason he could not help the lovers before.

    Thus we now see, in this romantic plot, good acting against evil, and comedy in the ascendancy over tragedy. In Act 5 the Duke is told about the planned marriage and decides to hasten to Bethlem to prevent it. It is to take place in the afternoon, but Fluello, one of the gallants, forestalls the Duke and warns the lovers. Hence the Duke is confronted with a fait accompli. Father Anselmo, who has married the young couple, explains to the Duke that he was moved by the wish to reconcile two feuding families – the Duke’s and that of his enemies (TLN 2799-812). Fluello points out, moreover, that the Duke can do nothing other than accept what has happened. As he says, ‘there’s now no remedy’ (TLN 2813): even a Duke cannot untie a valid marriage.

    The way Dekker brings matters together at this point in 5.2 is characteristic of his procedure: there is a strong moral and emotional reason for the Duke to accept what is inevitable, and, as well, he has in practice no choice anyway. However, convenient though all this is, one can also see good reasons why any sensible Duke would indeed accept what has been arranged. The Duke not only realises that he has no alternative, but also that Father Anselmo is right, as the marriage will indeed bring about harmony between the two feuding families. Hence, in a play which in general is concerned with the transformation of bad into good, the Duke from here on, and without hesitation, becomes permanently converted to better ways. He yields to the happiness of the couple, and adopts a different, constructive mindset, which is of course beneficial to the society of which he is the head, and which helps along the general goal of conversion, reconciliation, and unification towards which the play is directed. Hence this romantic plot has distinct importance for the play as a whole, not least in turning the Duke into a better man, for the wellbeing of all. In principle, Dekker implies, there is no reason to doubt that the Duke, Infelice, and his son-in-law will face a bright future.

    30Part 1: The ‘Morality’ Plot

    What I have described as the romantic plot shows us a well-organised narrative that makes sense on its own. Dekker’s evident purpose is to reveal to us how the anti-romantic Duke was scheming to prevent a marriage he does not want to occur, and how his effort is frustrated. At the end he has become a more acceptable leader of his society, and a better family member, as a result. Infelice has proved to be sturdy and sensible. Hippolito has displayed signs of a rather excessive temperament, but after 1.1 we have not seen much of that, in the romantic plot which we have considered.

    However, what our summary has not made plain is that Hippolito, after 1.1 and before 4.4 , curiously has become part of another plot, namely the morality plot in which Bellafront is the central character. In fact, Hippolito provides the major link between the romantic plot and the morality plot, and if we consider the romantic plot on its own, as we have done, we are not aware that in a way Hippolito leads, in this play, something like a double life. This is not a matter of deceit. Rather, his role in the romantic plot seems quite separate from, and not influenced by, the part he plays in the morality plot. Ultimately this is due to the fact that although his role in the morality plot is active while it lasts, it does not appear to affect him personally. He remains mentally loyal to Infelice’s memory to begin with, and to the thought of his intended marriage with her once he is made aware that she is still alive.

    But his role in the morality plot is of major importance, even if it affects him – at least in the short term – far less than it does Bellafront. In 1.1 , Hippolito is presented as a very high-strung young man, totally preoccupied with the loss of Infelice. While his sense of bereavement is in principle natural enough, it is striking that he does not actually share his grief with others, but feels that he – and only he – ‘owns’ Infelice’s body, saying to attendants: ‘Set down, / Villains, set down that sorrow; ’tis all mine’ (TLN 20-21). His attitude shows a remarkable degree of self-centredness, emotional excessiveness, and lack of appropriate interaction with others. These traits in his character are strongly evident also at the end of the scene, where he declares that he will never on ‘woman’s beams ... throw affection / Save her that’s dead’ (TLN 148-49), and that every Monday, ‘being locked up / In my close chamber, there I’ll meditate / On nothing but my Infelice’s end, / Or on a dead man’s skull draw out mine own’ (TLN 140-43). It is, of course, unnatural for a healthy young man to declare loyalty exclusively to a dead woman: it reveals a failing to engage with life as it is, and a wish to escape into some other world. The more down-to-earth Mattheo predicts that he will find Hippolito in a brothel within ten days (TLN 157-58).

    In 2.1 what Mattheo predicts actually happens, though one must add that this is due to his taking Hippolito to Bellafront’s house (so the initiative is not actually Hippolito’s own, but he does accompany Mattheo). Bellafront in effect runs her own very comfortable establishment as a whore, with her pander Roger, and occasionally also drawing on the bawd Mistress Fingerlock (presented in 3.2 ) for an exceptionally good catch. We are introduced to both Bellafront and a number of her regular visitors, who from all the evidence also appear to be clients. They are a group of gallants. Among these Mattheo turns out to be the most prominent, and we shall pay due attention to him later. For the moment, it is worth noting that her relationship with Mattheo is obviously closer than with the others, in that she and he present themselves as being in an amorous/sexual relationship in which she is the ‘mistress’ (TLN 872) whom he ‘serves’. In what seems to be a realistic mode, we see plenty of lively, and apparently happy, social interaction at the beginning of this Act .

    But from the moment of his entrance with Mattheo, Hippolito, the newcomer and outsider, is aloof. Presumably he has some sense of where he has been taken, and in any case he has declared himself interested only in the deceased Infelice, not in any living women. He asks Fluello some questions about Bellafront and from the answers concludes rapidly that she is no doubt ‘some sale courtesan’ (TLN 927). Here we see the emergence of his total disapproval of whores, which in practice at least the other men do not share. But what is also striking is that in part his questions are prompted by Bellafront’s beauty, and he comments that she is a good-looking creature (TLN 922).

    35Bellafront in her turn is intrigued by this unexpected visitor and asks a number of questions about him. It is obvious that he is not the sort of man she is used to, and she even describes him as a ‘sullen picture’ (TLN 946). Hippolito’s distaste for her as a whore is such that he finds an excuse to leave prematurely, but he promises Mattheo to return. When he does so he finds Bellafront alone. Mattheo, who is a wastrel, does not come back as promised. As a result Bellafront and Hippolito find themselves together in one room, and this leads to one of the most exciting and interesting scenes in 1 and 2 The Honest Whore. During this scene (TLN 993-1223), Hippolito in essence becomes part of Bellafront’s world, and thus of the morality plot. Major moral matters are raised, and, as well, Hippolito’s mind for the time being swerves from Infelice and the romantic plot, towards which, however, he will return. Dekker presents his conduct as totally convincing and (given Hippolito’s psychology) consistent in both of the plots in which he is pivotal. Thus, Dekker, through Hippolito, links those plots firmly and naturally.

    Usually critics describe the great Bellafront-Hippolito scene (taking up the remainder of Act 2) with much emphasis on the way he lectures her, and some vague sense of her falling in love with him. What he has to tell her about the vices of prostitution, which largely speaks for itself, is of course important, but to my mind ultimately less interesting than the interaction between the two characters and their psychology.

    One thing generally overlooked is the subtle way in which the interaction between them commences. Hippolito immediately wants to leave when he finds Mattheo absent. Clearly he strongly condemns Bellafront, but he also seems to display a degree of fear of her. She invites him to sit, but he puts down his rapier and says ‘I’m hot; / If I may use your room, I’ll rather walk’ (TLN 1000). The unrest he shows is surely the result of her strong physical impact on him. He feels ‘hot’ because he is sexually aroused: there is no other cause implied, and, physically speaking, walking will only make him the hotter. In fact his interest in Bellafront as a woman is obvious from his ensuing comment: ‘I perceive my friend [Mattheo] / Is old in your acquaintance’ (TLN 1004-05). The word ‘acquaintance’, here, is a euphemism for ‘sexual acquaintance’. Obviously he is beginning to wonder whether he might become her ‘acquaintance’ himself. Bellafront is, in fact, encouraging, and not just, it seems, because he is a potential customer. She shows her intelligence in subtly drawing Hippolito out when he asks whether he might play ‘Mattheo’s part’ (TLN 1011). She might have said, for example, ‘I shall be happy to have you as a client’. But instead she invites Hippolito to explain himself further, and when he makes his sexual wishes known, she tells him that she is ‘in bonds to no man’ (TLN 1015).

    Hippolito is unambiguous about his desire for ‘pleasure’ (TLN 1020); indeed, in his typical self-centred fashion he insists that he would tolerate no ‘sharers’ (TLN 1018), but would monopolise her. What he is talking about is not a marriage or something like it, but a situation in which Bellafront would be his mistress, and his alone. There is no promise of loyalty on his side, or of anything like love: he desires to be her absolute sexual possessor. This does not alienate Bellafront, who in fact declares that she has longed to be absolutely loyal to a ‘kind gentleman / That would have purchased sin alone, to himself’ (TLN 1026-27). But, while she still insists that she would like such a person to be attractive as well, and to receive a ‘reasonable’ allowance (TLN 1030), one suspects that what appeals to her above all is the idea of a relationship with just one man. With part of her mind, she does want something like a marriage, as subsequent evidence will make clear. However, as soon as she declares herself willing to be loyal to Hippolito (TLN 1032-33), he shows his characteristic suspicion that the other party will let him down. He wonders to ‘how many men’ (TLN 1038) the same promise has been made, just as in 2 The Honest Whore, TLN 200, he asks Antonio Giorgio, a poor scholar who is seeking his patronage, ‘To how many hands besides hath this bird flown?’ In both cases the people in question are serious and reliable, but Hippolito appears to want exclusive ‘rights’ and evidently fears that he will be deceived. Dekker implies that there is a touch of paranoia mixed with selfishness in his character.

    So strong is his fear that he does not seize his opportunity, offered to him here in Act 2 , to establish a relationship with Bellafront, even though the moment is one when the two seem in some ways well-matched. Instead, he reveals his strong hatred of all whores, and accuses her of falseness in that he has seen letters of hers addressed to Mattheo in which she has said similar things to his friend (i.e., has promised utter loyalty). She admits this at once: ‘Mattheo! That’s true’ (TLN 1062). However, her having approached Mattheo in this vein merely confirms that she would prefer to have a relationship with one man: it does not show that she is unreliable, as Hippolito thinks. Nor does she lie when she says ‘my eyes no sooner met you / But they conceived and led you to my heart’ (TLN 1063-64). Her long-standing relationship with Mattheo is, we shall see, a matter of historical accident: with Hippolito her feeling is that of love at first sight.

    40We can hardly avoid speculating about what Dekker wants us to see as her reasons for that feeling. Some suggest – plausibly, I believe – that she is swayed by the fact that she has never before met a man who has treated her the way Hippolito does: one who on the one hand showed no immediate interest in her, yet on the other wants her exclusively. There is also clearly a physical response on Bellafront’s part, and a financially-inspired one. But Bellafront is exceptionally honest among the characters in 1 and 2 The Honest Whore, and I think her most important motive is the one she voices herself later in the scene. Thoroughly infatuated, she urges him to love her but at once adds: ‘Yet do not neither, for thou then destroyst / That which I love thee for – thy virtues’ (TLN 1217-18). She has never yet met a man who rejected her life as a whore because of his belief in moral purity, and that, more than anything, provokes her love for him. Admittedly, the men she is used to morally also reject her as a whore, but they are themselves impure, so they cannot seriously appeal to her as offering something magnetic, as Hippolito does.

