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Consider the significance of death and disease in 'The Duchess of Malfi' and 'The White Devil'.

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  • Essay length: 1658 words
  • Submitted: 19/06/2006
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University Degree Hamlet

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Consider the significance of death and disease in 'The Duchess of Malfi' and 'The White Devil'.

T.S. Eliot claimed that 'Webster was much possessed by death'. This statement seems to be correct, but unsurprisingly so as Webster had already lived through several years of plague and had, one assumes, seen much of death and disease. It does seem, however, that Webster expresses ideas within his plays using the images of disease more often and more effectively than many of his contemporaries. It is perhaps this imagery and the poetry driving through to the final death scenes of his characters that gives Webster's tragedy an extra pain and paradoxically a special appeal.

Webster uses very graphic imagery both as description and as metaphor. It was noted by Ralph Berry of The White Devil that '66 images out of a total of about 500 in the play (some 13 per cent) are concerned with disease or corruption'1. The use of this imagery affects our feelings about the action of the play as it influences our reading or viewing by putting suggestions and pictures in our minds that the plot development and action alone would not necessarily evoke. It

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