Oh Moll! What are you up to now? It seems as though our docile seamstress from the last plate has done quite well for herself in the new career path that Mother Needham picked out for her. Moll is a high-class tart; a kept woman. This has secured her a comfortable living arrangement, a pet monkey, a fashionable West Indian servant boy, and considerable pocket money. She seems to be enjoying her hedonistic life as mistress to a Jewish merchant (Hogarth obviously came from a time predating political correctness).
After spending a rambunctious night at the masquerade (as indicated from the mask on the vanity) Moll seems to have brought home a man who isn't paying her rent. When the man who is paying it shows up unexpectantly for an early breakfast with his mistress Moll is put in a tight spot. In order to get her boytoy out undiscovered Moll picks a fight with her merchant which ends with her knocking down the tea table. Not the classiest move, but it gets her lover out undetectected.
Evidence of Moll's downfall to debauchery are all around. The broken china of the tea set symbolizes Moll's broken honor. Her pet monkey runs away with her headdress, showing the chaos and drama of her life. It should also be noted that traditionally, in northern art, monkeys have been used as a symbol of evil or Satan.
It would appear by Moll's casual expression (or drugged?) that she is way too comfortable in the deceit of her merchant. The expression on his face clearly mark's astonishment over her behaviour. I would be a little more careful if I were you Moll. You may have gotten out of this scrap, but I wouldn't be so optimistic with any others.
A Harlot's Progress: Plate 1
7 hours ago