    Hippolito’s lecturing on why prostitution is evil in the eyes of God, damaging to the soul and body of the whore herself, and to others, is utterly persuasive to Bellafront, as he expresses what deep down she herself believes but has never heard uttered, and certainly not with such passion, intellect, and integrity. It must come across to her as the utterance of a profoundly serious and pure man who does care for her wellbeing, and to an extent this is an assessment that she and the audience are no doubt correct in making.

    But we must also note more negative elements which Bellafront does not perceive. Hippolito rejects her more because he distrusts her, i.e. for selfish reasons, than because of care for her. Indeed, his strident criticism of whores does include, after all, direct and vehement disapproval of her. He does not suggest that if she changes her ways he will love her. In many ways, to the extent that he offers a form of help to her, it is as a preacher who is trying to convert a sinner from a position of superiority and condescension, not respect or affection of any kind. Moreover, he at no point rebukes himself for having talked to her as a potential mistress. As well, his harping on sexual sins shows a peculiar fascination with them which is almost obsessive. He sounds like a man who is strongly attracted to Bellafront but is afraid of the potency of his own sexual feeling, which unconsciously he tries to repress by making her seem abhorrent. I feel that this is the more likely because ultimately he does not succeed in that effort: in 2 The Honest Whore, his lust does, after all, drive him towards her, and uncontrollably.

    At the end of Act 2 , Hippolito just in time saves Bellafront from committing suicide when she has decided that he hates her because she is a whore. She would prefer him to kill her, but he inflicts an ultimate insult on her by, as Bellafront puts it, killing her with disdain.

    It seems to me that Bellafront’s conversion is entirely understandable, not least because she is obviously intelligent and can see the force of Hippolito’s arguments. In 2 The Honest Whore she reveals to him what she used to feel herself when she was still a whore (TLN 2014ff.). I think we must note that in the course of human history vast multitudes of people have been converted by those who persuaded them to adopt a different belief or way of life. If, moreover, one is in love with the preacher anyway, or falls in love with him because of his preachings, one’s conversion is the more likely to occur. In Bellafront’s case love may well be the dominating element in the mix. As Lois Potter puts it: ‘Bellafront’s conversion is initially caused less by Hippolito’s moralistic harangue than by her love for him, which she then sublimates into self-abasement.’[17] In some ways Bellafront was happier when a whore, and her acceptance of Hippolito’s criticisms inevitably wounds her deeply, causing a loss of self-esteem. Yet she never wavers, once converted. Although Hippolito is not Christ, his influence on Bellafront is enduring, like that of Christ on Mary Magdalene (according to what was commonly believed). The play is, indeed, often seen as in some ways ‘a Magdalene play’, but it does not rely on a specific source, although in Robert Greene’s Disputation between a He Cony-catcher and a She Cony-catcher (1592) there is a narrative called ‘The Conversion of an English Courtesan’ which features some striking similarities to Bellafront’s.[18]

    45The question for Bellafront now becomes: where to turn from here? The most immediate effect of her conversion, and also the most tenacious one, is that many do not believe her, or at least take the view that such a metamorphosis is impossible, apparently on the basis of the maxim ‘once a whore, for ever a whore’. Hippolito is in this respect by no means the worst, and does encourage her to persist, saying for example ‘’tis damnation / If you turn Turk [= whore] again’ (TLN 1888-89). Others disapprove strongly; particularly, it seems, those who themselves are part of the ‘trade’ or support it, and who feel that a convert like Bellafront shows them in a negative light. Fluello, though often a kindly person, blames her for her instructions, admonitions and caveats, and threatens her with his scabbard (TLN 1638-39), so that Mattheo (as her main protector, physically) comes to her rescue.

    But although Mattheo has a special place, and one of long standing, he is also ultimately the person who caused Bellafront to become a prostitute, and who cannot believe that she could ever be anything else. There are, of course, special reasons for his disbelief: to accept Bellafront as a convert would amount to admitting that he treated her badly (i.e. that she could have been a ‘pure’ woman). To understand his attitude more exactly, we must be aware of the hints which Dekker provides about the origin of their relationship. The best way to do this is by studying telling statements in 3.3 , and to realise that c.1600 most people in London had very different attitudes to the morality of sex, marriage, etc. from those prevalent today. After a row with Mattheo, Bellafront is on stage alone after he exits at the end of 3.3 , and she says in a reflective soliloquy:

    Go thou, my ruin,
    The first fall my soul took. By my example
    I hope few maidens now will put their heads
    Under men’s girdles. Who least trusts is most wise;
    Men’s oaths do cast a mist before our eyes.
    My best of wit be ready! Now I go
    By some device to greet Hippolito.
    [Exit.]
    (TLN 1694-700)

    This speech clearly looks back at the time when Mattheo seduced her. When Bellafront says ‘Who least trusts is most wise; / Men’s oaths do cast a mist before our eyes’ (TLN 1697-98), she obviously alludes to a promise of marriage Mattheo made but did not keep. In the previous sentence she expresses the hope that she will provide an example to those who are currently maidens not to lose their maidenheads to unreliable men. The ‘first fall’ (TLN 1695) which her soul took refers to her sexual fall which was also a fall of the soul as it was not legitimised by a proper relationship: it should have occurred within marriage, or else at the least should have been followed by that. It has turned out to be the first of many sinful falls which have damaged her soul.

    A very important point here is that although sex was seen as in theory appropriate within marriage alone, a ‘fallen’ woman could redeem herself by marriage, especially if the husband was the person who deflowered her. In this respect Mattheo throughout most of 1 The Honest Whore has a unique status in Bellafront’s eyes: he is the person to whom she should have been married when she lost her virginity, or, as a second-best alternative, who should have made her his legitimate wife after the act of seduction. Hence, a little earlier, she reminds Mattheo in TLN 1665-66: ‘you were the first / Gave money for my soul’ (i.e. ‘instead of marrying me’). He thus, by refusing to marry her as a fallen woman, and to provide for her, placed her on the path of prostitution. This does not mean that Bellafront is not herself culpable, but that a major portion of the guilt lies on Mattheo’s shoulders. As she says: ‘I was led / By your temptation to be miserable’ (TLN 1667-68). Accordingly, and particularly because she has now chosen the path of virtue as a convert, she asks him: ‘For all your wrongs / Will you vouchsafe me but due recompense, / To marry with me?’ (TLN 1684-86).

    His answer is staggering: ‘How, marry with a punk, a cockatrice, a harlot?’ (TLN 1687-88). This is not the sole time that this type of exchange between them occurs. Invariably, he rejects her as unworthy, because she is a prostitute. At no time does it occur to him that her becoming so was largely his doing. He flatly rejects any responsibility, and staunchly maintains that the one at fault is only she.

    50Critics at times seem to see Bellafront’s attitude after her conversion as strangely hesitant or inconsistent, thinking that, quite illogically, she cannot choose between Hippolito and Mattheo. In fact, however, the situation is quite straightforward, and her attitude is perfectly proper. Originally, if Mattheo had been a decent person, she would have become his wife. As he left her in the lurch, she no longer has any responsibility of loyalty towards him, and he cannot possibly blame her for becoming a whore, as he himself has strongly influenced that outcome. When she meets Hippolito, she does hope to establish a loyal relationship with him, but he rejects her, though he does convert her. Transformed, and opting for decency, Bellafront logically turns to Mattheo to ask him to get married to her. Not only does he have that moral duty anyway, but there is the more reason for him to do so once she is no longer a whore, and his calling her that does not make her so. As he rejects her, she then decides, at the end of 3.3 , to approach Hippolito as a potential partner.

    At the beginning of Act 4 , we find Hippolito meditating upon Infelice, a skull, and death. Both the situation and the language used remind us, in a very theatrical way, of Hamlet. Hippolito’s earlier decision, in Act 2 , to avoid Bellafront, with her vibrancy and love, is clearly paralleled here not only by his fascination with a picture of Infelice (whom he believes to be dead), but yet more so by his arriving at the conclusion that ultimately a skull offers a more important reality than a portrait. Death, he feels, is ultimately ‘the best painter’ (TLN 1786), creating something which lasts in the form of pictures ‘without colour’ (TLN 1790). A person preoccupied with thoughts of this kind is hardly in a mood to enjoy what is about to happen. Bellafront has decided to visit him, disguised as a page. As happens often in Shakespeare’s plays, such a step on the part of a woman suggests initiative and an admirable ability to display ‘male’ as well as ‘female’ qualities, but Hippolito’s reaction is extremely negative once Bellafront reveals herself. All he can do is rebuke her for disturbing him while he was moving to heaven and Infelice ‘on meditation’s spotless wings’ (TLN 1856).

    Accordingly, Bellafront, the former whore who has now embraced a new way of life, finds herself rejected by the two men who in their different ways are of crucial importance to her as potential partners: Mattheo and Hippolito. As she no longer earns any money, she contemplates returning to her father, to remove the anger which he has felt towards her since she became a whore: ‘He cannot sure but joy, seeing me new born’ (TLN 1910). She does not implement this plan, which has led many to believe that Dekker intended a different sequel from the one he came to write. I see the matter differently: I believe we are to conclude that, in Dekker’s view, Bellafront momentarily contemplates the plan, but abandons it in order to seek a way of compelling Mattheo to marry her.

    By the end of Act 4 , we know that Hippolito and Infelice are to be married at Bethlem Monastery (which is also a hospital for mad people). News of this gets out, because Mattheo (who is close to Hippolito) tells others about it. Early in Act 5 , Castruccio informs the Duke of the marriage, in the presence of a great many people. Obviously it is reasonable for the audience to assume that Bellafront, too, knows of this planned wedding; Mattheo is in fact with Hippolito and Infelice when these two plead (at the beginning of 5.2 ) with Father Anselmo to tie the wedding-knot. What Bellafront needs to find is a ruse that enables her to trap Mattheo. She does this by posing as a mad woman. This disguise is appropriate in a mental hospital and enables her to move around with ease, unrecognised by most, at a time when various people, including the Duke, the young married couple, and others, are all together in the same place. She manages to present herself as a fortune-teller, and, in public, tells the Duke that she had a fine jewel once, which was stolen by Mattheo. Queried by the Duke, she explains that the jewel was her maidenhead. As a result, the Duke orders Mattheo to marry her. Mattheo obeys this command, though with considerable reluctance, the consequences of which we shall see in 2 The Honest Whore.

    However, Bellafront has achieved her goal. While at the end of 4.1 she was a reformed woman without a man to support her, she will now get married to the man who originally promised to be her husband but deceived her. Thus the potential for tragedy that existed at the time when she was a whore, and after that when she seemed doomed to a friendless existence, has been removed to make place for an apparently happy ending which is, in terms of genre, fitting for a comedy. Her status will, at least in theory, be that of a respectably married woman. As she says: ‘Mattheo, thou first mad’st me black; now make me / White as before. I vow to thee, I’m now / As chaste as infancy, pure as Cynthia’s brow’ (TLN 2866-68). Thus we are offered a practical, satisfactory ending to a plot which, deriving ultimately from the tradition of morality plays, is concerned with weighty moral issues and choices. Bellafront, in particular, is a highly moral character, who inherently carries Dekker’s ‘bourgeois’ approval. The plot does not use such morality abstractions as the ‘Vice’, but presents characters that seem to me to be constructed as in the main realistic and psychologically convincing. Inasmuch as we see Bellafront falling in love with Hippolito there is a potentially romantic component, but at the end that has made way for her very ‘realistic’ marriage to Mattheo. To the extent that this ending is happy, this moral plot has to be seen as appropriate for a comedy.

