Theme Of Human Nature In The Duchess Of Malfi

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In John Webster’s, The Duchess of Malfi, he investigates and examines the dark side of human nature. Some of the common dark qualities of humans are murder, treachery, and corruption. As humans we possess two different kinds of perceptions; the positive, that represents the good in us, and a darker nearly evil side. A person with a standard set of morals and values has the ability to defeat and even overcome the darkness that lies within us. The extremes of cruelty one human can inflict on another can be seen by examining the Duchess’ relationship with her brothers, Ferdinand and the Cardinal. Bosola, who actually does the deeds, also plays a vital role in showing the darker nature of human beings. In this tragedy we also see the abuse of human rights, choices, and freedom. In the Duchess of Malfi, themes of captivity and entrapment are seen through the victimization of the Duchess by the male characters, which unravel the dark aspects of human nature.
In the play, Webster does not only look at the physical entrapment of the Duchess that her brothers exert on her, but also the trapping of the soul and mentality. The Duchess resembles a beautiful bird that is held in a diamond filled cage. She has access to everything she needs on a materialistic level, but she is denied freedom in any form. Her overbearing brothers are the ones who control her every move and make every decision for her. “And fearfully equivocates, so we are forced to express our violent passions in riddles an in dream…”(1.2.354-357). Her brothers, along with Bosola, are the physical demonstrations of the evil that exists. Ferdinand’s devilish traits are often seen, “He and his brother are like plum trees, that grow crooked over standing pools, they are r...

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... very apparent that is does not matter what time period it is we are all humans and as human’s darkness seems to always exist in us.
In conclusion Webster’s play The Duchess of Malfi explores the dark possibilities of human nature. It looks at the extremes of cruelty and harm that one human can inflict on another by denying them basic human rights, choices, and freedom of association. Her brothers, who seem to be inertly malevolent and corrupt, show the audience how the darkness can consume you and that wickedness does indeed exist in humans. Although there are unexpected glimpses of light in the play that grasps the readers interest, the darkness and horror is compelling. Taking all these things in to account, the play achieves what Webster expects for us as the audiences to explore, being that darkness is always present but does not always take over the light.
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