John Ford and his circle : coterie values and the language of Ford's theatre
This thesis attempts an analysis of some of the major themes and characteristics in Ford's work in the light of the interests and concerns of his dedicatees. The first part, after a discussion of the Ford canon and its chronology, considers four prominent aspects of his writing. The first chapter examines the dislike evinced by many of his characters for food, and the second the distrust of language so frequently registered in his work, and the way in which this leads ultimately to the writing of unsatisfactory plays. The next chapter then goes on to suggest that these two elements of Ford's plays may perhaps be linked by his perception of personality as fragmentarily located in disparate parts of the body, all exerting conflicting claims to represent the totality of the self. The last chapter of the first half of the thesis is concerned with the attempt in The Broken Heart to find an alternative, nonverbal means of communication, and also examines the possibility that the feeling conveyed in Ford's plays of the unsatisfactoriness of physical food may be connected with the sense of spiritual starvation in The Broken Heart. It is further suggested that this in turn might perhaps reflect a preference on Ford's part for the Catholic rather than the Anglican communion. The possibility of Ford having Catholic sympathies is further examined in the first chapter of the second half of the thesis, which explores the careers and family connections of Ford's dedicatees, including their close links with Catholicism. The second chapter attempts to show that Perkin Warbeck can be read as a panegyric on the ancestors of Ford's dedicatees, with the covert implication that the dedicatees, too, were worthy of greater political power and respect than they in fact enjoyed. The final chapter examines how this meaning might, like that of The Broken Heart, have been conveyed on the stage visually rather than verbally, and the conclusion then reviews the way in which Ford's attempt to forge a private language tested his theatre to its limits, and suggests that the unsatisfactory plays of his later years were an inevitable result of his perception of his dedicatees as, both deserving of success and unable to achieve it.