    55Part 1: The ‘Comic’ Plot

    The comic (one may even say ‘farcical’) plot revolves around the linen-draper Candido, and is the part of the play which focuses most strongly on the life of citizens. The ‘morality’ plot is concerned with people, including Bellafront, who essentially belong to a higher level of society. Although it is concerned with serious matters, it is less preoccupied with the world of daily toil and hard work than is the world of Candido and his Prentices.

    In many ways Candido and his helpers most strongly attract Dekker’s advocacy. In The Shoemaker’s Holiday this had happened in a more obviously propagandist fashion. Matters are subtler in the Honest Whore plays, because Candido is in some ways a more complex and eccentric character. As a citizen, he shows what Dekker sees as typical virtues: he is self-controlled, hard-working, very moral and honest, and – partly as a result – commercially successful. In the world of the citizenry, he is also highly respected. His apprentices admire and protect him, and he is a member of the Senate (the equivalent of the London ‘Common Council’), an honour which he has earned as a citizen of outstanding virtue and value.

    Yet, given Dekker’s respect for citizens and their world, he presents, in Candido, someone who must have been an unusual example. It is one thing to be self-controlled and disciplined, and, both as a businessman and a courteous individual, to be polite and helpful to others; but it is quite another to put up with bad behaviour from others in the super-tolerant way that Candido does. His is clearly the attitude of a Stoic, and although Stoicism was a fashionable philosophy at the beginning of the seventeenth century, Candido takes his adherence to it very far. The extent of his patience is what is truly remarkable.

    For Stoics, as I have said before, the practice of patience – ‘the suffering or enduring (of pain, trouble, or evil) with calmness and composure’ (OED sb. 1a) – was central in the pursuit of their beliefs and as a way of coping with life. We must remember that Seneca, who is largely the shaping force in Renaissance Stoicism, lived in highly turbulent times, where for example politically motivated murders were very frequent. The doctrine of Stoicism was something which provided counsel and assistance in situations of serious adversity, and as the Renaissance in England offered periods of considerable instability and suffering to substantial numbers of people, the popularity of Stoicism is explicable. However, Candido is not actually confronted with major crises, but practises Stoicism as an art form even in situations of comparatively minor trouble, and in such a way that he allows others to take advantage of his tolerance. It is perhaps particularly noteworthy that on the whole, in any potential conflict with others, he is the one usually inclined to yield: often not even to insist on equality, but to let others take the upper hand.

    Compared with other males in the play, except perhaps for Orlando and Antonio Giorgio in 2 The Honest Whore, Candido appears to be remarkably kind, accommodating, civilised, and thoughtful. He is not a total weakling, either, and steers his Prentices with a firm hand. For all these reasons he is probably to be seen above all as a favourable contrast to other male characters, especially those who treat women badly, as, in rather different ways, Hippolito and Mattheo do (who, however, both display worse behaviour in 2 The Honest Whore than 1 The Honest Whore).

    60For all his virtues, it is difficult to see Candido as ‘an ideal man’, for otherwise we would be forced to conclude that his wife Viola has absolutely no reason to feel dissatisfied with him, and, although an audience is bound to dislike the way she treats him, it will nevertheless understand that Viola does have a point in thinking that there is something lacking in Candido.

    Similarly, although on the whole an audience will respect Candido’s attitude to the gallants and others who try to provoke him – often very rudely and unreasonably – it is not easy to see Candido’s response as necessarily always the very best imaginable. There does appear to be a shortcoming, although upon reflection one’s opinion of him tends to improve.

    We should of course not fail to see that possibly the chief reason for the Candido scenes is to provide funny entertainment, and they do. There is something hilarious about a person who cuts out, and sells, a piece of cloth the size of a penny right out of the middle of a bolt some seventeen yards long. The event is unexpected, curious, and laughable in its absurdity, even if we may develop a complex attitude to both Candido and those vexing him.

    Candido is not just the cardboard figure of the ‘patient man’ who is often simplistically approached by critics, but provides some real puzzles to an audience as to how it is to interpret him. Let us examine some of the relevant evidence in 1 The Honest Whore. The Candido scenes are rather episodic, and do not form a coherent narrative, except – loosely – when they involve the relationship between him and Viola. There are two different parties that vex him with a view to provoking him into losing his patience. There is Viola on the one hand, and a number of the gallants on the other. I shall turn to the gallants first, and then deal with the more important Viola strand.

    The gallants know, by repute, about Candido and his patience. Probably one reason why they want to provoke him is that he is considered meek as a lamb, which makes them feel that they can exploit him without undue trouble and thus easily create a scene of mirth. Another motive is presumably that they want to convert him into someone more like them, or show him up as too unusual, standing out too much from the crowd. There is undoubtedly a desire to make him conform with the common norm, and the gallants repeatedly express their amazement at his deviation from it, although in the end they come to respect him for what he is.

    65In 1.4 they are shown discussing their plan to vex him so as to arouse his anger, and it is interesting to observe that one of them, Pioratto, is immediately doubtful that this can actually be done, as he is aware of an incident that showed Candido incapable of being provoked. Nevertheless, they proceed. In 1.5 Castruccio succeeds in persuading Candido to sell him a pennyworth of lawn in the incident already mentioned: Candido, in exchange for a penny, cuts a penny-sized piece out of an expensive piece of lawn, which is therefore largely ruined. Of course the incident is spectacular and sure to astonish, and amuse, both the gallants and the audience. Candido defends his action by saying:

    We are set here to please all customers,
    Their humours and their fancies, offend none;
    We get by many if we leese [= lose] by one.
    (TLN 607-09)

    This answer greatly impresses Fluello, who says:

    O wondrous man, patient ’bove wrong or woe!
    How blest were men if women could be so.
    (TLN 615-16)

    The second line probably alludes to the fact that Viola had expressed her disapproval of Candido’s action previously (TLN 576-78). Not only is Fluello’s remark in general misogynist, but even in relation to the incident in question it seems somewhat misdirected. Surely Viola does have some reason to criticise Candido’s generosity, although her reaction falls short of perfect understanding, as Candido is no doubt partly right, from a commercial point of view, to argue that above all he must keep his customers happy, and will in general trade profitably if he does so, even if he loses money in a single instance. If we think further about the matter, we realise that if he had allowed himself to be provoked by Castruccio, some quarrel would have ensued that ultimately might have harmed his business. In other words, his action is not as foolish as it looks to Viola. Even so, any audience is bound to feel some doubt about Candido’s wisdom in an instance like this.

    Subsequent to this incident, Candido offers the gallants the opportunity to drink toasts from a silver-gilt beaker. The gallants manage to think up a trick that enables them to walk off with this precious object. Again Candido preserves his patience, and is impressive in doing so, but at the same time he looks foolishly generous. However, he provides an antidote to Viola’s anger by ensuring that the beaker does get retrieved, relying on a constable for that to happen. As Jean Howard argues, ‘Candido proves a good subject when he does not fight with his customers over a stolen object but calls in the law.’[19] Moreover, we can see that although Candido’s patience seems boundless, his generosity is not. In selling a pennyworth of lawn at great expense his judgement was perhaps debatable, though defensible. He considered that if he had taken any kind of hostile action then, that might have been disadvantageous to his business. After all, he was engaged in selling. In the case of the beaker, he has to decide whether he will accept theft, and concludes that he will not. This shows very clearly that although he will not allow himself to lose his patience, he is not prepared to accept all vexatious actions from others without counter-action. And again Fluello praises him – not referring to the beaker, but to Candido’s patience (TLN 727).

    Again it is noteworthy in this scene ( 1.5 ) how Dekker uses the action of tragicomedy in miniature. The loss of the damaged cloth does, of course, prove a financial set-back, but Candido has explained why he was prepared to accept that in order to protect his business. More unambiguously, he is effective in solving the beaker incident. His reputation for patience remains intact, while he has demonstrated that he will not tolerate theft. The gallants have failed in their desire to upset him, ands indeed the scene ends with his inviting them (and even the constable) to a meal. He feels he can now, having retrieved the beaker, show generosity on his terms. We may still feel that Viola has some justifiable reason to be less than happy, but all in all Candido’s actions are, however unusual, well-considered enough to create positive goodwill among the gallants without seriously damaging his and Viola’s financial position. Thus in essence the ending of the scene, if viewed as a mini-play, is that of comedy. The gallants in 1 The Honest Whore, at any rate, are impressed by him, and do not bother him again. (The situation is different in 2 The Honest Whore.)

    Now let us turn to Viola’s treatment of Candido, which in its comparative coherence offers something more like a true plot, and – importantly – another male-female relationship. Viola fundamentally sees her husband as a ‘man in print’, i.e. a perfect man (TLN 230). However, she explains to her brother Fustigo that he is never angry, and that she longs for him to be so. Like the gallants, she decides to try and provoke him, and instructs Fustigo, whom Candido does not know, to infuriate her husband by irritating behaviour in his shop – by pretending to have a sexual relationship with her, by snatching her jewellery, etc.

    70The attempt is made in 3.1 , but proves a dismal failure. Fustigo does annoy Candido, who speaks to him quite sharply, though patiently. The Prentices, who are not Stoics, are mightily irritated by Fustigo, and decide (contrary to Candido’s own inclinations) to take action against him. When Viola goes so far as to give Fustigo valuable pieces of cloth, a group of Prentices beat him with clubs, and vehemently so.

    Viola is however determined to persist in her efforts to anger her husband, and prevents him from wearing his proper gown to the Senate. Instead, Candido wears an improvised ‘gown’ made of a (probably Turkish) carpet, and decides to pretend that he is sick, so that other senators will accept his costume. Viola, at the end of 3.1 , encourages George to put on Candido’s clothes and to act as though he is the Master.

    In 4.3 , Candido returns from the Senate, sees George wearing his (i.e. the Master’s) clothes, and, wearing the carpet, exits without saying a word. Viola concludes he surely now must be angry. However, Candido returns dressed in a prentice-coat, and assumes the behaviour of a Prentice. All this is too much for the disappointed Viola to bear. She leaves, in order to find officers who will be prepared to believe that Candido is mad and must be taken to Bethlem. She succeeds in achieving her goal. But, of course, Candido is not mad, and Viola soon misses him. In Act 5 she requests the Duke, whose signature is required, to release him. The Duke does so, but not without declaring that it is Viola herself who showed madness; and Candido also admonishes her.

    In the main, the audience is likely to feel respect for Candido’s patience and to think of his wife as a rather foolish shrew. However, that does not entirely do her justice. She obviously believes quite genuinely that he is in some ways abnormal in never getting angry, and it is significant that the Duke says: ‘’Twere sin all women should such husbands have, / For every man must then be his wife’s slave’ (TLN 2946-47). The Duke has just listened with admiration to a lecture by Candido on patience (TLN 2922-36). Nevertheless, his statement about ‘such husbands’ is a strong one. In the Duke’s view, patience, in the way Candido practises it, is too lenient towards others, especially those who are unreasonable. Candido has allowed his wife too liberally to act according to her own wishes only. The implication is that, even if patient, he should not have given her unbridled freedom. In that sense, then, Viola was right all along in believing, as she had put it to Fustigo in TLN 222-23, that Candido ‘has not all things belonging to a man’. The allusion is to gender roles, not, as is sometimes thought, to sex. Let me explain my view of this further in the next paragraph.

