Critical review of the Duchess of Malfi
Critical review of the Duchess of Malfi The production of The Duchess of Malfi is a vibrant, swash-buckling Jacobean affair. It is appropriately seasoned to a modern audience by the use of ambitiously experimental sets and intermittently 'fine' utterances, subsequently giving more substance to what the characters say. As we uncovered the symbolic treasures of the play, it becomes richer, and the added use of stage directions, makes the production (according to TS Eliot), 'possessed by death.' Although I concur that without the addition of Bosola's soliloquies, there would be something lacking. The play takes place against the back-ground of the court where we are given an insight into the corrupt nature of the production. This is foreshadowed by Antonio; there are 'sycophants' and 'death and diseases' which 'spread' through 'the land.' Additionally, he makes references to France; they have 'a judicious king' and 'works of heaven.' This is set against the greedy avarice of the Malfi court where lust, corruption 'sin and retribution'(Federick Allen ) is rife throughout the play. It is a revenge tragedy which was popular amongst a Jacobean audience. Notwithstanding their attitudes towards vendettas (which was deemed unlawful and tinged with deceit), the savage, sadistic even would have still been considered utterly tasteful. Although we are seasoned to violence, our attitude
Referring to Act 3, Scene 2, lines 88 to 140, Discuss the ways is which Webster reveals the nature of the relationship between the Duchess and Ferdinand at this point in the play. Analyse the language and Imagery used.
Referring to Act 3, Scene 2, lines 88 to 140, Discuss the ways is which Webster reveals the nature of the relationship between the Duchess and Ferdinand at this point in the play. Analyse the language and Imagery used. Webster's The Duchess of Malfi may be an Elizabethan tragedy, but it is also a psychological horror story involving the corrupt relationship between the anguished Ferdinand and his sister. During lines 88 to 140 in Act 3, Scene 2 aspects of the Duchess and Ferdinand's characteristics become evident, giving the audience a clear insight into the relationship Webster wished to portray. Ferdinand desires to control his sister, but his wish seem somewhat futile, as she has been married before and thus gained her powerful status. Ferdinand's intensions towards his sister have been the source of much conjecture between critics and the nature of their relationship is one to be explored in great depth. Not only in Act 3, Scene 2, but also throughout the play, Ferdinand's abrasive temperament and unbalanced emotions are shown through his unrelenting sexual innuendoes towards his sister. Webster has given the repressed younger twin Ferdinand the capacity for extreme love and hate. He is not married, which adds to his sense of alienation and inability to relate to women. Ferdinand's incestuous feelings occur throughout the play, as in Act 1, for instance, Ferdinand
"Whether the spirit of greatness or woman reigns most in her, I know not, but it shows a fearful madness. I owe her much of pity" (I.i. 492)How far do you agree with Cariola's lines as a summary of the Duchess?
"Whether the spirit of greatness or woman reigns most in her, I know not, but it shows a fearful madness. I owe her much of pity" (I.i. 492) How far do you agree with Cariola's lines as a summary of the Duchess? You should base your answer on an examination of two or more appropriate sequences of your choice. The Duchess certainly has the spirit of greatness in her, as she shows in her death scene, where her nobility and courage are proved. However, she is also subject to the 'spirit of woman', shown in the scene where she woos Antonio, as it is essentially this which leads to her downfall and can be seen as her hermatia, her fatal mistake which was part of the typical structure of a revenge tragedy. It is her longing for a loving relationship regardless of her public responsibilities, a completely new philosophy in the Jacobean time, and her blindness to the impossibility of what she is trying to achieve (the separation of her private and public bodies), which lead to her death. Cariola's lines are a fair assessment of the Duchess, who has both the spirit of greatness and woman in her, although I think that by the end of the play her spirit of greatness certainly reigns most in her. The Duchess has the spirit of woman in her, she makes her judgements, like her decision to woo and marry Antonio, as a woman and essentially without reasoning and rationalising the
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.
