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Corruption in "The Duchess of Malfi"

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Introduction

Corruption. The world in which The Duchess of Malfi is set is riddled with corrupt practices and people. There are 3 major types of corruption that occur throughout the play: moral corruption, political corruption and mental corruption. The idea of corruption is introduced in Antonio's first speech. He comments on how a well governed, noble palace should be, then contrasts this with the idea of a court where " some curs'd example poison't near the head, death and diseases through the whole land spread." This helps us to recognise Antonio as a noble, well-educated character who can be trusted to provide an honest view of the situation. It also points out that someone at the head of the court has caused the sickness and disease, the corruption, which has spread throughout the land. The image of water in Antonio's speech is continued through the act. The " common fountain" links to Antonio's view of the Cardinal that " The spring in his face is nothing but the engend'ring of toads," that something that appears pure can in fact be diseased, impure and polluting. ...read more.

Middle

They are stolen goods and she has knowingly accepted them. The Cardinal has taken something supposedly pure (the law) and turned it into a tool to cause suffering to Antonio and to please his whore. Another example of the Cardinal corrupting himself with Julia is his murdering her. Not only does he commit a most tremendous sin but also the manner in which he does it underlines his total deviousness and lack of humanity. Having her kiss the Bible to swear her allegiance to him displays sickening cunning; using an item so heavily connected to truth to deceive and kill pushes the Cardinal to new depths of corruption. He truly is rotten and sick to the core. These deeds are evil. Together with the Cardinal, Ferdinand manages to heavily corrupt the court. Their spying on the Duchess may seem to have it's redeeming features, such as they may merely be concerned that she not marry out of lust or that someone marries her for money, but it still involves the corruption of Bosola. The bribes offered to him have made him sacrifice his morality for personal gain; his ambition is exploited by the corrupting influence of the two brothers. ...read more.

Conclusion

Sycophants and subordinates, meanwhile, surround Ferdinand. He may be seeking to dominate his sister in an attempt to reassert patriarchy or he may be seeking to extend his power over the court. This desire for control on it's own cannot be seen as corrupt however it is achieved through spying and deceit which corrupt Ferdinand morally. He has been fighting to protect his family honour and clung to it as though it were something of great value but has instead tainted it with his corruption and turned it into something hollow and meaningless. Throughout the play corruption has an affect on almost every character. However there are very few who can be considered to be totally without corruption. Two examples though are the Duchess and Antonio. They are married before they enter a sexual relationship; they neither persecute nor wantonly deceive anyone. This marriage of two innocent people and subsequent birth of a child who hasn't been seduced by corruption suggest the times may be changing and that the court shall become again a common fountain where pure silver drops flow. Although many of the things in the play have been hollowed because of corruption and can only claim to be pure Antonio and the Duchesses child is. ...read more.

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