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Broken Heart

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A tragedy by J. Ford, printed 1633.

The scene is Sparta. Penthea, who was betrothed to Orgilus whom she loved, has been forced by her brother Ithocles to marry the jealous and contemptible Bassanes, who makes her life so miserable that presently she goes mad and dies. Ithocles returns, a successful general, and is honourably received by the king. He falls in love with Calantha, the king's daughter, and she with him, and their marriage is sanctioned by the king. Orgilus, to avenge the fate of Penthea, of which he has been the witness, entraps Ithocles and kills him. During a feast, Calantha hears, in close succession, of the deaths of Penthea, of her father, and of Ithocles. She dances on, apparently unmoved. When the feast is done, she sentences Orgilus to death, and herself dies broken‐hearted.

Spartan values (courage, endurance, self‐control) dominate the action, and the characters represent abstractions rather than individuals. The grave, formal, stately language, and emblematic imagery make it Ford's finest dramatic achievement.

Subjects: Literature

Reference entries

John Ford (1586—1639) playwright