There are also many lies and deceit in Parma. Putana has likely been bribed by both Soranzo and Donado to recommend to Annabella as she describes Soranzo as “liberal, that I know”. Bribery would have been seen by many as morally wrong, even in today’s society, and the English audience would have objected to this. Also in trying to win Annabella’s hand in marriage, Grimaldi tries to obtain “receipts to move affection” from the disguised Richardetto. This would hardly have been seen by many as an appropriate action in the ritual of courtly love that an English audience of the 1630’s would also have participated in.
Parma is also portrayed as an incredibly hypocritical society which an English audience would very likely be shocked by and this is particularly evident in the character of Soranzo. Although he sets himself up as morally superior, it quickly becomes evident that he is anything but. He claims that Grimaldi has “a lowness in thy mind”, but he has been acting in very immoral ways and the audience may look down upon him because of this. He had been committing adultery with Hippolita before his pursuit of Annabella, which the audience would likely have objected to. However, Soranzo excuses himself from his promise to marry Hippolita on the moral grounds that it “’twere more sin to keep them than to break them”. Again, this clearly demonstrates the hypocrisy in Soranzo and Parma and the many of the English would have been outraged by this.
The society of Parma is also shown as materialistic and superficial; the antithesis of the newly founded Protestant ideology found throughout England. As well as bribing Putana to recommend suitors to Annabella, the suitors also use their wealth in order to try and encourage Annabella to marry them. Donado instructs Bergetto to “enclose some rich jewel in the letter” showing how they presume Annabella to be materialistic and superficial, most likely as the rest of the society is as such. The Protestant audience would be very unlikely to approve of such attitudes. Also Donado attempts to write a superficial love poem for Bergetto to give to Annabella, which isn’t even original. He subverts a poem by Sannazar in order to try and win Annabella’s hand for his nephew. As well as this Soranzo uses clichéd and superficial romantic language such as “did you but see my heart” in order to try and win Annabella. This shows how common these attitudes are in Parma and a largely Protestant audience would very likely disapprove of this.
Parma also appears to be somewhat lawless, with people having to exact their own justice. Richardetto was denied justice by the “common voice” and is forced to get his revenge on Soranzo himself, without any body of law to do so. The adultery of his wife went unpunished even though it was common knowledge. Also the incestuous relationship between Giovanni and Annabella is also known to some people, but these fail to punish the lovers or even make it known to someone that might. This would have confirmed many members of an English audience’s preconceptions that Catholic Italy was an unruly and disorderly country, where improper behaviour was tolerated.
As well as there being no apparent justice system in Parma, conflicts appear to be resolved using violence. Grimaldi and Vasques fight over Soranzo’s accusation that Grimaldi “thinking the way to recommend himself is to disparage me in his report” in the middle of a dinner party. This would shock many members of an English audience at the time, especially as the fight occurs at such an inappropriate time and place about something as inconsequential as slander in the pursuit of marriage. Another account of violence over something that would likely be seen as inconsequential, is the fight between Grimaldi and Bergetto over who should “take the wall”, which would also shock some of the audience.
However, Ford does not portray Parma as completely corrupt. There are some aspects that are quite innocent and that an English audience may even approve of. Philotis plays the lute, something that many young women would be expected to do. Bergetto visits fairgrounds, which is entirely innocent and Soranzo reads poetry. As well as this, although Bergetto salivates at the idea of having sex with Philotis, he will not do so until they are married. This would conform to many of the English audience’s notions on sexual morality. However the innocence in the play is vastly outweighed by the corruptness of Parma, so the audience may not even pick up on the positives of Parma.
Ford portrays Parma as an incredibly corrupt society of which the majority of the English audience would not approve of. However, although it is unknown whether he considered a Catholic country to behave as such, it is clear that the plays views on a Catholic society were merely playing to existing preconceptions and prejudices. Therefore although the audience would be shocked by the plays content, they would be perhaps less shocked that the events were occurring in a Catholic society as many Protestant English considered Catholics to be extravagant and corrupt.