Analysis of the Play ‘The Duchess of Malfi’




Analysis of the Play ‘The Duchess of Malfi

The play ‘Duchess of Malfi’ mostly takes place in Italy in the Duchess’s palace while the setting was in the sixteenth century. The play starts with a secret plot to keep the Duchess chaste by placing Bosola, a spy within the household to keep a close eye on the occurrences in the house. However, unbeknown to them, the Duchess is also secretly planning to propose to Antonio with the assistance of her concierge, Cariola. After the secret marriage took place, the couple planned the best way to appease the Duchess’s brothers. The next act shows the Duchess as a pregnant woman which triggers off a series of inquisitions into her condition and a subsequent plan to hide her pregnancy. When word of Duchesses’ pregnancy gets out, uproar ensued among her brothers and the extended family. About three years later, the Duchess and her husband, Antonio has had two more children and Ferdinand skillfully finds out that the children are his sister’s. Ferdinand banished her for this act but later forcibly returned her and her two children to her palace. Bosola then systematically orders the execution of the Duchess, then her children and lastly, Cariola. In the last act, there is more killing after the Cardinal plots to kill his own mistress, Julia. The play ends with the Duchess’s oldest remaining son stepping up to take leadership of the remaining subjects.

Relationship between Bosola and Antonio

On the surface, Bosola portrays a false character as a stable manager while in reality, he was planted as a spy by Ferdinand and the Cardinal to make sure that their sister remained chaste. On the other hand, Antonio was also responsible for managing the household. The relationship between Antonio and Bosola is a perfect example of an aristocratic bond because both of the men strongly sought to achieve a better life through dedicated service to the desires of their masters. However, it was evident that both Bosola and Antonio were oblivious of the degree or motivation of their master’s demands. While stewards were frequently in agreement with their upper-class master’s resolve, the line of work was considered a reputable vocation and a path towards advancing up the ladder of social progress. Therefore, in many ways, stewards represented a class hinge in the door of conversion and social movement. Explicitly, stewards were members of the shift in Elizabethan society in which chances for social progress were accessible, mainly with the change towards a market economy.

The two individuals also shared a peculiar relationship with misdemeanors as the common factor that united them. From the onset, it was evident that Bosola was a cold-hearted criminal that had already been convicted for several murders. Towards the end of the play, Bosola acts as the hangman that killed the Duchess, Cariola and even the man who hired him, Ferdinand. While he is surely a murderer, Bosola also had a conscience and became guilty enough to want to avenge the death of all his past victims. Conversely, Antonio was far more refined, moral and passionate about doing the right thing in life. He was aware of the high level of corruption that existed within his extended family and the society and strove to do make moral decisions ate every occasion. To that extent, their relationship was not pleasant to say the least. The two men had different priorities and interests in life. While Antonio was more focused on maintaining a good reputation among his immediate family, Bosola was focused on redeeming himself from his past misgivings.


Variety and Role of Spectacles in the Play

Violence and death is a major spectacle that predominantly appears in the play ‘The D8ucchess of Malfi’. At the heart of the play, the Duchess exhibited courage and tenderness while the people who surrounded her were deceitful and volatile. In stark contrast, her two brothers were extremely dangerous and cunning. These opposing character traits were intended to enhance the nobility of the heroine and to increase the interest of the audience in the play. Most of the people who perpetrated the violence in the play were not in support of the evil acts and even openly despised their deeds. For instance, Bosola despised the ease with which he was available to engage in heinous acts and bribed by the upper class. On repeated occasions, Bosola condemned himself for his easy moral stand. The play can be considered one where all the cast dies in the end

The role of women in the society was also elaborated in detail. The Duchess was in line to be the supreme leader over several subjects that meant that she would wield power. The fact that a woman would be ruling over all subjects brings to light the challenges that accompany the empowerment of women in the society. Another major spectacle within the play was that of incest within the family. Ferdinand was strangely attracted to his sister and at the same time despising her for her authority and the choice she made. His incestuous desires appear to develop from gluttony. He was an overpoweringly unpredictable and fervent character and the utter vigor of his emotions occasionally led to absolute desire of his sister. Incest is definitely a controversial and forbidden topic and its inclusion in the play provided a humorous and thoughtful moment.



Heroism and the Duchess of Malfi

The Duchess of Malfi offers the audience an opportunity to perceive how the historical period handled heroic womanhood. The play also offered the chance to compare the performance of the Duchess to previous models for instance, Britomart. The Duchess’ sexuality was brought into question mainly because she did not represent the characteristic romantic woman but a sexually active mother and also a ruler. Among the public, these different roles embodied within one individual represented the best possible effort from the Duchess. The play by Webster represented a similar trend in accounts that was also used by Shakespeare in ‘the winter’ as well as other books.

The presence of children in the play, in addition to the surprising pestilence of their maternal identity forms a picture that portrays modern women who, rather than being misused as blocking elements or being excluded from the text completely and who end up being the heroes of the texts in which they exist. Conversely, the plays in the same period frequently illustrated vulnerable men whose heroism was sarcastically qualified by the settings in which they existed. These helpless men were put in that state by the clever and deliberate efforts of women close to power. Conversely, by adding motherhood to her identity, rather than being vulnerable, the Duchess ended up becoming a heroic figure that was illustrated by the fact that the Duchess’s identity was a memorable moment throughout the play. The Duchess of Malfi presented the audience with a woman who maintained her personality as a homemaker and mother even to her last moments before she was assassinated.


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