Assess the dramatic and thematic effectiveness of Act 1 of 'The Duchess of Malfi'.
Assess the dramatic and thematic effectiveness of Act 1 of 'The Duchess of Malfi'. The opening act of 'The Duchess of Malfi' is important in terms of the themes that John Webster is presenting. He uses the characters to explore such themes, and subsequently the audience are given detailed descriptions of most of the main characters. Moreover, Webster uses the characters to describe each other not only giving the audience an insight into their personal attributes, but also how each character perceives the other. Although not entirely apparent in the initial acts of the play, the fact that the audience only know about the characters from the other characters' descriptions, implies the ideas of secrecy, deception, and spying, and the general theme that there are things that the characters think they know, when in fact they don't. Antonio is the first character to be introduced, and he is initially presented as an outsider returning home from the French court, which he "admires". He has a brief conversation with Delio about the French court, and how although it was orderly, it could easily be distorted. "Pure silver drops in general; but if 't chance Some cursed example poisoned 't near the head, Death and diseases through the whole land spread." The rhyming couplet makes it almost seem like a curse, and exerts a sense of doom. This already gives the impression that the
Corruption of the court within the Duchess of Malfi
From Act I of 'The Duchess of Malfi' what impressions does the audience get of the court and how does Webster create this? Include a close analysis of a section of your choice. 'The Duchess of Malfi' revolves around the predominate themes of the Jacobean period, during the reign of King James I. England faced a leader they did not trust as seen through their pessimistic literature work. The country had been previously known to be strong and powerful whereas it was now overturned by a weak and feeble King. This era focused on tragedies where there was an emphasis upon themes such as drama, betrayal, murder, conspiracy, tainted loved, revenge and death. Such ideas came about due to the corruption of the court where the growing rule of money and greed, shifted society towards a more capitalist economy. The King had surrounded himself by false sycophants causing him to be blind to the erroneous ways of his uninformed court. These selfish acts of the king and other individuals went on to affect the entire kingdom where "death and disease through the whole land spread"1. Webster has carefully portrayed this cynical view of human nature through the impression of the court within the opening act. This is apparent through his writing techniques and structure to reflect the given context through characterisations. During the first Act, the audience is introduced to a majority of the
Explore the ways in which Webster introduces his characters and themes in the play The Duchess of Malfi.
Explore the ways in which Webster introduces his characters and themes in the play The Duchess of Malfi In the opening of The Duchess of Malfi takes place between Delio and Antonio, a steward of the Duchess and his friend. Webster makes his audience aware that Antonio has journeyed outside Malfi, to France. The words "France, Frenchman, French" all appear within the first four lines of the text, a blunt indicator to ensure that the audience, however inattentive, grasps the point that Antonio has been absent from Malfi. He supports this point by referring to the timespan since Antonio last saw Delio, "You have been long in France." The word "long" suggests that a considerable time has passed since he was last resident in Malfi. Equally, Delio's description of Antonio, as a "very formal frenchman in habit" infers that Antonio had been in France for long enough to adopt French fashions, rather than his native Italian dress. Altogether, Webster, in the opening burst sets up Antonio as a stranger to Malfi, but an adopted resident of the French court. Thus, when Delio asks the open ended-question the audience appreciate Antonio speaks from experience built from a lengthy duration in France: "How do you like the French court?" Webster's question does not ask a specific question, rather it demands a lengthy reply. Antonio's response is not the view of an outsider whose short
Explore Websters presentation of obsessive love through the character Ferdinand in The Duchess of Malfi
Explore Webster's presentation of obsessive love through the character Ferdinand in 'The Duchess of Malfi' The Duchess of Malfi does indeed have 'plenty of blood', but this is nothing unusual in Renaissance tragedies. Webster's play is a tragedy about a forbidden love, more specifically a forbidden marriage, which leads ultimately to the deaths of the lovers and many others. Webster's focus in his tragedy of love is class, or rank, to use a more authentically early modern term. Both brothers are clearly furious at the news of the Duchesses marriage to Antonio, making explicit the kind of rank that Antonio is, and how he because of it is perhaps unfit for the Duchess. Both the Cardinal and Ferdinand vent to misogynist commonplaces, evident here: Foolish men, That e'er will trust their honour in a bark Made of so slight weak bullrush as is woman, Apt every minute to sink it! (2.5.33-6) Here it can be seen that Ferdinand's anger seems different in kind from the Cardinal's. Indeed, the Cardinal is as shocked by his brother's ravings, and his alarmed responses confirm that Ferdinand's attitude to the Duchess is obsessive and pathological: 'Speak lower' (2.5.4); 'Why do you make yourself / So wild a tempest?' (2.5.16-17); 'You fly beyond your reason' (2.5.46); 'Are you stark mad?' (2.5.66). In Act 1, before the brothers gang up on their sister in an effort to bully her into
With reference to Act 2, show how 'The White Devil' is psychologically rather than graphically horrific.