    The Candido-Viola plot presents us with something like an inversion and parody of the more ‘normal’ situations offered to us in the rest of the play. Hippolito and Mattheo are too ‘male’ in their somewhat insensitive attitudes, particularly towards Bellafront, a woman in a very difficult position. By comparison Candido has erred in the opposite direction, by yielding too much ground to Viola, and thus adopting something like a traditional ‘female’ stance. Viola was wrong in thinking of Candido as ‘mad’ because he was never angry, but although her conclusion was extreme, it did in part arise from Candido’s failure to establish normal boundaries. Had such boundaries been set, she would probably not have longed for him to assert himself. Admirable though Candido in many ways is, we should not idealise him as perfect. Even so, at the conclusion of 1 The Honest Whore a solution of sorts has been found, and, as befits a comic ending, Candido and his wife are together again.

    75Part 1: Bethlem

    The ending takes place in Bethlem, which is at once a monastery and a hospital. Ken Jackson has made a strong case for seeing Bethlem as a place offering charity. I can see his point, but I believe, even so, that Dekker presents an institution which shows rather less sensitivity towards its patients than it should. It is not possible or necessary to rehearse all the arguments concerning the institution here, and I refer readers to the studies Jackson and I have produced.[20] I would at this point simply like to state what, most importantly, I see as the basic reason why Dekker uses the setting of Bethlem for part of his ending.

    In the last analysis, the play offers us a comic conclusion to what might have been a tragedy, and it attempts to show us how, in general, people may live in harmony and understand – hopefully even love – each other. But the mad people in the hospital live very much in a mental world of their own, even when they are in the presence of other people. They thus provide an example of what we must hope not to have to suffer, and Dekker sharpens the happy ending of his comedy by contrasting it with a very painful alternative. I just quote a passage from 5.2 , not so much to show how Father Anselmo treats a patient, or even how others react, but in particular to highlight how Dekker presents this poor man’s suffering as something very different from what the characters of the play who are not mad have reason to feel at its end:

    ANSELMO
    I'll whip you if you grow unruly thus.
    1 MADMAN
    Whip me? Out, you toad! Whip me? What justice is this, to whip me because I’m a beggar? Alas! I am a poor man, a very poor man. I am starved, and have had no meat, by this light, ever since the great flood. I am a poor man.
    ANSELMO
    Well, well, be quiet, and you shall have meat.
    1 MADMAN
    Ay, ay, pray do. For look you, here be my guts, these are my ribs. You may look through my ribs; see how my guts come out. These are my red guts, my very guts, O, O!
    ANSELMO
    [To Servants] Take him in there.
    [Servants remove 1 Madman.]
    ALL
    A very piteous sight.
    (TLN 2650-60)

    Part 2: An Important and Interesting Sequel

    The sequel, 2 The Honest Whore, was almost certainly written once 1 The Honest Whore proved a major commercial success, and the logical time for it to have been composed and produced would have been 1605, although there is no record showing that this in fact happened. Very often, at any time in history, a second play tends to be weaker than the first, often because it does ‘much the same thing’, and less successfully to boot. Although this view has sometimes been expressed about 2 The Honest Whore, most of the critics mentioned have, on the contrary, found 2 The Honest Whore the better play, and a charge of repetition, on any significant scale, really does not stand up. One of the advantages of 2 The Honest Whore, it is usually argued, is that it is more obviously unified: while the three plots of 1 The Honest Whore create the pleasure of variety, they are not, some feel, necessarily firmly integrated, either structurally or thematically. And in any case 2 The Honest Whore definitely covers new ground.

    In 2 The Honest Whore the ‘romantic’ plot is not continued or replaced by a new one. The reason, one surmises, is that such a plot had already been offered in 1 The Honest Whore, and resulted in a marriage, as well as reconciliation between the young lovers and the Duke. In 2 The Honest Whore, Dekker’s interest is not, as it was in 1 The Honest Whore, in what happens to young people before they settle into marriage, but in what happens after the marriage has commenced. Hippolito and Infelice are thus of course presented, and examined, as an apparently ‘normal’ couple, but Dekker also devotes much energy to exploring the relationship between Mattheo and Bellafront now that they find themselves in a formal and ‘respectable’ union. Consequently, 2 The Honest Whore is not in any sense a sequel which repeats what happened in 1 The Honest Whore, but a work which takes the primary stories of 1 The Honest Whore further, exploring in considerable depth, and at a later point in time (some years afterwards), the characters and relationships of the four main young people who were also featured in 1 The Honest Whore. The Candido scenes, which had always been somewhat separate from the interlaced ‘romantic’ and ‘morality’ plots in 1 The Honest Whore, still play a part in 2 The Honest Whore, but less prominently so than in the earlier play. One reason is no doubt that Candido could be seen, in 1 The Honest Whore, as an implicit model for Bellafront, as he displayed superb self-discipline and demonstrated how to maintain ‘patience’ (Stoic endurance) in the face of adversity.

    As a converted whore, Bellafront showed already in 1 The Honest Whore that she, too, had a similar ability, and as she never wavers in her goal she herself becomes, in 2 The Honest Whore, a model of Candido’s virtues, and, it has to be added, at a far deeper level, in the face of intensely painful provocation. She is, in fact, more reminiscent of Patient Grissil than Candido. Her role as a former whore makes matters harder, as men generally continue to see her as a whore. This is their fault, however, and she does not al all deserve the treatment she is subjected to; nor is she in need of such treatment to prove her penitence, as some aver. Her penitence was obvious enough from the moment of her conversion. It is a matter of the heart, and, if we think in Christian terms, one between her and her Maker. That Maker would not select people like Mattheo, a person who misjudges her and is grossly immoral himself, to mete out punishment to her.

    80In the main 2 The Honest Whore is certainly not ‘romantic’, or ‘comic’ in the sense of ‘funny’. On the whole it operates, rather, within the ‘morality’ tradition, and shows the difficulty of successful relations between men and women in marriage, especially for the women, as they, while suffering, tolerate ongoing misbehaviour on the part of the men. Dekker is not writing a feminist text or developing a blue-print for social reform, but his sympathy is strongly reserved for the women, and his distaste for the men. In its own way, this is a feminist play, with an acute diagnosis of what is wrong with the behaviour of men (worse, it seems, in marriage than before it), and the remarkable forbearance and strength of the women who are their victims. The play also exhibits Dekker’s gift for realism and his psychological insight. At the end something like a general resolution, such as is generally found in comedy, is offered to us, but it has been achieved at great pains, and it is not characterised by abundant festive joy. As on many occasions the action is primarily of a tragic nature, and comparative happiness is only achieved at the end, I feel it is very appropriate to see this play as a tragicomedy – more so than 1 The Honest Whore.

    In principle, it might be argued that the certainty of a comic ending is almost guaranteed by the introduction of the disguised Orlando, Bellafront’s father, who at an early stage takes an active interest in her welfare, and who, outside the Candido scenes, is among the main characters the one truly admirable man in the play. But the audience, although comforted by his existence, can never know for sure to what extent he will succeed in his good intentions, and as his disguise restricts him, Dekker has plenty of scope for showing us tragic events that Orlando does not avert. His role obviously bears a similarity to the Duke’s in Measure for Measure, and there are other similarities between the two plays, which of course many have noted.[21] Even so, there were other plays written at about the same time which explored similar matters, and it would be quite exaggerated – considering also the many differences – to see Shakespeare’s play straightforwardly as a ‘source’ for 2 The Honest Whore, although undoubtedly it was a major influence.

    I shall now discuss 2 The Honest Whore in more detail, starting this time with the Candido scenes, which do throw some interesting light on the play as a whole, but are otherwise best discussed at the beginning to allow us afterwards to concentrate fully on the main events and characters in the play.

    Part 2: The Candido Scenes

    Once Viola has come to understand properly what her husband is like and no longer wishes to upset him, one imagines that a happy marriage will be in store for them. Unlike Hippolito and Infelice, or Mattheo and Bellafront, they do not face an unknown future. It would therefore have been difficult and illogical for Dekker to present Candido and Viola in the same way as in 1 The Honest Whore, with Candido perpetually ‘patient’, and Viola a shrew. As Candido had been a quite major figure in 1 The Honest Whore Dekker must have thought it essential to offer his audience this engaging eccentric again rather than Viola, whose role had consisted of being a shrew, but who at the end of 1 The Honest Whore had ceased being one.

    Dekker’s solution was to preserve Candido, but not Viola. In 1.2 we are offered a new set of gallants, led by Lodovico (a knight), who remembers suddenly that the group has been invited to dinner at Candido’s house, to celebrate a new wedding, Viola now being no longer alive. The gallants all remember Viola as a shrew, and wonder whether Candido’s second wife will be similar. Lodovico even expressly says: ‘I pity he should marry again’ (TLN 243-44).

    85At the wedding feast in 1.3 it rather comes to look as though the fear of the gallants will prove justified. Candido stars in a lengthy panegyric on the city-cap worn by the majority of the guests, who, like himself, naturally enough are citizens. Dekker, with his sympathy for this group of Londoners, is truly in his element at this point, and it is amazing how interesting the lecture on their emblem turns out to be. The general atmosphere is vivacious and convivial. The Bride calls for a cup of claret (= ‘red’) wine (TLN 540), and all seems well. However, the harmonious scene is soon disturbed. A Prentice by mistake offers the Bride sack in a cup, and she immediately hits him on the lips. Obviously, here is a new shrew who knows no boundaries, and who has not been set any by Candido. Candido does not blame her, and points out that his Prentice made a mistake. In essence, this means that he is unjust to his Prentice in putting full blame for the incident on him while implying that the Bride has done nothing wrong. Nor does Candido’s attitude change when the Bride breaks a glass of claret which is offered to her. In fact, he defends her by saying that ‘she is not well’ (TLN 564).

    Inevitably, with this attitude on Candido’s part, shrewish behaviour will become the order of the day, and Dekker does not allow this new wife the same freedom as Viola had, who, before the happy ending of 1 The Honest Whore, managed to persuade officers to take Candido to Bethlem, on the grounds of supposed madness. The flaw in Candido’s character is that he confuses patience with permissiveness, and in this new play that flaw is finally dealt with. Lodovico advises Candido to establish proper boundaries, and this happens in a hilarious scene, 2.2 . Lodovico has thought of a way of solving the problem. He disguises himself as a would-be Prentice of Candido, and a strategy is decided upon, in which Lodovico will take the lead. First, Candido is made to call out for his wife. He tells her that he would like her to ensure that a bed and room will be ready for Lodovico, who, Candido explains, wishes to learn the trade of a linen-draper. She flatly refuses. Candido tries what to him is stronger language on her, but again without success. He rebukes her for the breaking of glasses and similar tricks. Eventually he explicitly says that he has been a shrew’s victim before, and announces, ‘Wife, I’ll tame you’ (TLN 970).

    He decides to teach her ‘fencing tricks’ (TLN 977) by using a wooden yardstick. The Bride responds by calling for an ell-wand, which is longer, and thus is a more effective weapon. The battle will be ‘for the breeches’ (TLN 994), i.e. ‘aiming at breeches only’ (although the wife does not wear any), and ‘so as to establish who does wear the breeches in the relationship’. In masterly fashion, Dekker does not let the opponents come to blows. Candido’s initiative has been enough, though he needed Lodovico to prompt him to take it. The Bride accepts that her role is not that of a shrew, but a conventional wife. She kneels, and states that she disdains ‘The wife that is her husband’s sovereign’ (TLN 1010). Clearly there is an echo of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew here, but Candido has asserted his authority, such as it is, in a far less hateful fashion than Kate’s husband did. He even says to his wife: ‘I’ll challenge thee no more. My patient breast / Played thus the rebel only for a jest’ (TLN 1018-19).

