John Ford (1586-1639) and his famous works

John Ford (1586-1639) was a famous English poet and playwright of the Jacobean and Caroline eras. He was born in Ilsington, Devon in 1586. He studied at Exeter College Oxford, in 1601 and entered the Middle Temple in November 1602. Ford’s first published work was an elegy, he wrote on the Earl of Devonshire in Fame’s Memoria (1606). Before he started writing dramatic works, Ford wrote poems such as Christ Bloody Sweat (1613), and two prose essays published as pamphlets, The Golden Mean (1613) and A Line of Life (1620).

His first venture in dramatic work may well have been in the writing or revising of A Bad Beginning Makes a Good Ending, which was acted by the King’s Men at court in 1612-1613. However, he came to limelight with his collaborative work with Thomas Dekker and William Rowley, The Witch of Edmonton in 1621. He also collaborated with Dekker in The Sun’s Darling (1624), perhaps also in The Welsh Ambassador (1623), and in three other plays, now lost, of about the same date.

The plays written by Ford by himself are The Broken Heart; The Lover’s Melancholy (1628); ’Tis Pity She’s a Whore; Perkin Warbeck; The Queen; The Fancies, Chaste and Noble; Love’s Sacrifice; and The Lady’s Trial (1638).His reputation as a playwright rests on the plays ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore (1624) and The Broken Heart; The Lover’s Melancholy (1628). Revolving around the theme of incest, ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore centers on the siblings Giovanni and Annabella, who insist on the rightness of their incestuous passion for each other, regardless of structures of religion, family and society. When Annabella is found to be pregnant, she agrees to marry her suitor Soranzo; the lovers’ secret is finally discovered, but Soranzo’s plan for revenge is outpaced by Giovanni’s murder of Annabella and then Soranzo, at the hands of whose hired killers Giovanni himself finally dies. The Broken Heart, on the other hand, depicts Penthea, a noble and virtuous heroine, who is forced by her brother to leave her love, Orgilus and marry Bassanes. Ford died in 1639.

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