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Corruption of the court within the Duchess of Malfi

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From Act I of 'The Duchess of Malfi' what impressions does the audience get of the court and how does Webster create this? Include a close analysis of a section of your choice. 'The Duchess of Malfi' revolves around the predominate themes of the Jacobean period, during the reign of King James I. England faced a leader they did not trust as seen through their pessimistic literature work. The country had been previously known to be strong and powerful whereas it was now overturned by a weak and feeble King. This era focused on tragedies where there was an emphasis upon themes such as drama, betrayal, murder, conspiracy, tainted loved, revenge and death. Such ideas came about due to the corruption of the court where the growing rule of money and greed, shifted society towards a more capitalist economy. The King had surrounded himself by false sycophants causing him to be blind to the erroneous ways of his uninformed court. These selfish acts of the king and other individuals went on to affect the entire kingdom where "death and disease through the whole land spread"1. ...read more.


The beginning of the conversation between these two characters exemplifies the theme of appearance and reality as: "There's no more credit to be given to th'face than to a sick man's urine."2 This implies that there is more to a person than what meets the eye and therefore individuals should not be underestimated. The effect of this causes suspicion to arise among individuals as they begin to distrust one another and therefore lead themselves into a world of deception. It could also be suggested that Webster has made a reference to the court to be completely different in reality as what may appear to the outsider. As the dialogue progresses the audience see Ferdinand bribing Bosola to be an "impudent traitor"3 within in the Duchess's household. It is rather ironic that the amoral representation of malcontent, Bosola would be against such a malicious act. This is due to his inverse integrity where he contradicts himself, as he is able to commit "notorious murder"4 yet opposes deception and dishonesty. Nevertheless Bosola's approach to this proposal only highlights the sleaze of Ferdinand's character, which thus reveals the corruption of the court. ...read more.


11 For example, Bosola's simile of comparing Ferdinand and the Cardinal as "plum trees that grow crooked" who "none but crows, pies and caterpillars feed on",12 reflect the two characters spitefulness preventing them from advancement. Therefore it is again implied that there is a lack of trust between the rulers and their court and as a result the audience view the court as an unjust, devious place. It can be summarised that a negative view of the court has been created by Webster within Act I of 'The Duchess of Malfi.' This was achieved by the playwright's juxtaposition of controversial characters, such as Ferdinand and Bosola, to enhance this sense of unfaithfulness and treachery. This was deepened by initially exposing the audience to Antonio's view of a court with "fixed order"13 1 Antonio, Line 15 - Act I Sc i 2 Bosola, Line 229-30 3 Bosola, Line 259 - 4 Delio, Line 69 5 Ferdinand Line 263 6 Bosola 267 7 Antonio 7 8 Bosola Line 259 9 Ferdinand 126 10 Antonia line 17 11 Bosola lines 45-6 12 Bosola line 48 13 Antonia line 6 ?? ?? ?? ?? ...read more.

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