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FORD, JOHN (ca. 1586-ca. 1640) While not much is known about the childhood and youth of John Ford, he was born in Devon and probably attended Oxford's Middle Temple. Best known as a playwright, he had first published prose and poetry, but little of note. His first play, The Witch of Edmonton (1621), was probably a joint effort with Thomas Dekker and Samuel Rowley. He collaborated again with Dekker on The Welsh Ambassador (1623) and The Sun's Darling (1624), the latter a masque. He favored extreme cynicism, and his characters were notable for their suffering.
Ford's first independent attempt, The Lover's Melancholy, appeared in print in 1628. Its subject matter revealed his fascination with the human propensity for sorrow. He famously stated that he wrote for private satisfaction and felt no need to satisfy audiences or focus on the ordinary virtues and idealistic themes of his fellow poets and playwrights. His two comedies, The Fancies, Chaste and Noble (ca. 1636) and The Lady's
Trial (1638), were unremarkable, having little effect on audiences. However, his tragedies proved more successful, especially The Broken Heart (ca. 1629) and 'Tis Pity She's a Whore (ca. 1631). His chronicle play Perkin Warbeck (1634) also had more lasting value, and all three of those works continue to be read into the 21st century.
The Broken Heart contains the song, "CALANTHA'S Dirge" and "Penthea's Dying Song," revealing Ford's background in poetry. Both reflect his trademark morbid attitude toward life and love, projecting the idea that love only adds to life's suffering and often leads to both a metaphorical and a literal death, because it so often produces only disappointment. His character's suffering was not due to fate, but rather to a flaw in their basic natures. Heroism for Ford was resistance, and his characters' refusal to comply with society's demands proved both their folly and their heroism.
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