With specific reference to act 2, how is the White Devil more psychologically, rather than graphically, horrific? In act 2, playwright John Webster uses a framed narrative to portray the deaths of Isabella and Camillo, creating a psychological horror rather than a graphical one. Through the use of a conjuror, Webster manages to show deaths via ‘sophistic tricks’ from the ‘nigromancer’. By using this character as another narrator, a certain distance is created between the audience and the actions on scene, allowing the minds of the audience to wander, questioning the events that led up to the murders, and perhaps whether the conjuror’s visions were accurate or not. In addition, Brachiano’s indifferent response to the death, calling it ‘excellent’ may make the audience horrified by his ignorance of the brutal murders. Further horror is present in the irony of Isabella’s demise as she ‘kisses…thrice’ the portrait of the very man who plotted to murder her, a tragic end to a character who seemed to be completely pure. Perhaps Webster uses this as a ‘shock tactic’, making a Catholic Jacobean audience question whether a higher power is really protecting them if they would allow the archetype of goodness die in such a manner. This thought would have resonated in the 17th century as new discoveries in sciences such as astronomy may have made many wonder
Consider the relative merits of each of these judgements of Act 5: The Duchess of Malfi
Consider the relative merits of each of these judgements of Act 5: 'The true tragedy is with the Duchess. When she is gone, what are Bosola and Julia, what are Ferdinand and the Cardinal but hateful leftovers.' (Evaughan) Act 5 is to be regarded as Webster's achievement of his moral purpose: to pursue to the end his theme of sin and retribution. (Federick Allen) To some extent, I agree that the "true tragedy is with the Duchess." "The Duchess of Malfi hinges around this female protagonist. Right from the beginning of the play she is seen as the 16th century Renaissance stereotype of a 'lusty widow.' The Duchess was expected to fulfil an androgynous role. She had to have the so-called 'manly' intelligence yet appear feminine and motherly. She was expected to be tough and yet submissive. The protagonist was a powerful woman but she is a woman who goes beyond the bounds of social acceptability. 'It shows a fearful madness,' giving the impression of a courageous woman in the 16th century who breaks political constraints. In doing so, she provides light to a somewhat melancholic play. The Duchess's persona is rendered as pure and dignified. She acknowledges that "Men are often most valued" when "th'are most wretched." The reader is therefore encouraged to draw a parallel between her view on men to her outlook in life. The protagonist is truly 'blind' in her 'violent
How and where does the Duchess distinguish herself as a very remarkable woman in a man's world?
