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Critical review of the Duchess of Malfi

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Introduction

Critical review of the Duchess of Malfi The production of The Duchess of Malfi is a vibrant, swash-buckling Jacobean affair. It is appropriately seasoned to a modern audience by the use of ambitiously experimental sets and intermittently 'fine' utterances, subsequently giving more substance to what the characters say. As we uncovered the symbolic treasures of the play, it becomes richer, and the added use of stage directions, makes the production (according to TS Eliot), 'possessed by death.' Although I concur that without the addition of Bosola's soliloquies, there would be something lacking. The play takes place against the back-ground of the court where we are given an insight into the corrupt nature of the production. ...read more.

Middle

It is a revenge tragedy which was popular amongst a Jacobean audience. Notwithstanding their attitudes towards vendettas (which was deemed unlawful and tinged with deceit), the savage, sadistic even would have still been considered utterly tasteful. Although we are seasoned to violence, our attitude towards murders and the hypocrisies of the church is more disapproving and so this is likely to arouse as much consternation. In spite of the modern scenic devices, the sardonic, sombre tone (most effectively poised through Bosola) of the language was kept. The actor adroitly posits his bawdy character by his expert delivery of descriptions. ...read more.

Conclusion

The theatrical brilliance of the play lies in the courageous use of scenic devices. There is a black-out before a tableau of 'the artificial figures of Antonio and his children' and the dismembered hand are brought in before the Duchess. The darkness appears to be a metaphorical expression for the 'sad spectacle' the protagonist is cursed with throughout the duration of her last scenes. The director alludes to an impending death and torture with a fiery glow. Thus, the primary point is made more simply and lightly than if the entire responsibility was on the spoken line. However, the poetic language of the play characterises Webster as moving increasingly away from the prosaic to the poetic. This, coupled with the visual effects makes the play, (according to AC Swinburne) a 'violent delight of horror.' ...read more.

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