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. The fountain and the standing pools are two contrasting images used to expose the corruption of the court. Whereas the fountain represents a flowing source of that can be infected according to it's ruler, the pools represent corruption and evil that remain in the land. The pools link to witchcraft and familiars, and in particular toads. The
IT HAS BEEN SAID THAT THE WHITE DEVIL IS BLOODY AND FULL OF HORROR. IS THE WHITE DEVIL ANYTHING MORE THAN A HORROR STORY?
IT HAS BEEN SAID THAT 'THE WHITE DEVIL' IS 'BLOODY AND FULL OF HORROR'. IS 'THE WHITE DEVIL' ANYTHING MORE THAN A HORROR STORY? When considering the above statement, it must be acknowledged that 'The White Devil' does indeed contain many instances of graphic violence, which serve to shock the audience. However, to assume that this means that the play is nothing more than a 'horror story', that Webster's incorporation of bloody horror constitutes nothing more than sensationalist shock, would be reductionist. The play provides a dramatic insight into the corruption of the social elites and of the Catholic Church, with both the physical violence and violent imagery therein contributing to this overarching theme rather than standing alone as a kind of exercise in mindless bloody horror, as the view in the title would seem to suggest. Despite the shortcomings of the given view, the quote it is derived from is fairly valid; there is no escaping the fact that 'The White Devil' is "bloody and full of horror". Indeed, the quote appears to have come from the lips of Gasparo, a minor character in the play, who states that Lodovico has "acted certain murders here in Rome, bloody and full of horror" in the opening scene of the play. From the offset, then, Webster leaves no doubt that the goings-on in the play are bloody and horrible. However, the fact that the audience learns of
From your readings of Acts 1-3 (inclusive) show how Webster presents the play as set in a paternalistic world.
K. Eagan From your readings of Acts 1-3 (inclusive) show how Webster presents the play as set in a paternalistic world. In "The Duchess of Malfi", Webster seems to present the play from a paternalistic perspective. The play is dominated by two central characters, the Cardinal and Ferdinand, who represent the religious and secular powers of the corrupted court. Throughout Acts 1-3, these central characters use their power to ruin their widowed sister, the Duchess. Although the Duchess attempts to break free from her brothers' influence by marrying Antonio, their domination will destroy the Duchess' power and reputation since she has abandoned her brothers' wishes. Webster seems to portray the Duchess as a symbol of the Jacobean view of the roles of women. A widow, such as the Duchess, was considered to be an 'ungoverned woman', one who threatened the social normalities of the period. The Duchess is also portrayed in this way, because she 'threatens' the reputation of the court. Ferdinand fears that the Duchess will marry for pleasure, and warns his sister of the destructive nature of marrying for pleasure: "I'th'court, There is a kind of honey-dew that's deadly: 'Twill poison your fame." Ferdinand also suggests that by marrying twice the Duchess will be seen as 'luxurious', suggesting that a second marriage is portrayed as wicked. The Duchess sees it differently; she
Corruption in "The Duchess of Malfi"
Corruption. The world in which The Duchess of Malfi is set is riddled with corrupt practices and people. There are 3 major types of corruption that occur throughout the play: moral corruption, political corruption and mental corruption. The idea of corruption is introduced in Antonio's first speech. He comments on how a well governed, noble palace should be, then contrasts this with the idea of a court where " some curs'd example poison't near the head, death and diseases through the whole land spread." This helps us to recognise Antonio as a noble, well-educated character who can be trusted to provide an honest view of the situation. It also points out that someone at the head of the court has caused the sickness and disease, the corruption, which has spread throughout the land. The image of water in Antonio's speech is continued through the act. The " common fountain" links to Antonio's view of the Cardinal that " The spring in his face is nothing but the engend'ring of toads," that something that appears pure can in fact be diseased, impure and polluting. Antonio is able to see through the rich tissue that has been used to hide a rotten and dead body. This is not the first suggestion that the Cardinal is a corrupt man; Bosola's claim that he "...fell into the galleys in your service," introduces the idea that the Cardinal may not be as religious and honourable as a man
