Authors: John Ford

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

English playwright

Author Works


The Witch of Edmonton, pr. 1621 (with Thomas Dekker and William Rowley)

Perkin Warbeck, pr. c. 1622-1632

The Sun’s Darling, pr. 1624 (with Dekker)

The Broken Heart, pr. c. 1627-1631

The Lover’s Melancholy, pr. 1628

’Tis Pity She’s a Whore, pr. 1629(?)-1633

The Fancies Chaste and Noble, pr. 1631(?) or 1635-1636(?)

Love’s Sacrifice, pr. 1632(?)

The Lady’s Trial, pr. 1638

The Queen: Or, The Excellency of Her Sex, pb. 1653


Fame’s Memorial: Or, The Earl of Devonshire Deceased, 1606

Christ’s Bloody Sweat: Or, The Son of God in His Agony, 1613


Honor Triumphant: Or, The Peer’s Challenge, 1606

The Golden Mean, 1613

A Line of Life, 1620


The Works of John Ford, 1869 (Alexander Dyce, editor; includes previously uncollected poetry)

The Nondramatic Works of John Ford, 1991 (L. E. Stock et al., editors)


John Ford probably entered Exeter College, Oxford, in 1601; he entered the Middle Temple in 1602, but there is no evidence that he ever practiced law. His earliest known literary composition is Fame’s Memorial: Or, The Earl of Devonshire Deceased, an elegy on the death of the earl of Devonshire that contains a tribute to that nobleman’s widow, Penelope Devereux, the supposed Stella of Sir Philip Sidney’s sonnets.{$I[AN]9810000584}{$I[A]Ford, John}{$I[geo]ENGLAND;Ford, John}{$I[tim]1586;Ford, John}

At least four of Ford’s plays, perhaps including his earliest, are lost. Four are included in the list of plays destroyed by John Warburton’s cook, Betsy Baker, whose unfortunate fame results from her having destroyed a large number of play manuscripts, some unique, by using them as “pie-bottoms” or as fire-starters.

The first two of Ford’s surviving plays were written in collaboration with Thomas Dekker. Of the seven surviving plays by Ford alone, three established his reputation: ’Tis Pity She’s a Whore, The Broken Heart, and Perkin Warbeck. Because of its sensationalism and moral horror, the first of these has frequently been cited as an example of the “decadence” of Stuart drama. The second is interesting for its connections with Sidney’s Arcadia and its use of the theme of Sidney’s Astrophel and Stella for its tragic plot. The third is a worthy, if slightly anemic, descendant of William Shakespeare’s history plays. After 1639 all reference to Ford disappears from the records.

BibliographyAnderson, Donald K., Jr. John Ford. New York: Twayne, 1972. A general biography and handbook.Anderson, Donald K., Jr., ed. “Concord in Discord”: The Plays of John Ford, 1586-1986. New York: AMS Press, 1986. Rich in insights into Ford’s dramaturgy and imagery, this well-written study provides a sensitive, balanced understanding of all Ford’s plays and poems.Champion, Larry. Tragic Patterns in Jacobean and Caroline Drama. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1977. This excellent book on the changing societal values of later Renaissance drama discusses plays by William Shakespeare, Ben Jonson, Cyril Tourneur, John Webster, Thomas Middleton, and Ford. Readers interested in Ford’s place among his literary peers and in the ways the dramas of the age “effectively capture the spiritual uncertainties of an increasingly analytical age” should consult Champion’s book.Clark, Ira. Professional Playwrights: Massinger, Ford, Shirley and Brome. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1992. Examines Ford in comparison to his peers.Clerico, Terri. “The Politics of Blood: John Ford’s ’Tis Pity She’s a Whore.” English Literary Renaissance 22 (1992). Ford’s most famous play is examined.Dyer, William D. “Holding/Withholding Environments: A Psychoanalytic Approach to Ford’s The Broken Heart.” English Literary Renaissance 21 (1991). A specialized interpretation of an important play.Farr, Dorothy. John Ford and the Caroline Theatre. London: Macmillan, 1979. Farr studies Ford’s plays and their suitability for the specific theaters where they were first staged, but such a narrow-sounding topic should not deter the general reader. Farr writes effectively about many aspects of Ford’s art.Foster, Vera. “Ford’s Experiments in Tragicomedy: Shakespearean and Fletcherian Dramaturgies.” In Renaissance Tragicomedy: Explorations in Genre and Politics, edited by Nancy Klein Maguire. New York: AMS Press, 1987. A comparative approach to Ford’s dramatic structure.Neill, Michael, ed. John Ford: Critical Re-Visions. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1988. Eleven essays cover topics such as stage history, imagery, use of melodrama, the question of decadence, metatheater in Love’s Sacrifice, and gender in Perkin Warbeck.Sanders, Julie. Caroline Drama: The Plays of Massinger, Ford, Shirley, and Brome. Plymouth, England: Northcote House, in association with the British Council, 1999. Sanders examines the works of Caroline Age dramatists Philip Massinger, James Shirley, Richard Brome, and Ford. Includes bibliography and index.Sensabaugh, George F. The Tragic Muse of John Ford. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1944. This famous study presents Ford as a modernist in temperament, someone who celebrates “scientific determinism” and “unbridled individualism.”
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