• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

Assess the dramatic and thematic effectiveness of Act 1 of 'The Duchess of Malfi'.

Extracts from this document...

Introduction

Assess the dramatic and thematic effectiveness of Act 1 of 'The Duchess of Malfi'. The opening act of 'The Duchess of Malfi' is important in terms of the themes that John Webster is presenting. He uses the characters to explore such themes, and subsequently the audience are given detailed descriptions of most of the main characters. Moreover, Webster uses the characters to describe each other not only giving the audience an insight into their personal attributes, but also how each character perceives the other. Although not entirely apparent in the initial acts of the play, the fact that the audience only know about the characters from the other characters' descriptions, implies the ideas of secrecy, deception, and spying, and the general theme that there are things that the characters think they know, when in fact they don't. Antonio is the first character to be introduced, and he is initially presented as an outsider returning home from the French court, which he "admires". He has a brief conversation with Delio about the French court, and how although it was orderly, it could easily be distorted. ...read more.

Middle

Aside from the information the audience receive from Antonio and Delio, the way in which Bosola speaks makes him appear to be very negative. "He and his brother are like plum trees that grow crooked over standing pools; they are rich and o'erladen with fruit, but none but crows, pies, and caterpillars feed on them." The constant use of dark and distasteful imagery attributes him to be quite bitter, and so completes the overall impression that he is indeed an unpleasant character. However, as Bosola leaves, Antonio says he has heard good things about Bosola, but his "railing at those things which he wants" overcomes these positive aspects. "'Tis great pity He should be thus neglected; I have heard He's very valiant. This foul melancholy Will poison all his goodness." This indicates to the audience that Bosola may have a good side which he may or may not reveal later. Either way, this is another way in which Webster explores the theme of first impressions not being all that they seem. As Ferdinand and the Cardinal are introduced, their personal qualities aren't so apparent at first, as the audience can only judge them from what they can see. ...read more.

Conclusion

"I cannot stand upright in 't, nor discourse, Without I raise it higher. Raise yourself, Or, if you please, my hand to help you: so." In this instance, the Duchess is helping Antonio, and effectively raising his status to her level, so that he feels comfortable with their pending marriage, even though others don't approve due to his low social status. The fact that Webster explores the idea of gender inequality in such a manner was unusual for his time, and almost ironic considering this was a time when only men were allowed to act on stage. This introductory act, although quite short, is still essential in terms of the entire structure of the play, and how the themes are presented. As well as all the themes of deceit, spying, social inequality, and gender inequality, being presented to the audience, the way in which some of the characters' personalities are dictated to the audience also implies that there is more to each character than these first impressions. This is likely the most fundamental element of the play, and thus gives the audience to figure out what really lies behind each character as the play unfolds. - 1 - ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our AS and A Level John Webster section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related AS and A Level John Webster essays

  1. Corruption in "The Duchess of Malfi"

    in a coal-pit, with the ventage stopp'd, that their curs'd smoke might not ascend to heaven. Or dip the sheets they lie in, in pitch or sulphur, wrap them in't, and then light them like a match; Or else boil their bastard to a cullis, and give't his lecherous father, to renew the sin of his back."

  2. What impression does Webster create of courtly life in Malfi? How would a contemporary ...

    He speaks of his own melancholy, during his absence from Italy, as a negative and unappealing thing. Bosola is very important to the court system, as it is him who represents the malcontent- a man clearly embittered by his social status.

  1. Explore the ways in which Webster introduces his characters and themes in the play ...

    A Cardinal must be an upright figure of faith and goodness, yet this is far from the picture that is presented by Webster. The description of the Cardinal as a "great fellow were able to possess the greatest devil, and make him worse" indicates corruption is rife in Malfi.

  2. How and where does the Duchess distinguish herself as a very remarkable woman in ...

    After all, in this world so dominated by uncaring men she is the only person she can rely upon both physically and spiritually. Throughout the play, she admirably refuses to be subservient to men and creates great freedom for herself.

  1. John Webster - Theatrical Language

    / Southern European setting / 5 Act structures and restoration of order at the end. * Male Actors - The irony of the play is that Webster is making a comment of women's rights at a time when only men could act on the stage.

  2. The Duchess Of Malfi - Commentary On Important Scenes

    of love and life Ferdinand treats Duchess as if she has betrayed him and he is her lover - Incestuous Doesnt even recognize these incestuous tendancies in himself Imagery: Storms and fires - Release of passions Cardinal: Machiavellian dealings - Cool reason Puritan Concerns - The alliance of Church and

  1. "Whether the spirit of greatness or woman reigns most in her, I know not, ...

    The female would be regarded as a producer of heirs, she would be married to a man of equally noble blood and would be expected to have children to keep the family blood going for another generation. The Duchess here looks at her marriage as for love and separate from family or public duties.

  2. Consider the relative merits of each of these judgements of Act 5: The Duchess ...

    This serves to highlight the polarity of the family. The Cardinal's mistress, Julia 'woos' Bosola in Act 5, reminding the audience of the Duchess's 'saucy//wooing' of Antonio. Julia, however, exposes tainted love governed by passion. The grotesque comparison of Julia to a 'tamed elephant' implies a sexually frustrated woman 'watched' by men.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work