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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始 by that name, or else ‘Part 1 of The Honest Whore始, 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./始 Of course the 1604 title-page did not yet refer to ‘Part 1始: that would only have happened if there definitely was a ‘Part 2始, 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始, and logically enough the sequel was published in 1630 as ‘The Second Part of the Honest Whore [etc.]始.

    Ever since, the two plays have been known as Parts 1 and 2 of ‘The Honest Whore始, until in 2007, in the Oxford Middleton, Paul Mulholland decided to use the title ‘The Patient Man and the Honest Whore始 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始s original performance.始[1] One may, of course, immediately object that the title of ‘The Honest Whore始, 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始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始s Patient Grissil, and is incompatible with common conceptions of virility.始[2]

    It is indeed true that the expression ‘He that cannot be angry is no man始 is proverbial (Dent M172). This does not, however, imply the extreme proposition that patience is ‘incompatible with common conceptions of virility始. 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始. There is another, very different proverb that actually alludes to a man as a model of patience: ‘As patient as Job始. Unsurprisingly, this occurs on the same page (613) as ‘Patient Grisel始 in The Oxford Dictionary of English Proverbs (1970), along with ‘Patient men win the day始. 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始 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始 would provide a ‘unified double paradox始. It is, indeed, a paradox for a whore to be ‘honest始 in the modern English sense of ‘chaste始, as it is inevitably inherent in a whore始s conduct not to be chaste. However, it is not inevitably inherent in a man始s conduct to be impatient. Mulholland does not compare like with like. He should also have given more thought to the fact that Candido始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始 (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始s title ‘The Patient Man and the Honest Whore始 is in any sense more authoritative than ‘The Honest Whore始. I would argue that it is not, as the title ‘The Honest Whore始 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始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.始(2) The title entered in the Register of the Stationers始 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.始

    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始.[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始 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始 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始 is very weak, as it in effect refers to three characters, viz. Candido, his ‘Longing Wife始 (Viola), and Bellafront. Furthermore, the structure of 1 The Honest Whore as a whole does not justify Mulholland始s title or his claims about it either. There are not two plots, but, as George R. Price recognises, three: a ‘romantic plot始 (involving the Duke, Infelice, Hippolito, and Doctor Benedict), a ‘morality plot始 (with Bellafront at its centre, but with Hippolito and Mattheo important in it as well), and a ‘comic plot始 (with Candido as its protagonist).[5] Hence the claims about ‘balance始 and ‘a unified double paradox始 are also faulty in ignoring the third plot. Furthermore, the title ‘The Honest Whore始 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始: 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始s ‘morality plot始. Reviews of the 1998 production in the Globe (which I shall discuss in ‘The plays in performance始) 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始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始,[6] and, as importantly, the play in general does not stress such Christian links. Moreover, Bellafront始s tough time as a ‘Magdalen始 and ‘Patient Grissil始 figure is still to come, in 2 The Honest Whore.