    Thus we have here, very early on in the play, a scene in which a new marriage has in the event started promisingly, and happiness appears to be in store. The reason why this pleasing outcome is established so early is not just that Dekker is writing a sequel which must not be a repetition of 1 The Honest Whore, but also that this couple provides a norm against which we can measure the relationships between other married men and women, notably Hippolito, Infelice, Mattheo, and Bellafront. The scene not only occurs at an important moment, but is totally unlike any scene in which we saw Candido and Viola together. There is good reason for this. In 1 The Honest Whore, Dekker wanted to show us that eventually Viola would not ‘win’, and that she would come to her senses once she knew what life without Candido was like. But that still left us with the question whether Candido himself could have steered the relationship differently. This scene shows that he could – and should – have done so. Fortunately, he has now reached better insight.

    Another new experience awaits him which is considerably less pleasing. So far, Candido has not been challenged by truly evil people. In this play he is. I do not refer to 3.3 , in which he is challenged in such ways as we were also presented with in 1 The Honest Whore. This play as a whole, however, offers a much tougher world, and we see how Candido is subjected to it in 4.3 . His dealings there are with Mattheo, who in this play is a much worse character than in 1 The Honest Whore, and with the seedy bawd Mistress Horseleech, as well as with the mischievous pander Bots, the most loathsome character in the play, who at the end is punished accordingly.

    90Mattheo has stolen some pieces of lawn (TLN 2212) which he intends to sell to Candido, whom he has invited to his home to see them, though he has not told Candido about the people he will meet. When Candido arrives, he is immediately confronted by the sight of a large amount of alcohol which is ready to be consumed. Moreover, Lodovico, showing himself in a less favourable light than in 2.2 , instructs Horseleech to kiss Candido, which to him, and anyone, is a revolting experience (for one thing, she stinks ‘worse than fifty polecats’, TLN 2270-71). When Candido finds out that she is a bawd he wants to leave, but Mattheo will not let him go, and urges Bots to drink to Candido and to teach him to ‘fly high’ (TLN 2278). In other words, the plan is to force Candido to adopt the dissolute habits of the people he is with.

    But it gets worse. Bots does not drink to Candido, but commands Candido to drink wine, threatening Candido that if he refuses he will stab him with his dagger. This is the kind of threat Candido has not had to put up with before, and we come to see that ‘patience’ can only take one so far. Candido is urged to drink wine against his wish, and moreover is told to pledge a whore. A theoretical alternative would be to have himself stabbed. That would be the more courageous solution, which perhaps a Stoic should prefer. However, Candido does drink – and to Horseleech. The incident causes him great anguish. He hardly manages to consume the wine, which to him is a poison, and he can scarcely get up. He also decides he will never again drink a whore’s health. But meanwhile his enemies have succeeded in humiliating and tormenting him.

    The severity of his suffering is quite unlike anything which we saw in 1 The Honest Whore, and although he does remain ‘patient’, he is also shown as more vulnerable and pitiable than before. Furthermore, it is revealed, by a constable, that the pieces of cloth that he has bought from Mattheo were stolen, and that he is thus (even if unintentionally) a fence. Accordingly he is arrested and taken to prison, namely Bridewell. Again, this appears to be an incident his ‘patience’ cannot altogether successfully deal with: there is a difference between being wrongly considered mad, and rightly – even if only on technical grounds – being perceived to assist a thief.

    Of course, he is still eventually set free, but this time it is the Duke who, at the very end of the play, praises his virtue, and even declares: ‘A patient man’s a pattern for a king’ (TLN 2995). Candido himself does not deliver anything like the resounding, confident speech which was so impressive at the end of 1 The Honest Whore (TLN 2922-36).

    No doubt Dekker still believes in the value of Stoicism as a mental attitude. Even so, Candido appears more vulnerable and fragile in 2 The Honest Whore. In 1 The Honest Whore, he saw no need to confront his wife in the way that he came to accept as necessary in this play. And he did not suffer the humiliation of drinking to a whore or getting arrested while in the possession of stolen goods. He has, even if not in theory, in practice lost some of his seeming glamour and invincibility. But we can more readily identify with him as a human being as a result.

    95Part 2: The Hippolito, Infelice, and Bellafront Triangle

    Already in our analysis of Hippolito as he appeared in 1 The Honest Whore we noted that Dekker wanted us to think of him as a very self-absorbed young man, with a less than well-tempered character. However, he was at that stage presented as a somewhat puritanical and over-serious person, who avoided Bellafront for one thing because he seemed afraid of his own sexual feelings as well as only too willing to judge her harshly as a moralist. He also demonstrated an interest in meditative reflection and spirituality in 4.1 , when, in privacy, he reflected on our mortality and after-life (at that point believing that Infelice had died).

    Hippolito is one of the characters portrayed in such a way as to make one think that Dekker had a two-part play in mind all along. For, moving from 1 The Honest Whore to 2 The Honest Whore, we see a logical development of his psychology and behaviour. As Manheim says, like Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure and Marston’s The Dutch Courtesan, Dekker’s play ‘studies in detail the problem of corruption in seemingly virtuous individuals.’[22] Manheim’s essay points out that this idea is illuminated strikingly by Gustav Cross, who described The Dutch Courtesan as a ‘subtle and perceptive study of sexual psychology.’ Cross argues, in Manheim’s words, that The Dutch Courtesan ‘concerns the theme that “abhorrence of the passions” is as ill-advised as failure to control them, since the first might well lead to the second.’[23] I think we can see exactly such a development in Hippolito’s case.

    Broadly speaking, after repressing his sexual urges in 1 The Honest Whore, Hippolito becomes a victim of lust in 2 The Honest Whore. From the beginning of 2 The Honest Whore, 1.1 , there are several allusions to his wanting to spend a substantial part of the morning in bed with Infelice. The scene begins immediately with a series of hints, by Lodovico and other gallants, which prompts us to think of a morning that encourages sexual activity. Lodovico finishes a speech to that effect with the words ‘What, is thy lord stirring yet?’, to which Astolfo replies: ‘Yes; he will not be horsed this hour, sure’ (TLN 15-16). A little later Lodovico asks Hippolito’s Irish footman whether Hippolito is ready, and hears that ‘my lady will have some little ting [= thing] in her pelly [= belly] first’ (TLN 23-24). Somewhat later again, we see Bellafront arriving upon the scene with a petition, on behalf of Mattheo. When she explains that her business is ‘unto my lord’, Lodovico says ‘He’s about his own wife’s now’ (TLN 93-4). Hippolito takes a very long time to appear at last, and then says ‘We ha’ wasted half this morning!’ (TLN 123). It is not difficult to guess what he has ‘wasted’ half the morning on.

    Hippolito does not immediately recognise Bellafront, and asks her to approach him again at a better time. However, when she explains that a man’s life is at stake, he urges Infelice to wait for him in their coach. A poor scholar, Antonio Giorgio, who has been waiting for longer than Bellafront, is told he will be attended to later. Bellafront, though still attractive, is asked repeatedly by Hippolito, who emphasises his friendship with Mattheo, whether she is truly his wife, and it is clear that Hippolito’s interest is not only in Mattheo, who is in prison because he has killed a man in a duel, but also in Bellafront: he is revisiting the past, and wants to make sure of her identity. He promises to save Mattheo’s life through intervention from his father-in-law, the Duke, and then concentrates fully on Bellafront. He reminds her that he was the person who converted her, and asks her whether she is ‘a good wench still’ (TLN 162).

    His conversation with her, which has become increasingly private, strikes the waiting Infelice as taking unduly long, and she admonishes him through Lodovico, and subsequently Brian, the footman, to join her. Hippolito, however, takes time to promise Bellafront to bring about a reconciliation between her and her father. The reason for this is no doubt that he aims to get a hold over Bellafront not only through what he does for Mattheo, but also through her father, Orlando. His interest in her is rekindled. As soon as she leaves, he exclaims: ‘The face I would not look on! Sure then ’twas rare, / When in despite of grief ’tis still thus fair’ (TLN 189-90). As Manheim remarks, a telling feature of this scene is that, although Hippolito does eventually talk to Antonio, he favours Bellafront with his attention, and puts off the scholar. Hippolito may opt, as Manheim rightly sees it, for ‘the life of prudence and wisdom’ or he ‘may choose the life of lust and deceit’ symbolised by what he (along with many other men) continues to see as ‘the whore’.[24] However, we should add that in fact Hippolito’s choice is the more ignominious because he does know, better than other men, that Bellafront decided, years ago, to be chaste. He is in the process of plotting her moral downfall by exploiting her vulnerable position, especially the poverty she is in, now that she is no longer a whore, and without financial support from either her imprisoned husband or her estranged father.

    100Shortly after, in 1.2 , we see Hippolito manipulate Orlando’s sensitivity about his daughter. He tells Orlando that Bellafront is dead, simply to evoke a strong emotional response that reveals both to him, and not least to Orlando himself, that Orlando still does love his daughter. Hippolito suggests that the two of them may together save Mattheo and thus Bellafront. All this could be noble, in theory; but subsequent developments prove that it is not. We shall later explore how Orlando does indeed come to help his daughter, but at this point we will further consider Hippolito’s actions.

    Predictably Mattheo is set free, and in 2.1 we see Hippolito briefly visit the newly re-united couple. We must remember that both in this play and in 1 The Honest Whore he has constantly declared himself Mattheo’s friend. Although we shall discover that Mattheo still regards his wife as essentially a whore, and indeed will encourage her to act again as such, Hippolito does not know that, and his interest is merely in conquering Bellafront. It now transpires in an exchange between Hippolito and Bellafront (not heard clearly by Mattheo) that Hippolito, via his footman, has sent Bellafront a letter in which he attempts to persuade her to become his mistress, and that, by way of tangible bribe, he has offered her a diamond ring as well. He seems half-indignant not to have heard from her, and before parting from her he says ‘I must have no nay’ (TLN 775). He thus adds the pressure of his social power to that of money. As well, he tells Mattheo that ‘my purse is yours; call for it’ (TLN 785). This is a seemingly generous offer, which constitutes a further bribe, even though Mattheo does not realise that Hippolito is, through him, trying to ‘buy’ Bellafront in yet another way. He also reminds Mattheo that he has been released through his intervention, as Mattheo duly acknowledges (TLN 780-82). Just before leaving, Hippolito moreover ensures that Bellafront will receive a purse from him.

    He gives this purse to what he takes to be Mattheo’s servant, Pacheco, who is in fact, unbeknownst to anyone, Orlando in disguise. (Orlando, we shall later see, has adopted this role for good reasons.) Orlando passes on the purse to Bellafront, who tells him she will not be bribed, and asks him to return the purse, the diamond ring, and the letter to Hippolito.

