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

How effective is "The Duchess of Malfi" as a Jacobean Revenge Tragedy?

Extracts from this document...


How effective is "The Duchess of Malfi" as a Jacobean Revenge Tragedy? "The Duchess of Malfi" by John Webster holds the typical stereotype of a Jacobean Revenge Tragedy. A 'typical' Jacobean Revenge Tragedy contains conventions: - the play should be set into five acts as laid down by Seneca in his original rules of tragedy. There should obviously be a desire for revenge hence the term "revenge tragedy." There should be murders within a Jacobean revenge tragedy. The narrative should involve complex plotting. The story should centre on characters of noble birth. There should be Italianate or Southern European settings. The narrative should incorporate ghosts, skulls and madness. Lust should be a strong motivation. The plot should involve physical horrors, such as poisoning and torture. Order should be restored at the end of the play. All of the conventions set out by Seneca are relevant to the Duchess of Malfi. The "Duchess of Malfi" is set out into five acts. ...read more.


Ferdinand tries to mentally torture the Duchess. She is forced to view a tableau that displays the seemingly dead bodies of Antonio and her eldest son. The bodies are wax images. The poisoning convention if fulfilled when the Cardinal poisons the bible so when Julia kisses it she dies. The fact that the Cardinal poisons the bible it could symbolise that he has lost his religious beliefs and has become secular again. At the time this play was written it was not uncommon to use mad people as entertainment. This is a Jacobean tragedy convention. England was a superstitious society. Many people believed in omens and portents. Witches and witchcraft were the object of morbid and fevered fascination throughout the rein of Queen Elizabeth. Most people believed that witches existed, and persecution of those accused of witchcraft. The dominant mood of the period was melancholic and sombre. Out of the melancholic mood came the malcontent. ...read more.


The heroic figure in this play is undoubtedly the Duchess. She stoically accepts her fate and constantly takes the lead in her relationship with Antonio. Her strong character is typical of Jacobean tragedies. The tragedies of Shakespeare, Webster, Middleton and others reflected characters, emotions, actions and issues that were familiar to the London audiences. In "The Duchess of Malfi", Bosola, when he is about to have the Duchess murdered, speaks words which refer to the custom of a bell being toiled at Newgate prison just before the execution of a condemned criminal. "I am common Bellman That usually is sent to condemn'd persons, The night before they suffer" Contemporary audiences witnessed scenes of violence, revenge and forgiveness. They heard all kinds of direct and indirect comments on affairs of state, law and belief. Whether the drama supported or subverted religious beliefs, traditional values or social organisation, it held attractions that pulled in audiences. In conclusion "The Duchess of Malfi" is very effective as a Revenge Tragedy as it features all the conventions put down by Seneca. Charlee Milgate 13CD ...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"

    It is Ferdinand who is most influential in persuading Bosola to take the job as spy. Ferdinand's reasons for seeking to spy on his sister and keep such a strong hold over her affairs are unclear. His use of crude innuendo to her, for example his claim that "...women like

  2. Corruption of the court within the Duchess of Malfi

    It is apparent that Bosola has been wronged, by the Cardinal, through his clever use of imagery and language against the "great fellow" who was "was able to possess the greatest devil and make him worse."

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

    However, whatever the reason for crafting the Cardinal as deeply evil, wrapped in his vein of power, his influence on Malfi is clearly considerable. Thus the metaphorical symbol of the font spreading good or evil from the upper echelons of society back to the country as a whole is seen.

  2. 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".

  1. The Duchess Of Malfi - Commentary On Important Scenes

    State doesnt insure Holy Order - Opens door to Tyranny Cardinal: Mater of passion / Deficiency of feeling "A cynical and tedious experiment in physical gratification, devoid of passion and even pleasure" Theory Of Humous Explanation of human behaviour - Idea that bodily fluids (blood / phlegm / choler / black bile)

  2. "Webster's view of the world is utterly bleak." Use your knowledge of three specific ...

    In this instance, the Duchess is literally raising Antonio, but metaphorically raising his social status to her level, although this does still not comply with her brothers' standards or the conventions of that society.

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

    or envious, as any man, If he had means to be so.' Bosola, in other words, cannot be a true critic of the society of The Duchess of Malfi, at least as far as Antonio and Delio are concerned, because he criticises out of jealousy, not detachment.

  2. John Webster - Theatrical Language

    They thought that the body contained 4 humous that reflected each of the elements, hence dictating behaviour.

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