How and where does the Duchess distinguish herself as a very remarkable woman in a man's world? The Duchess is clearly the central figure in the play and manages to dominate proceedings, despite the untouchable power of her brothers and the firmly established patriarchal system in early-16th century Italy. She displays many admirably qualities, although her courageous strength and passion could be perceived as threatening in a male-dominated society. The Duchess is the sole female figure with any sort of power and respect in Webster's play. This is unusual firstly, because he based The Duchess Of Malfi on a version by William Painter in which the Duchess was portrayed as too lusty in a sternly moralistic fashion honourable as opposed to honourable. Also, although the Duchess is never referred to by her name, she is a very individual character and, having no female equals, conducts herself very well as a free spirit in a world of stifling constrictions. The Duchess exhibits her free will and nonchalance toward her brothers' controlling nature by marrying Antonio irrespective of their opinions. In response to Ferdinand and the Cardinal's bitter diatribe against remarriage, the Duchess wittily responds completely unafraid, "I think this speech between you both was studied, / It came so roundly off." Not only does she marry against the rule of jealous men, but also, she
John Webster - Theatrical Language
John Webster - Theatrical Language * Action / Imagery / Characterisation - Use contrasts / parallels / paradoxes / inversions of the norm. Her brothers = Her enemies / Husband who should provide strength merely takes courage. * Conflict between appearance and reality - Bosola and his use of disguise. His invisible disguise of true nature, culminating his eventual conversion. * Death of Duchess - Darkness of evil extinguishing light of good / Liberates her good soul from the prison of darkness into the eternity of the light. * The White Devil - Themes repetitive / Corruption of Princely courts / Corruption of man / An indication of the different ways individuals face death. * Complexity of meaning - Impossible to apprehend in a single reading / Images reflected through action (Combined impact of picture and verse) * Emblematic techniques - Inga Stina Ewbank considered his dramatic art in terms of Renaissance perspective painting. * Juxtaposition of opposites (Nightmare quality) - Appearance + reality / light + dark / love + death. Jaqueline Pearson credited Webster for being in sympathy with the dramatic experiments of his contemporaries. * Jacobean cast lists - Precedence of men. Bosola - Commands more attention than the Duchess herself. * Influenced by contemporaries - Themes and images inseparable from his sources. * Bawdy Humour and Innuendo - Emphasizing the
What impression does Webster create of courtly life in Malfi? How would a contemporary audience react to such a portrayal?
Kate Salmon What impression does Webster create of courtly life in Malfi? How would a contemporary audience react to such a portrayal? The court of Malfi is a treacherous place, with political, religious and personal allegiances in constant conflict. Webster creates this impression of courtly life through the themes of corruption, religion, hierarchy, revenge, malcontent and gender segregation. It is through these themes that Webster is able to convey the hypocritical and sinister world of the court. The court reflects the period in which Webster wrote the play as it echoes the court of James. A modern audience may portray the court quite differently to one of the Jacobean time, as in those days corruption and religious dominance was accepted and came as no surprise to them. We as the audience are able to see how treacherous the court is through each character, as it is them that bring the themes to life within the court. Antonio's opening comments about the virtues of the French court set up a contrast with that of the rulers in Italy. Many political tragedies during this period were set in countries other than England, where "the corruption of the times" could be criticized without fear of the public censor. Through this opposition that Webster creates he depicts that the court of Malfi is a place full of malice and sinister happenings. Corruption is the main source for
Attitudes to women in "The White Devil" in Acts I and II
Attitudes to women in "The White Devil" in Acts I and II In The White Devil, women are portrayed in general as being weak and passive, yet are seen as manipulative or foolish by the majority of the male characters, who expect them to be devoted and dutiful wives. However, it appears to be only the females who think about consequences and the outcome of all the action onstage. Flamineo panders Vittoria for Duke Brachiano, getting rid of Camillo so that Vittoria is "let loose at midnight". Flamineo's attitude towards his sister suggests that while he may enjoy laughing with her at Camillo's expense, he will not and does not hesitate to use to her to gain favour with Brachiano. To the audience at this point, it seems that Flamineo may be manipulating Vittoria into sleeping with Brachiano, and it can definitely be said that he has no misgivings about the situation, as we see when he apparently orchestrates the entire scene, having Zanche provide a blanket for the pair. Also when Flamineo remembers Lycurgus': "men would provide good stallions for their mares, and yet would suffer their fair wives to be barren" it is clear that his idea of women is that they are for reproduction and pleasure. However, it is never stated outright how willing Vittoria herself is in participating in the affair. Flamineo himself mentions women's "politic", and it is possible Vittoria uses Brachiano's