Virgins and Whores

“I marvel why the chaster of your sex

Should think this pretty toy called maidenhead

So strange a loss, when being lost, ‘tis nothing,

And you are still the same”

(2.1) ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore 

In one of my other classes, I am reading Mary Wollstonecraft’s works regarding women’s rights, so when reading this passage with my feminist rage in the forefront of my mind, I felt a very strong disgust for Giovanni. In Early Modern London, virginity was cherished in respectable women. Queen Elizabeth was even given the title “The Virgin Queen” because this was a such a valued attribute. As an aristocratic male, Giovanni would be aware of these attitudes, but because he got what he desired, he artificially discounts this attribute that must have been extremely valuable to his sister. He rejects the society’s views on female sexual behavior for his own benefit-not for the emotions of his sister. In the context of the play, this line makes sense, but the articulation of sexual liberation on an Early Modern London stage would have been extremely radical. Playgoers were probably shocked when they heard this, especially women.

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