    Hippolito has not only intruded into Mattheo’s and Bellafront’s marriage, in an attempt to win Bellafront’s sexual favours, but is of course in the process of cheating on his wife, Infelice, as well. Orlando decides to exploit this fact, and in 3.1 visits Infelice. Infelice believes that (as suggested by Orlando) the return of the gifts may indicate a determination on Bellafront’s part to extract more out of Hippolito (TLN 1121-23). Nevertheless, Orlando has succeeded in making her fully aware that her husband is planning an adulterous relationship. Infelice resorts to a marvellous strategy to confront Hippolito with that fact. She pretends that she has had sex with Brian, the Irish footman. The choice of this supposed rival is deliberately outrageous, designed to infuriate and humiliate Hippolito, and her trick succeeds fully. Hippolito, enraged, lectures her in his most ‘puritanical’ and moralistic manner. Quite obviously, he himself is not remotely aware that the sensual side of his nature has in his own case won out against his moral strictness. Fully applying a double standard, he attacks his wife for just such behaviour as he has come to see as appropriate for himself. It is only when Infelice uses his own moralistic words against him that he becomes conscious of his inconsistency. However, this does not impact on his behaviour. In a soliloquy at the end of 3.1 , he utters such words as these:

    He’s damned that raised this whirlwind, which hath blown
    Into her eyes this jealousy. Yet I’ll on,
    I’ll on, stood arm{`e}d devils staring in my face.
    To be pursued in flight quickens the race.
    Shall my bloodstreams by a wife’s lust be barred?
    Fond woman, no.
    (TLN 1280-86)

    It is one thing to commit evil, but another to know that one is doing so and yet to persist with it. That is what is happening here, and even at the end of the play Hippolito is still unrepentant, brazenly and in public referring to Infelice as ‘a jealous wife’. ‘Infelice’ means ‘she who is unhappy’, and obviously Dekker has chosen her name with care. We may note in passing that the name is less appropriate for the Infelice of 1 The Honest Whore, which suggests that at the time that Dekker first thought of her as a character, before writing 1 The Honest Whore, he probably already had 2 The Honest Whore in mind.

    105All in all, Hippolito is, in this play, not only morally reprehensible and repugnant, but he is even no longer intellectually impressive. In 4.1 , he proposes to Bellafront a debate, along the lines of the one we saw in 1 The Honest Whore, Act 2, when he persuaded her to abandon her ‘trade’ as a whore. Now, he aims to talk her into becoming his own private mistress, though in the context of a general defence of prostitution. The attempt is ludicrous. He appears to believe in the possibility of making two completely opposed positions equally plausible by the sheer force of rhetoric. As Manheim says:

    Rhetoric, the two debates suggest, is only as strong as the morality behind it; and Dekker stacks the cards against Hippolito in Part 2, letting Bellafront win the day by citing her own experiences as examples which Hippolito finds impossible to refute. ... In Part 1, Hippolito entered upon his argument with great emotional intensity. ... Hippolito’s argument in Part 2 lacks both the intensity and morality of his argument in Part 1. It is obviously specious and slavishly formal.[25]

    Manheim analyses the debate extensively and very well, explaining also why Bellafront’s pertinent logic, honesty and personal experience impress us by contrast with Hippolito’s failings. Readers will be able to discern the differences for themselves, and note how Bellafront has in all respects grown, both emotionally and intellectually, since the previous debate in 1 The Honest Whore. An interesting point made by Manheim is that the ending of this scene, 4.1 , recalls that of 3.1 , where as we have just seen Hippolito also allowed his passion to conquer his reason. He now refuses to concede that Bellafront is victorious. As a result she leaves him, whereupon he says:

    Fly to earth’s fix{`e}d centre, to the caves
    Of everlasting horror, I’ll pursue thee,
    Though loaden with sins, even to hell’s brazen doors.
    Thus wisest men turn fools, doting on whores.
    (TLN 2047-50)

    Possibly the most striking point here is that – as at the end of 3.1 – he knows he is wrong, but is not prepared to change his action accordingly. This makes it very difficult for an audience to sympathise with or respect him.

    But ... the play is a comedy. So, although Hippolito does not ever apologise for his behaviour to his wife, he is nevertheless shown to have a sense of shame, which to an extent rehabilitates him. Once Infelice mistakenly accuses Bellafront of having accepted letters, gold, and jewels from Hippolito (TLN 2621-22), he indignantly defends Bellafront on the basis of her – Bellafront’s – morality, including her utter chastity. Moreover, soon after he says, when Mattheo admits that he is now Orlando’s ‘patient’ (TLN 2644): ‘And be so still / ’Tis a good sign when our cheeks blush at ill’ (TLN 2645-46). As he speaks about ‘our cheeks’ (plural) I take it that he, too, blushes at his own ill. Thus, to an extent, he redeems himself in our eyes, and Orlando considers him even ‘an honest man’ (TLN 2634), probably because ultimately he has not actually committed the adultery that he aimed for and which Mattheo has accused him of (TLN 2606-08). But in the eyes of many members of the audience his stature is bound to remain less than wholly satisfactory, not least because he shows no unambiguous sign of repentance, leave alone love, towards his wife.

    Part 2: Bellafront, Mattheo, and Orlando

    At the end of 1 The Honest Whore, Bellafront managed, through intervention of the Duke, to get married to Mattheo, who, as the Duke pointed out, was to make amends for taking her maidenhead away from her: the price is marriage. Mattheo only yields when forced to. He attempts to refuse, but, as the Duke says, ‘then law shall compel’ (1HW, TLN 2858). Mattheo continues to believe that he has been ‘gulled’ (TLN 2870) and cuckolded (TLN 2873-75), as in his view Bellafront is simply a whore, and he has no obligation to her whatever. He speaks, even so, of accepting her as a common wench that he will try to make good (TLN 2876): this way he rationalises his acceptance of his lot as an act of kindness on his part. He even sounds half-decent when he says: ‘Come, wench, thou shalt be mine. Give me thy golls [= hands]’ (TLN 2880). And he ends his speech with ‘God give us joy’ (TLN 2882). Superficially, the match looks reasonably promising.

    110But fundamentally his rationalisation is just that: in his heart of hearts he does not want to get married to Bellafront, and he does so only because he has to. Throughout 1 The Honest Whore, he at all times regarded her as ‘my punk’ (‘my whore’), never as a marriage partner. It is not, however, the case that he treated her very badly; they had a relationship in which there was an element of affection, though his attitude was largely selfish and condescending. Bellafront is not actively in love with Mattheo the way she is smitten with Hippolito when he converts her, but she does not seem to be unhappy with Mattheo in 1 The Honest Whore, although she knows he has done, and is doing, her wrong. Her central concern is that he has in effect turned her into a whore, and that she would prefer to be married to him, because that makes her, at least in theory, a decent woman. She appears to be triumphant and pleased when she has secured him at the end of 1 The Honest Whore.

    Part 2 shows that, for a woman, to be married to a reluctant male partner whose character leaves much to be desired is in many ways worse than to be his mistress. She never had the opportunity to be exclusively Mattheo’s mistress, however, as he considered her a whore, and encouraged her to be one, i.e. not to have a sexual relationship just with him. Her choice was between continuing to be a prostitute or (if she could) to get married to Mattheo, and out of these two possibilities she much favoured the status of being his wife. From the moment that she actually becomes Mattheo’s wife, through the help of the Duke, she turns into an exemplary one, who, as women of the time were normally expected to do, always shows her husband loyalty, respect, and love, and never does things to antagonise him. She does, for sure, try to advise him to behave properly, but she does not block his path. In return he often behaves abominably towards her.

    The marriage is in many ways a prison for both of them, but she accepts that as cheerfully as she can, and with great strength, though not without emotional vulnerability. For Mattheo, the prison (as he views it) is one from which he constantly tries to escape by leaving the house and engaging in various bad actions, such as drinking, gambling, stealing, and whoring. At the beginning of 2 The Honest Whore, 1.1 , he is in prison because he has killed a man in a duel. Hippolito argues to the effect that the person whom Mattheo killed was a bad one, and also that the killing took place in ‘fair fight’ (TLN 148-53). This may well be true, and would provide a reason for the Duke to set him free and save his life. However, at the very least Mattheo is the kind of reckless person who does end up in prison while most people do not. A more careful and cautious man would have avoided his fate, and would not have left his wife without adequate money, compelling her to beg for his life. In a sense, what has happened seems to show, symbolically, a deterioration in Mattheo’s conduct. Already in 1 The Honest Whore he would spend much time on revelry and similar pastimes, with a marked distaste for tying himself to Bellafront or leading a domestic life, unless that involved such joys as consuming much alcohol. After his wedding, he obviously has behaved as though his home is a prison, and it seems therefore theatrically fitting that when we first hear of him in 2 The Honest Whore he is in jail. Once he is set free, it soon becomes evident that he will continue to live in such a way that he can only end up in further trouble.

    This is in no sense Bellafront’s fault. Not only is her own life impeccable, but she treats him warmly after his release: ‘O my sweet husband, wert thou in thy grave / And art alive again? O, welcome, welcome!’ (TLN 603-04). He soon speaks about visiting ‘all the mad rogues now, and the good roaring boys’ (TLN 622-23), and wonders ‘how the inside of a tavern looks / now’ (TLN 628-29). Bellafront gently, though seriously, tries to dissuade him from going astray again, speaking about what he wastes in ‘those damned shops of hell / Those dicing-houses’ (TLN 635-36), and warning him against bad company: ‘A sort of ravens have hung upon thy sleeve / And fed upon thee’ (TLN 640-41).

    Interestingly, there is a residue of goodness in Mattheo which makes him aware that he needs to change his life, and this comes to the fore from time to time. On this occasion, he says: ‘Bellafront, Bellafront, I protest to thee, I swear, as I hope for my soul, I will turn over a new leaf’ (TLN 647-48). He probably even in part means what he says. But one difficulty, given the weakness of his character, is that the slightest distraction or temptation leads him away from his declared intention. This time, however, it is not bad company that comes to disturb him and his wife. To understand what is happening, we need a brief interruption to consider the identity of the unexpected visitor.

    115Earlier, when we examined Hippolito’s conduct and role in 2 The Honest Whore, we became aware that Hippolito encouraged Orlando, Bellafront’s father, to take an active interest in her, after he was made aware of his daughter’s situation. Orlando does decide, in 1.2 , that he will take up her cause, in the following words:

    ’Las, my girl! Art thou poor? Poverty dwells next door to despair; there’s but a wall between them. Despair is one of hell’s catchpoles, and lest that devil arrest her I’ll to her. Yet she shall not know me. She shall drink of my wealth as beggars do of running water, freely, yet never know from what fountain’s head it flows. Shall a silly bird pick her own breast to nourish her young ones, and can a father see his child starve? That were hard. The pelican does it, and shall not I? Yes, I will victual the camp for her, but it shall be by some stratagem. That knave there, her husband, will be hanged, I fear. I’ll keep his neck out of the noose if I can; he shall not know how.
    (TLN 423-34)

    Although this soliloquy does not provide a detailed strategy, we glimpse at the least the generosity and caring attitude of Orlando, which the Victorians loved so much and which in today’s cynical world is regarded by many as sentimental. Given that Orlando cares primarily for his daughter, who is in a situation of utter helplessness, and whom he has obviously totally forgiven her former life as a whore, I for one find his wish to help her utterly natural and commendable. His point is that he has the means, as a wealthy gentleman, to support her, and that he will do so. Similarly, although he can rightly see that his son-in-law is a ‘knave’, he will try to save him as well, for his daughter’s sake. (As Hippolito interestingly pointed out in TLN 376: ‘The getting of his life preserves your own.’)

