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

Examine the ways in which the political and familial contexts and relationships are established in Act I of "The Duchess of Malfi"

Extracts from this document...

Introduction

Examine the ways in which the political and familial contexts and relationships are established in Act I of the play. The politics of the Italian Court in the play are revealed to the audience as corrupt and unethical, also exposing the state of the English Court in this period. Webster could not have written about it directly and so it is shown through the setting in Malfi. This corruption is mainly embodied by Ferdinand and the Cardinal, who are the most politically powerful characters in the play. Their power in the Court is reflected in their familial relationships with the Duchess. The venality of the Court in Malfi is first suggested by Antonio who describes the general make-up of politics in any region using the analogy of a fountain, 'whence should flow pure silver drops' but can be poisoned at the top thereby, 'death and diseases through the whole land spread.' As it seems to have done in Malfi, as the two most powerful figures are so moraless. Antonio is also describing the effectiveness and purity of the French Court in this dialogue, which emphasises the corruption in Italy. ...read more.

Middle

Ferdinand is also clever, he can see through the flatterers in the court purposely trying to get in his favour such as Castruchio, who constantly and unnecessarily addresses him as 'my lord' and tries to dissuade him from going to war. Ferdinand recognises this and makes a mockery of him, sarcastically commenting about his pun, 'Why, there's a wit were able to undo all the surgeons of the city'. His power and control here is also made clear, as he gets angry when they laugh without him laughing, 'take fire when I give fire, that is, laugh when I laugh.'. Antonio reveals much about the brothers and the Duchess when he describes them all to Delio. He speaks freely in this dialogue as they are close friends, and so the audience gets an insight into what people truly think of them, although his description of the Duchess is biased as he clearly loves her. He refers to her as 'the right noble duchess' showing his feelings toward her. He also reveals that she does 'talk much', which would be unusual at the time as women were expected not to speak openly, as it states in St Paul, 'let a woman learn in silence with all submissiveness' summing up the attitudes of the period. ...read more.

Conclusion

It establishes the brother's adamant attitudes that she will not disobey them, and shows their power over her. The duchess greatly underestimates her brother's, 'let old wives report, I winked and chose a husband', and marries Antonio. Within their relationship it is apparent that the duchess is in control, as Antonio is very much in awe of her, he addresses her as 'your beautious excellence'. It is she who initiates the marriage, 'she puts the ring on his finger'. She also has to remind him that she is only 'flesh and blood' like him, and she is no better than him. The first Act establishes the authority of Ferdinand and the Cardinal and demonstrates the corruption of the court, possibly down to them as they have poisoned the fountain from the top. It reveals some of the characters as 'flatt'ring panders' such as Castruchio, Silvio and Bosola, although he is less fattering and more ambitious and decietful. It also establishes the relationship between the duchess and her siblings and shows their attempt to exert authority over her, which she unwisely ignores. Finally, it shows the nature of the realtionship between Antonio and the Duchess and that he feels very much below her (which he is in nobility). ...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"

    His anger reflects the sexual desire he has for his sister; his jealousy of Antonio is murderous. His incestuous desires may be an indication of moral corruption but is more likely a symptom of his being mental corrupt. Another potential cause for his determination to control his sisters' life may

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

    'Here upon your lips I sign my Quietus est.' The Duchess herself is seen as a problematic figure within the court. She is open to contemporary charges of subverting conventional social values by marrying beneath herself and leading a secret (and therefore morally dubious) life with her husband Antonio.

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

    That someone of this whiteness is the devil incarnate also suggests the depth of corruption in Malfi's leadership. It is "poisoned" at the "head." In Bosola's speech, the repetition of "devil" twice in the speech as well as the implication that he is the "greatest devil" denote the cardinal as the basest form of man.

  2. John Webster - Theatrical Language

    She comprehends the level of her brothers tyranny and realizes that she must part with Antonio. * The Duchess is rendered empty with a meaningless existence once she loses her love. Her soul is drained and she says "my laurel is withered" * She remains dignified to the end, "I am the Duchess of Malfi still".

  1. The Duchess Of Malfi - Commentary On Important Scenes

    Manages to convert Bosola Discovery - Ferdinand and Duchess are twins (Normally portray similar characteristics) Ferdinand clings to idea of Financial reasoning, covering up his true jealousy of Antonio. Fedinand - Self Loathing (Attacks his own shadow as if it were a form of his other self)

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

    The use of rhyme added to the content of his speech gives an air of finality, and emphasises the inevitability of the Duchess' death. Her response to this is very different to Cariola's who panics and shrieks, 'Hence villains, tyrants, murderers!'

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

    in that she puts her pleasure and personal issues before those of the state. Perhaps she secretly believes that the justness of her cause will be sure to triumph, but she is too romantic a character and, in direct opposition to Ferdinand's callousness, the Duchess disregards his potential for evil saying, "Time will easily scatter the tempest".

  2. Corruption of the court within the Duchess of Malfi

    He has focused on techniques which most playwrights at his time abide by, with the use of Blank verse and prose for a majority of the dialogue. By combining these two writing styles Webster was able to create confusion and heighten dramatic effects.

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