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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

    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)