What Price Virtue?

Hello, I faced this phrase in a TV Show Script (Father Brown ) and I can understand the concept of it in the story, but I want to know if it is grammatically a complete sentence with "Price" as a verb or not? and if virtue can have a meaning other than words such as "chastity", "goodness", etc.? Since I found same phrase only as a title for an economic article while searching for it on web! thank you in advance.


  • DavidCrosbieDavidCrosbie ✭✭✭
    edited March 6

    No, beeta, the phrase isn't a grammatical sentence.

    It's even uncommon as part of a grammatical sentence. It can be used in questions, usually, following the preposition at e.g. At what price did they succeed?. But we can also say What price did they pay? for example, or I didn't know what price they paid.

    On its own it isn't really a shortened form of a grammatical sentence. It suggests something like 'What is the price that should be paid for X?' in other words 'What is the value of X?'. However, it isn't a real question. We don't expect an answer. It's usually a hint that we don't think that X has much value. The OED online explains

    what price——?: what is the value or use of ——? (Frequently merely an expression of cynicism or contempt: ‘so much for ——’.) Also: what is the likelihood of ——? What are the odds of —— happening?

    The second meaning probably comes from the idea of the price meaning 'the betting odds offered by a bookmaker'.

  • beetabeeta
    edited March 6

    thank you @DavidCrosbie for your complete explanation.
    actually what firstly comes in mind is exactly what you had mentioned in your comment as "what price...?" meaning. the problem is, according to the answer to this question in the dialogue (-Well, in my case, a flat in Maida Vale, a quarterly allowance.), it should actually mean that "at what price you accepted to lose your virtue?" but "what price virtue?" induces completely opposite meaning as "was it worth for virtue?"!!! which seems conceptually wrong! (at least as far as I get from the dialogue). Maybe I'm sticking too much to this subject!

  • @beeta, I think the dialogue is a joke.

    I think the second speaker is saying that by not agreeing to be a 'kept woman', she's giving up the chance of a free flat and regular money payments.

    The question is 'rhetorical' — that is the speaker is making a point, not asking for information. But the respondent (no doubt an attractive young woman) is playfully pretending to understand it as a genuine question.

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