    We may wonder why Orlando will keep his plans a secret from those whom he intends to benefit. That is a question also raised about, for example, the Duke in Measure for Measure. In both cases we see a device used that also occurs in other plays. Personally, I find the Duke in Shakespeare’s play harder to accept as realistic, or even wholly admirable, than Orlando. A Duke, as an authority figure, normally would find it difficult not to address serious matters under his formal supervision himself, and directly, as of course he should. Shakespeare uses the Duke in very theatrical fashion, but we often wonder why he does not intervene at critical moments, as his responsibility demands. Orlando has no such status or duty as the Duke.

    What the two have in common and makes them plausible enough is that they are engaged in testing out those from whom they remain disguised. This seems to me to make sense: the implication is that the observer will thus find out a great deal about those whom he watches, and will act in an informed capacity when once he does. It is, of course, possible to intervene, either in disguise or in one’s own person; but one encourages, by staying aside, independent development on the part of those who still need to find their own way. One also avoids embarrassment by being incognito: for example, Orlando’s disguise allows him to weep when he sees Bellafront after so many years, and to pretend that he is suffering from an ailment. Moreover, when one does choose to reveal oneself and points out what one has seen, one can make a maximum impact, not least because those whom one has observed cannot hide from the fact that one knows the truth about them.

    Let us now return to Mattheo. He, as we have seen, promises Bellafront to turn over a new leaf after his return from prison (TLN 647-48). But, as Bellafront points out to him: ‘One knocks at door’ (TLN 651). Generally, the visitor would most likely be a gallant with whom Mattheo will go out to drink or gamble, but in this case the visitor has the opposite effect: Mattheo does not leave. Orlando is disguised as a servant, ‘Pacheco’, and seeks to serve Mattheo in that capacity. ‘Pacheco’ explains that the last person he served was ... Orlando. Although Mattheo cannot afford to hire ‘Pacheco’, he proceeds to do so, ignoring Bellafront’s warnings about their poverty. The disguised Orlando soon finds out a great deal about his son-in-law. Assuming the role of Pacheco, he encourages Mattheo to speak freely about his father-in-law (i.e. himself) by hinting that (as Pacheco) he was sacked. Thus Mattheo’s nasty attitude to Orlando is soon revealed, and without inhibition. At the same time, Bellafront is of course also tested by this experiment, and she shows her loyalty to her father, even though the two fell out years before, and have not seen each other since. Orlando also gives Mattheo twenty pounds to look after for him, and observes how Mattheo obviously intends to waste it totally and without shame (TLN 719-22). Again Bellafront compares favourably with Mattheo in her conduct, for she asks Orlando to return Hippolito’s gifts to him. Thus Orlando learns at quite an early stage that his daughter is a wonderful person and very much worth saving, while it is Mattheo who causes all the troubles in the marriage.

    120We see, with Orlando, more of the couple. At the earliest opportunity Mattheo, taking Pacheco with him, now goes out gambling. The consequences of this disastrous excursion are observable in 3.2 . Mattheo does not even speak to Bellafront upon their return; Orlando, instead, reports what has happened. Mattheo’s losses have been enormous, and as a result he has spent, sold, or pawned (which produces much the same outcome), almost anything of value that he had with him, including his cloak and his rapier, both of which are expensive possessions. Matters are bad enough, but would have been yet worse if Orlando (as Pacheco) had not provided some essential help, so that, for example, Mattheo still has his doublet. One might expect Bellafront to attack her husband, but she manages to show some real sympathy for him, asking ‘How does my sweet Mattheo?’ (TLN 1309). He blames his bad luck on his dice, even stressing that he used his own; in other words, he was not ‘tricked’ by someone else’s.

    However, he is not inclined to accept any responsibility for what has happened, and proceeds to ask Bellafront for money. We should realise that he literally has no money – even Orlando’s twenty pounds are gone (as Orlando mentions at TLN 1344-45). Mattheo’s immaturity and selfishness now truly come to the fore: ‘Must have money, must have some, must have a cloak and rapier and things’; and he can think of a way of obtaining what he wants: ‘Will you go set your lime-twigs and get me some birds, some money?’ (TLN 1319-21). He intends to rely on the fact that ‘sex sells’.

    Bellafront is so used to her new existence as a respectable woman that she does not at once grasp what he is alluding to: ‘What lime-twigs should I set?’ (TLN 1322). Obviously, Mattheo wants her once again to offer her services as a prostitute. As she does not take the hint, he resorts to an alternative act of selfishness: he takes off her gown, and threatens her with ‘I’ll pawn you, by th’Lord, to your very eyebrows’ (TLN 1333). Orlando in vain tries to persuade him to let Bellafront keep her gown, which was not only a valuable possession around 1600, but also made a woman look respectable. Without some such outer garment she would be viewed as a whore. Mattheo, however, orders Orlando (‘Pacheco’) to go to a pawnbroker and borrow ten ducats, as he paid twenty for the gown originally. Orlando takes the gown with him, while Bellafront weeps.

    With Orlando gone, Bellafront interestingly encourages Mattheo, as a gambler, to set ‘all upon one cast’ (TLN 1362). Her purpose in this, I would infer, is to force him to see his own situation very sharply for what it is, and hence also hers. At this point she clearly realises that Mattheo wants her to sell herself again. She tells him to spend all, but to be aware that he should not count on her to produce any money: ‘To get it wouldst thou have me play the whore?’ His immediate reply is ‘’Twas your profession before I married you’ (TLN 1367-68). Not only does he fail, or refuse, to see that he made her a whore originally by not marrying her after he seduced her, but he would make her a whore again even though now she is his own wife.

    By this time the audience is not likely to have much sympathy and respect for Mattheo, while tragedy looms for Bellafront. The situation in essence seems insoluble, unless perhaps somehow Orlando (who does not hear this conversation) intervenes. But just as matters seem to reach a nadir, salvation of sorts is near – for Mattheo, at least. Lodovico arrives. While Mattheo is hardly deserving of being pampered, it turns out that Lodovico has heard of his difficulties, and has come to help him, saying:

    I give myself unto thee – prithee use me.
    I will bestow on you a suit of satin
    And all things else to fit a gentleman,
    Because I love you.
    (TLN 1443-46)

    125I see these words, and the whole dramatic situation here, as full of rich though painful irony. Quite recently, the deserving Bellafront was deprived of her gown. As it happens, just before Lodovico delivers his promise to Mattheo, Orlando has come back with the six ducats he has managed to get for the gown from a broker. At the very time when Bellafront is in fact indecently dressed because Mattheo has stolen her gown, he, himself, not only is promised a new expensive suit, but also receives, from Orlando, the money for which Bellafront’s gown has in effect been sold. And matters become yet more densely ironic: Mattheo concludes that no doubt the promise of the new suit arises from Bellafront having (without his knowing) obtained Lodovico as a new client, and, as well, he says he will turn her into a bawd. After that, he goes out on his own, with the six ducats.

    We observe here just how vulnerable Bellafront is, as a woman. Her husband can take her gown – a very important possession – from her, and keep the money he receives for it; and, as a gallant (though poor) he has a friend (a wealthier gallant) who is willing to buy him a splendid new suit. While Mattheo shows no love for Bellafront and wants to turn her into a whore or even a bawd, Lodovico tells Mattheo that he loves him. The one very minor consolation for Bellafront is that Orlando has in fact received eight ducats from a broker, and sensibly has kept two for her. The noble Bellafront, who has reason to be absolutely furious with her husband, tells Orlando: ‘Thou shouldst have given him all’ (TLN 1462). She does, however, admit her unhappiness: ‘Like waves, my misery drives on misery’ (TLN 1464).

    Orlando, though a man with a constructive mindset, in a soliloquy at the end of this scene does realise what kind of person Mattheo is: ‘He riots all abroad, wants all at home; he dices, whores, swaggers, swears, cheats, borrows, pawns’ (TLN 1466-68). For the time being he will not yet intervene; he fears, however, that in the end Mattheo will prove a total disappointment, and come to grief ‘on the ropes’ (TLN 1471). The audience is thus kept in suspense: probably Orlando means that, whether or not he intervenes, a man like Mattheo will surely come to a very bad end anyway.

    At the end of this superb scene ( 3.2 ), Orlando has been able to see at first hand what life his daughter and son-in-law are leading, but they in their turn have not seen him as Orlando, only as Pacheco. As this play aims to achieve a comic ending, with reconciliation of people that can be brought together, it is, of course, essential that Bellafront and Mattheo encounter Orlando ‘as himself’. This means that in 4.1 Orlando appears to them unannounced and undisguised, chiefly to read them the riot act about their life, and without revealing any knowledge which he has derived as Pacheco. Mattheo appears the more objectionable because he is wearing, with pride, the new suit Lodovico has promised him, though he has not paid the tailor for it. Orlando knocks on the door, and Bellafront lets him in, obviously excited. As may be expected, Mattheo offends and irritates Orlando, who himself is unstinting in his criticism. Bellafront behaves well, insisting that she is not, as Orlando pretends to believe, a whore. She explains to him, also, that her life is very hard, as she has no money, and that she may be forced to adopt her old ways unless Orlando offers material assistance. In this she is partly prompted by Mattheo, who seizes any opportunity to obtain money from others, but she is also telling Orlando the truth about herself. Orlando, however, does not give in, pointing at the new suit, for example, as evidence that there is money in the house. The trouble is not, he implies, that the couple is not able to obtain money, but that Bellafront’s plight is caused by the utterly selfish behaviour of Mattheo, who can easily get money from both Lodovico and Hippolito. Orlando is thus right to insist that, as a couple, they are not poor enough for him to offer financial assistance, painful though it is for him to adopt this attitude.

    Orlando also points out something else, which is of crucial importance for the development of the plot. He (as himself) reveals to Mattheo that he is aware that ‘Pacheco’ (‘a man of mine’) has joined Mattheo, and that he knows that Mattheo and Pacheco have together robbed ‘two poor country pedlars’ (TLN 1728). In fact these are two men of his own, and it is part of Orlando’s series of tests and devices that he has given Mattheo and Pacheco the opportunity to steal from them. As ‘Pacheco’ is a participant, he will at a future moment be able to reveal his participation in events, and thus the robbery is something which Orlando can officially report and use to have Mattheo arrested.

    130It is becoming necessary that such a step is taken, as Mattheo’s behaviour will become the more dangerous the longer he is allowed to do as he pleases. In this scene ( 4.1 ), after Orlando has left, Bellafront offers Mattheo a meal which he praises. When he asks her where she bought the mutton, she says that a neighbour sent it to him, and he immediately experiences this as an assault on his ego, accusing her of begging. He becomes so enraged that he takes up a stool to beat out her brains, but fortunately ‘Pacheco’ arrives just in time to prevent him from engaging in domestic violence. We can, however, see how Mattheo’s degradation is proceeding apace.

    A further interesting development now occurs. Mattheo mentions to ‘Pacheco’ that Orlando knows about the robbing of the two pedlars, but, far from being intimidated by this, he now proposes that the two of them (Mattheo and Pacheco) should proceed to rob Orlando himself. At this point Orlando, on his own, decides to take action to halt Mattheo’s conduct:

    Her [Bellafront’s] sinking will be brought
    If rescue come not. Like a man-of-war
    I’ll therefore bravely out. Somewhat I’ll do,
    And either save them both or perish too.
    (TLN 1869-71)

    The need for action is the more pressing not only because of Mattheo, but also because Hippolito, at this time in hot sexual pursuit of Bellafront, is a threat in the form of financial temptation. Orlando hence decides that the time has come for him to obtain the support of the Duke. There is now a need for actions to be set in motion against both Mattheo and Hippolito.