By close consideration of two extracts of your choice, assess the importance of the Christian perspective in Webster’s presentation of the Duchess
Practise essay question - The Duchess of Malfi by John Webster By REBECCA HEYS " 'In heroic terms, the Duchess defies the evil in her court and her brothers' hearts; in Christian terms, she makes a good end.' (Elizabeth M. Brennan) By close consideration of two extracts of your choice, assess the importance of the Christian perspective in Webster's presentation of the Duchess." There has been much debate over whether the Duchess of Malfi is a character who is essentially a victim of her brothers' tyranny and the corruption of her court, and whose downfall is caused by such, or is responsible for her own negligent and selfish actions by marrying a man she loved but in doing so abandoning her princely duties. Certainly, Webster's borrowings saw the Duchess as little more than a whore or a strumpet (much like Julia in Webster's version), but modern audiences, with modern sympathies, have preferred to see the Duchess as a heroine who is sacrificed for love. The two passages I have chosen to consider neatly contrast each other in showing how the Duchess is susceptible to religious corruption (III.ii.305-320), but equally, how she dies a Christian, almost a martyr (IV.ii.210-239). In I.i, Antonio, the Duchess' future husband, recounts a description of the French court, the King of which has 'quitted' "his royal palace | Of flatt'ring sycophants, of dissolute, | And
The horrors of act IV, i are less important that the characters' reaction to them
The horrors of act IV, i are less important that the characters' reaction to them "The first necessity of baroque is that the audience should be gripped, excited, moved" 1 - so says Ralph Berry. The fourth act of The Duchess of Malfi certainly succeeds under all these criteria, being the dramatic crux of the play. The events that occur in the first scene are undoubtedly crucial, but it is the characters' vastly varied reactions to them that are vitally important. Rich imagery is deeply interwoven with the fabric of play - indeed, it is an essential part of its function - and the scene's proceedings are completely overshadowed by the telling relationship between Ferdinand, Bosola and the Duchess that is explored throughout act IV, scene i. Often, it is in the most trying times that the true nature of people is allowed to shine through their veiled everyday existence. In this scene, the Duchess is subjected to imprisonment and cruel tortures by her malevolent twin brother who is still unable to come to terms with his sister's independence and intimate relationship with Antonio. Bosola is beginning to experience emotions he had previously repressed or never had the capacity to experience in court life. He is forced to astatically struggle with inner turmoil and design for himself a new system of morality. Because of these simultaneous occurrences, the three major
Critical opinion about the ways Webster presents the Duchess is divided. Some critics blame her for being irresponsible, bold and too passionate. Others praise her for her courage in fighting against tyrannical authority.
Critical opinion about the ways Webster presents the Duchess is divided. Some critics blame her for being irresponsible, bold and too passionate. Others praise her for her courage in fighting against tyrannical authority. Consider these two opinions in the light of your study of the play. What do you think of Webster's Duchess? In good pieces of literature such as Webster's Duchess of Malfi, an intriguing and captivating character should always have two sides, and with such a complex character critical opinion will always be divided. In this essay I will assess ways in which the character of the Duchess causes conflict in opinion, and show my opinion as to whether she is courageous or perhaps irresponsible. During the course of the play, the Duchess can be seen to commit a lot of irresponsible actions, ones, some might say eventually cause her own downfall and some what tragically, her death. It could be argued that the Duchess asking Antonio to marry her was an irresponsible action, she knew the society they lived in would not allow someone of her status to marry a man beneath her like Antonio, therefore some critics would argue she brought on her death herself by being irresponsible and also too passionate. At the beginning of the play, Antonio is describing how a good court should be run and sets up a contrast early on between the corrupt Italian court the play is