The Duchess of Malfi by John Webster

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The Duchess of Malfi is a Jacobean revenge tragedy written by English dramatist John Webster in 1612–1613. Originally performed privately at the Blackfriars Theatre, the play was then adapted for a larger audience at The Globe in 1613 and 1614. In this article, we will discuss these four aspects of the play. We will also examine the roles of Acts, Characters, Setting, and Ontological mobility.


In Shakespeare's Acts of the Duchess of Malfari, the protagonist, the spirited duchess, falls in love with a steward, Antonio, and has a number of children with him. Although she refuses to name her husband, she eventually becomes a widow, and is betrayed by a spy, Bosola. Ferdinand, who subsequently goes crazy with guilt, orders Bosola to strangle the Duchess, which results in the play's tragic ending.

Meanwhile, the Duchess of Malfi is imprisoned and is only able to get out by dying. Ferdinand is concerned because Bosola has been spying on her and has been plotting to kill her. But he mistakenly kills her brother Antonio instead, and Ferdinand is stabbed in the chest. Bosola and Ferdinand blame each other for the deaths, and Bosola's fate hangs in the balance.


The play is set in sixteenth-century Italy and contains many scenes. The play's opening scenes introduce the main characters and key conflicts. In act one, Antonio, the Duchess' steward, and his friend Delio discuss the Duchess's debt with Bosola. A cardinal enters, but he is cold to her and refuses to acknowledge it. At this crucial moment, the Duchess makes her last stand and asserts her identity, causing her death.

John Webster's Duchess of Malfi is an excellent example of an English Renaissance drama. Although not written by Shakespeare, it has all of the ingredients of a great Jacobean drama: unblinking scrutiny of evil, a micro and macro-level view of the world, a compelling character, and a unique setting. While the Duchess is a tragic figure, she never loses her heroic spirit and possesses a noble and dignified personality.


The setting of The Duchess of Malfi is in the sixteenth century in Italy. Although it has a modern setting, the story is set in a different time period than its original, and this difference may have an impact on how the characters are depicted. The setting of the play is based on real events from the early sixteenth century in Italy, so Webster freely borrowed from several sources and adapted them to fit his themes. It's widely available in college and high school anthologies. It is also collected in the Oxford World Classics series.

The setting of The Duchess of Malfi is rich in history. Although the play is set in Italy, it is written at a time when England was experiencing a significant social change. Changing social roles were a significant part of English society, and women were often neglected. The Duchess of Malfi reveals this social change. In addition to the politics of marriage and social mobility, the play deals with the role of women in Renaissance society.

Ontological mobility

"Ontological mobility" is a concept related to the shifting nature of existence. The play explores this concept in many ways, including how the characters in the play resist and embrace the metamorphic quality of the female body. By contrast, the protagonist's blazonic rhetoric and attempts to achieve physical and mental stability are contrary to the Duchess's goals. This theory is challenged by the play's own historical context.

Webster's play explores these issues in a way that is not only relevant to the present, but also to the past. Her portrayal of the squalid life of an aristocratic noblewoman is inextricably tied to the values of the French court. While Webster doesn't offer an ultimate interpretation of the play, her references to the judicious French court reveal an unreliable world.

Influence of the movement on the play

The influence of the movement on the play of the Ducess of Malfi is particularly noteworthy when the play explores the complexities of the monarchical system. The play is centered on the theme of corruption and politics. Although many of the characters in the play claim to be interested in justice, their actions pervert it with self-interest. Bosola's play is a complex study of the role of justice in political structures.

Despite its historical context, the movement's influence on the play of the Duchess of the Malfi reaches further back into the '70s. Although Platonists emphasize the spiritual over the physical, the play nevertheless highlights the importance of bodily stuff in the transfer of souls. Moreover, the Duchess's blazonic rhetoric and her close attention to Antonio's blood-shot eye are akin to a Neoplatonist belief that the'souls' of two individuals are mobile and exchangeable. Similarly, Ficino's ideas suggest that the spirits of a body travel outside of the body and combine with other bodies.

July 29, 2022




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