The Princely Powers Of The Duchess Of Malfi

1077 words - 5 pages

The Tragedy of the Dutchesse of Malfy, originally published under this name in 1623, is a Jacobean drama written by John Webster in 1612-13. The play starts off as a love story with the Duchess secretly marrying the steward of the household Antonio; a man beneath her class who she has fallen in love with. This marriage immediately shows the Duchess’ “princely powers” by defying the wishes of her brothers, Ferdinand and the Cardinal, to not marry again after being widowed. Webster portrays her brother Ferdinand’s power as a corrupted duplicate of an ideal. An ideal that the Duchess reaches through the drag of patriarchy. However the play ends as a tragedy with the deaths of almost all the ...view middle of the document...

This passage is quite telling, because the Duchess then takes charge after this comment showing the strength of her mind and action. But then the Duchess’ brother comes in disrupting their secret world and giving way to his incestuous behaviour towards his sister. His entrance destroys the setting and this would have been the last time that the Duchess and her Antonio enjoy their married life in peace. Ferdinand most definitely wants to control his sister and have power over her; although he claims to only have a concern about the family’s reputation. However his incestuous feelings lay just under the surface in this scene and it becomes clear he wants to control her body and her soul. In the face of death the strength of the Duchess’ character shines through even more being defiant and unrepentant. She is a tough Lady and she takes the initiative in planning an escape with her husband Antonio, again she takes charge and not the man in the picture Antonio. His bold words are never matched with action leaving his wife to take charge; another clear sign of gender contrast in this play. A final contrast in this scene is the Duchess to easily confiding in Bosola, gentleman of the horse to the Duchess and spy to her brother (a further sign of depredation and evil on Ferdinand’s part), her attempt to think of a cover story for the escape is easily being seen through by Bosola. This is in itself a snare that she so rashly accepts the advice of the traitorous Bosola.
Another significant part of the play is the theme of confinement and entrapment. The Duchess of Malfi is trapped and the only way to liberate her soul is through death. Bosola is hired to spy on the Duchess, Ferdinand and the Cardinal set a trap for the Duchess which will lead to her death. Ferdinand warns her what will happen “Your darkest actions, nay, your privatest thoughts, will come to light.” when she gets caught she will be killed (Webster 1580). The spying activities by Bosola take years to produce the results...

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