Bergetto - The Prodigal Son Abroad in 'The Iron Age'.

Julian Real


This paper examines the character of Bergetto from John Ford’s play, ’Tis Pity She’s a Whore, and suggests that the foolish figure is an evolution of the humanum genus stock-character. As such, Bergetto encapsulates moral and ethical paradigms, most notably the parable of the prodigal son and Aristotle’s golden mean. In the morality tradition the representative of humanity is aided and hindered by opposing forces of Virtue and Vice, led into sin by the latter before being persuaded to repent by the former, and thus finding the path to salvation. Aristotle’s ethical vision of virtue as a moderate point between vices of excess and defect was frequently overlaid upon this psychomachian concept; fallen humanity becoming the vice of defect and the forces of evil that seek to corrupt him or her the vices of excess. In Ford’s debased Parma there are no virtuous figures (with the possible exception of Bergetto’s would-be wife Philotis) and Bergetto offers the sole representative of frail humanity. Surrounded in a city that has been overrun by vice and excess, he is ultimately murdered moments before his marriage, an event that often signified redemption in the Stuart period. Ford uses Bergetto to exploit and pervert traditional morality themes in order to portray a society so corrupt that innocence and virtue cannot survive. Bergetto therefore plays a vital and underestimated role in conveying the depth of this dark vision.

Full Text: PDF


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.