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In The Duchess of Malfi, Act II Scene I, Bosola says to the Old Lady: "And though continually we bear about us A rotten and dead body, we delight To hide it in rich tissue..." Discuss the corrupt world presented in the light of this quotation.

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In The Duchess of Malfi, Act II Scene I, Bosola says to the Old Lady: "And though continually we bear about us A rotten and dead body, we delight To hide it in rich tissue..." Discuss the corrupt world presented in the light of this quotation. The world presented in The Duchess of Malfi is one in which morals, conventions and order are corrupt, and deception and sickness flow through the land, affecting all involved. The court is described in terms of sickness and disease, which represents the corrupt world. Antonio's first speech compares the court to a fountain 'whence should flow pure silver-drops' yet if the pureness becomes tainted 'death and diseases through the land [will] spread'. This first comparison indicates that the court nourishes the land, and the court's ruler nourishes the court itself. Ferdinand, and his brother the Cardinal are as plum trees 'growing crooked over standing pools'. It is clear that the brothers are indeed corrupt, and as authority figures, they will influence others by means of the court. ...read more.


The Aragonian brethren see the Duchess as corrupt when she goes against their orders and marries. Ferdinand and the Cardinal exert a lot of control over the Duchess, despite her powerful role, which emphasises male dominance over female, typical of the Jacobean era. The common opinion of women is revealed through the brothers. The Duchess is seen as inferior, her 'heart placed too far upon the left side' causes her to be lustful and unfaithful. In her disobeying of her brothers to marry again, the Duchess is seen as a 'lusty widow' marrying for nothing other then desire. Ferdinand is worried this will taint the family honour; something that women do not carry well because they are weak and honour is weighty. It is ironic that he says this because in the end it is his and his brother's fault the family honour comes to nothing. The Duchess is a woman lost in a world corrupted by men who try to control her life, and on failing this, rob her of her last happiness and bring about her death. ...read more.


Ferdinand is the antithesis of the Cardinal, whose behaviour is less sinister then his own. His incestuous feelings for his sister lead him from jealousy and suspicion through an obsession and finally to madness. Ferdinand is known to be a corrupt judge to whom the law is not the means of bringing justice to his people; it is like a 'foul, black cobweb to a spider'. Ferdinand demonstrates this by using the law as an instrument to take Antonio's lands off him illegally, and in hiring Bosola as an intelligencer to spy on the Duchess. Ferdinand's desires to control both the political and natural body of his sister, causes him to exert an unnaturally cruel attitude towards her, and finally this results in his downfall. As a convention those involved in the web of deceit; the Duchess, Ferdinand, the Cardinal, Bosola, Antonio and Julia must all die. Death is seen as the only process of purification, the 'physician should be put in the ground to be made sweet'. Through death the corruption and evil present in the play are removed and a new regime can begin with the Duchess' heir. ...read more.

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