    In 4.2 , we see how matters are progressing. The Duke has agreed with Orlando (as himself) that it will be appropriate to issue a warrant to arrest Mattheo on account of the robbery of the two pedlars, and the proposed fleecing of Orlando. To make sure that this plan will succeed, discretion is needed, and only Lodovico will accompany the disguised Orlando, who as Pacheco will obtain the services of a constable and ‘billmen’. At the same time, the Duke has a more than casual interest in ensuring that his erring son-in-law Hippolito will arrive at Bridewell. He engages in a great stunt to bring this about, announcing a purge of the suburbs (similar to that of Henry VIII or more recently James). Ostensibly this is intended to arrest Bellafront, and thus to spur Hippolito on. Only whores ‘of note’ will be caught (TLN 2173).

    In 4.3 , Mattheo is arrested as arranged, along with Bots and Horseleech. In 5.1 , Lodovico tells Hippolito that Bellafront is imprisoned in Bridewell. However, as Lodovico says in a soliloquy, his statement is merely ‘false fire’ (TLN 2425), designed to provoke the obsessive Hippolito to hasten towards Bridewell. The plan is, according to a scheme involving Orlando, the Duke, and Lodovico, to bring together at Bridewell – a significant public institution – people whose misdeeds need to be revealed for all to hear. ‘Shaming’ is, in cases like those of Mattheo and Hippolito, more important than e.g. imprisonment, since what is being aimed at is a change in character and conduct. We cannot at this point overlook what is planned for Hippolito, since both he and Mattheo need to be taught a lesson at the same time. That way, too, Bellafront, whose existence is endangered by both, is protected. The Duke, of course, is primarily interested in the welfare of Infelice, who is badly treated by Hippolito, but her unhappy situation results from that lecher’s interests in Bellafront.

    135What happens to Bellafront herself? We might expect to see her arrested as a whore ‘of note’, but this does not happen. The arrest is not, of course, necessary. The Duke trusts Orlando enough to allow him (in disguise) and Bellafront to come to Bridewell together in 5.2 . Bellafront, aware of Mattheo’s arrest, immediately pleads with the Duke to treat him mercifully (TLN 2489-92). Ironically, despite his many misdeeds, she is not only always inclined to forgive, or accept, but also to love him. It is evident that any punishment which deprives her of Mattheo would deeply wound her. Again, somewhat later, she says: ‘Be good to my poor husband, dear my lords’ (TLN 2554). This is when Mattheo confesses to having robbed the ‘pedlars’ (Orlando’s men acting as such). Mattheo fully expects to be hanged. He is asked whether he had an accomplice. Astonishingly, he accuses his wife, causing those present to be aghast. Bellafront calls on the servant who participated, Pacheco, to accuse her. She is not much concerned about her own life, but wishes to make sure that if Mattheo is to be punished Pacheco will also be.

    Orlando – still disguised as Pacheco – confesses that his hand ‘was in the pie’ (TLN 2583), but, significantly, also explains that Bellafront did not take part in the robbery: ‘she neither consented to this felony nor knew of it’ (TLN 2589). The Duke, immediately believing ‘Pacheco’ (whom he knows to be Orlando) asks Mattheo what prompts him to kill his wife (TLN 2590). Mattheo, revealingly, admits that he would not have ‘this whore laugh at me as I swing, as I totter’ (TLN 2594). He proceeds to spin a fantastic tale according to which he has caught Bellafront and Hippolito in bed together. Hippolito to his credit defends Bellafront utterly, and not least her absolute chastity.

    At this moment complete clarity needs to be achieved, so that the theatre audience will know precisely how to judge the suspected characters on stage. The best witness, as it obviously seems to Dekker, and as others in practice accept, is Orlando. He has thoroughly disapproved of his daughter as a prostitute, so cannot be accused of undue bias. He has considerable standing in the community as a gentleman of note and sound morals. He, and he alone, has actual, substantial knowledge of what has happened, having been close to most of the action throughout the play, either disguised or in his own person. He not only has observed the conduct of Mattheo and Bellafront, but also that of Hippolito and Infelice.

    Orlando thus removes his disguise and presents the unadorned truth, in plain and stark words. This is, when all is said and done, the high point of both plays, when anything that can be solved will be, and when much harm can be repaired. Crucially, and one hopes definitively for all who hear him, Orlando reveals that Bellafront is not a whore. This is, of course, an unequivocal truth, even though Mattheo, and many others, have never truly been able to see her as a pure, redeemed woman. Mattheo, Orlando says, is a knave, which, however strongly Bellafront loves him, is true. Hippolito is declared to be ‘honest’, probably because in spite of his pursuit of Bellafront he ultimately respected her refusal of his advances, and has strongly defended her chastity to all present. Infelice is declared to be a ‘right lady’ (TLN 2635).

    According to this assessment, Mattheo (as a ‘knave’) deserves punishment, and this is still hanging over his head. However, the Duke says to him: ‘Your father has the true physician played’, to which Mattheo answers at once: ‘And I am now his patient’ (TLN 2643-44). He admits, crucially, that he is ‘ill’ and proves willing to accept Orlando as his healer; thus he reveals, at this pivotal moment, a complete change of heart. We are obviously asked to accept that quite suddenly – in one of the play’s most important conversions – Mattheo can see, as in a flash, that he must change his life. Thus true improvement, and the harmony of a comic ending, now become a real possibility. Dekker stresses particularly that progress of this nature is communal to the extent that Mattheo’s problem needs assistance from others, but that ultimately it is above all such goodness as is innately part of his soul which must bring about his salvation, and reintegrate him into the community.

    140Hippolito, too, realises he must redeem himself, and thus is right to say: ‘’Tis a good sign when our cheeks blush at ill’ (TLN 2645-46). As I suggested before, the statement must be seen as applying to both men: both have done wrong, are now ashamed of their behaviour, and are right to blush at their ‘ill’ (their evil, and their ‘sickness’, which must now be healed). At this point, too, the misunderstanding concerning Candido’s acting as a ‘fence’ is cleared up, and to all intents and purposes a comic ending has been achieved. However, Dekker wants to see Bots punished, and to display a number of Bridewell whores on stage. More essentially, from a moral point of view, he takes the development of a happy ending yet further, so as to clinch it absolutely and, not least, so as to remove any doubt as to whether Mattheo and Bellafront truly want each other.

    The Duke has absolute authority, and can thus determine what will occur. In a comedy not everyone is inevitably saved: indeed, some people do deserve punishment and get it. Therefore the incurable Bots is to be thoroughly punished and banished. This is an instance of purging and cleansing. The arrested whores will, moreover, stay in Bridewell. With respect to Mattheo, however, the Duke is content to let Orlando decide what should be his lot. In this case, there is, after all, as most people would see it, a choice: Mattheo appears to repent, and to be on the mend, morally, but he is, even so, guilty of punishable offences.

    Dekker implies that, from the moment when Mattheo declared himself Orlando’s ‘patient’ (TLN 2644), and showed himself ashamed by blushing, he and Bellafront, who very much wants him to stay alive, become a close couple. Deep down, Mattheo, though often treating Bellafront badly, has in his own way always loved her, and now, in his new state of conversion, he seeks to be fully in harmony with her. Thus it would be logical for a production to present the two as showing mutual affection after TLN 2646, where Hippolito has commented on Mattheo’s blushing. Their intimacy should surely be in evidence, on stage, from that moment on, and still be visible when the Duke asks Orlando to pass final judgement at TLN 2958: ‘Now good Orlando, what say you to your bad son-in-law?’

    In a further test, Orlando tells his son-in-law, and his wife, that Mattheo should be hanged. What, it seems to be implied, he wants to be absolutely certain of is that not only Bellafront wants Mattheo, but that he wants her as strongly. So Orlando is to elicit a show of affection. By insisting on harshness, Orlando in fact provokes love. He makes both partners aware of the appalling nature, and consequences, of a life of crime, and of the need for better behaviour on Mattheo’s part. Orlando also transfers the final verdict on Mattheo to Bellafront, who is unambiguous in her judgement: knowing that she runs a risk, she would still rather confront misery in her marriage than lose her husband. But, in truth, both show themselves entirely affectionate to each other, so we may perhaps conclude that it is now likely that Mattheo is genuinely a different, transformed man.

    This, in Orlando’s judgement, makes a permanent resolution possible, and he offers Mattheo and Bellafront the gift of living in his house, at his expense, but – sensibly – while keeping his own money. And, provided that Mattheo behaves properly (there is still a further test involved), he will inherit Orlando’s estate. Today a father like Orlando would no doubt pass on his estate to his daughter rather than his son-in-law, but for its time what Orlando foresees and provisionally plans is entirely conventional. And his point is certainly not just that he acknowledges Mattheo’s rights as a husband, but that he will only pass on his estate to him if he is truly reformed and treats Bellafront well. If that happens, the problem of a woman not inheriting becomes far less acute, as a well-behaved husband will make her happy. The Honest Whore plays stress the need for people to treat each other well rather than that they advocate social reform, even though Dekker demonstrates very acute awareness that the social arrangements of his day often tended to militate against the interests of women.

    145Part 2: Bridewell

    Bethlehem and Bridewell were sister institutions, administered by the same body. Ken Jackson sees both places primarily as charities.[26] At the same time, Bridewell was, for many of its inmates, a prison – however, not just one of punishment, but also serving as a house of correction (so ‘charitable’ in that sense). For us it is difficult to see e.g. fierce whipping (such as arrested whores had to undergo) as anything other than punishment, and no doubt that was one of its functions, but punishment also served the purpose of ‘correction’ in that it was hoped that the same offender would not transgress again, and – at the very least – set an example to others, who would supposedly learn what misbehaviour to avoid. I agree with Jackson that Foucault emphasises the negative, inhumane aspects of institutions like these too much. Nevertheless, I see them as less enlightened than Jackson does.

    Even so, while I feel that Mattheo and Hippolito are partly ‘punished’ at Bridewell, I also acknowledge that a primary purpose of their appearance there is that they are to be ‘purged’ into better behaviour, and thus are – successfully, it seems – ‘corrected’. Although the process of correction in their case is not directly due to Bridewell itself, Bridewell is part of an environment in which improvement is meant to, and can, occur.

    The parading of some notable whores on stage for one thing serves as a spectacle and a form of entertainment. At the same time, their presence has a significant moral purpose as well. These women show great coarseness, vulgarity, and lack of repentance, and are determined to continue to sin, both to their own detriment and that of the community. We see very much what Bellafront is not; how right she was to opt for her conversion in 1 The Honest Whore; and how marked and stark a choice other whores – those already part of the ‘profession’ or those considering participation in it – have to contemplate. Thus the merit of Bellafront’s conversion, and the injustice of those who refused to believe in it, is fully confirmed by everything that happens at the end of Part 2. And it is strongly implied that those who deny the possibility of conversion in fact ultimately continue to promote sin. Bellafront’s conversion should be seen as realistically possible and desirable, not as something produced by sentimentality on Dekker’s part.