Though Vasquez is responsible for much of the conflict that occurs throughout the play, he himself is not very conflicted at all. Indeed, Annabella and Giovanni, the central tragic characters of the play, struggle with their consciences throughout the play, such as the way in which Giovanni constantly visits the Friar, or how Annabella, when told by the Friar about the severity of her sins, sobs, and calls herself a ‘wretched creature’, demonstrating the sorrow she feels at having committed the sin of incest, a sin which has its foundations in love; such feelings allow the audience to empathise with the tragic characters, and so makes the eventual calamity that takes place that much more terrible.
Vasquez, on the other hand, is able to go about ordering the torture of Putana without any such reservations – demonstrating that he lacks the self-doubt, or internal conflict required to make a tragic protagonist truly human, a feature that both Giovanni and Anabella possess, and one that is vital in making the catharsis of the audience truly effective.
The setting of the play is typical of Jacobean drama, in that any material that could be seen as controversial, which ‘Tis Pity certainly is, would be set in a foreign place, in order for a distance to be perceived by the audience, so that the play was not seen to be insinuating that any such scandalous acts could ever occur so close to home; instead, more hot-tempered locations were chosen, such as Italy, as in the Jacobean era, Italians were renowned for their passion, and their rashness, whereas the British saw themselves as possessing the proverbial ‘stiff upper lip’, thus placing the culture of the audience at odds with the culture in which the play is set.
Vasquez’s being present in such an environment, (in this case, Italy) immediately creates a suspension of disbelief in terms of what he, and in turn, every other character in the setting of Parma, will or won’t do. Ford, by making Vasquez a character who is out of place even in a foreign setting then, implies that the strength of his passion and his impulsiveness will be even more profound than those of the rest of Parma’s residents.
Revenge tragedies often emphasise a cycle of vicious pursuit when it comes to one’s own personal vengeance, and Vasquez can be seen as being an ‘instrument of revenge’, who serves no purpose but to carry out revenge, as he takes the duty of fulfilling Soranzo’s own personal vendettas, upon himself, and by doing so, becomes part of the aforementioned vicious cycle. Unlike in most revenge tragedies, however, Vasquez does not die at the end of the play, instead merely being banished after having declared that he ‘rejoice[s]’ in the fact that a ‘Spaniard out-went an Italian in revenge’ – again highlighting the love he has for murder and destruction, and the pleasure he takes in causing chaos; instead of remorse, he is overjoyed by what he perceives as a ‘success’ on his part.
Revenge tragedies, as was first suggested by Nietzsche, are enjoyed because they focus on the breaking down on what is perceived as being the ‘normal, ordered world’ – indeed, in a civilized society such as the one Ford would have been writing for, the idea of justice being dealt out fairly would have been a cornerstone of everyday life; the fact that Vasquez suffers no great punishment at the end of the play, only serves to further highlight the tragic nature of the severe culmination of Anabella and Giovanni’s love, and the horrific events that occur to ‘punish’ them.
We are further pushed away from the idea of any sort of emotional connection with Vasquez, because of his lack of megalopsychia, or ‘greatness of soul’ – he is not born into a noble rank, nor does he possess such qualities that would be deemed as noble, or that we could perceive as being redemptive, indeed, he shows no real, heartfelt, profound emotion at any point in the play, apart from those points at which he is taking glee in the chaos unfolding around him. This lack of greatness, or status, the lack of the very quality which is (initially, at least) exemplified by Giovanni, through both his being a typical polymath, or Renaissance man, and of his being of noble, respectable birth, is exactly what makes Vasquez the complete antithesis of what it means, at least by traditional standards, to be a tragic protagonist, in the slightest.