The plot is simple enough though there are many subplots that muddy things up a bit. One nice thing about the subplots is that are actually tied to the action of the main plot which is not always the case with theses Jacobean plays. Giavanni is in love. He tells his friend the Friar. Unfortunately, he is in love with Annabella who happens to be his sister. She is being pursued by three different guys, Soranzo, Grimaldi, and Bergetto. Soranzo has a servant, Vasques, who figures prominantly. Annabella is not interested in any of these suitors but is actually in love with her brother. The two begin sleeping together. Bergetto is an idiot. Grimaldi is a from Rome. He and Soranzo fight a lot. Soranzo is a jerk who has committed adultery with Hippolita, whose husband has since died. Soranzo will not marry Hippolita as he said he would now that she is free. She plots with Vasques to kill Soranzo by poisoning him. Bergetto is not actually in love with Annabella but is pursuing her to please his uncle Donado, a friend of Giavanni and Annabella's father Florio. Bergetto is smitten by Philotus the niece of a physician. The physician is actually Richardeto, Hippolita's husband who is not dead but in disguise to get revenge upon Soranzo for cuckolding him. Events transpire resulting in the death of Bergetto, Grimaldi's exile, Philotus becoming a nun, and Soranzo marrying Annabella. Hippolita dies by her own poison when she finds herself double crossed by Vasques.
Things are pretty bad. Annabella is pregnant by Giavanni. Soranzo treats her terribly in order to find out who the father of the child is. Vasques discovers that it is Giavanni and then plots his death. Annabella tries to warn Giavanni and longs for her death. Giavanni kills her and Soranzo before being killed by Vasques who is banished from Italy. Florio dies from shock and Richardeto finally reveals himself. End of play.
This is a crazy play. It is amazingly subversive. One wants nothing more than for Giavanni and Annabella to be happy and end up together. This is of course not going to happen because they are an incestuous couple and these relationships end badly. It really is too bad because, along with Bergetto, Giavanni and Annabella are the nicest people in the play. Soranzo and Vasques are loathsome. Hippolita is shrill but sympathetic. The language is amazingly good. John Ford writes very supple and strong meter. The wooing scenes between Giavanni and Annabella are gloriously written. The end of the play is not really satisfying. The play has an incredible sense of inevitability that tragedies have where a bad end is clear and unavoidable but one really wants it to be avoided.
I wish I could understand the title which is also the last line of the play. Annabella is not a whore. She was just in love with the wrong guy. Giavanni has some blame in it as well. I do hate double standards. I like the play.