John Webster's Play The Duchess of Malfi Essay

John Webster's Play The Duchess of Malfi Essay

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John Webster's Play The Duchess of Malfi

In the opening of The Duchess of Malfi takes place between Delio and
Antonio, a steward of the Duchess and his friend. Webster makes his
audience aware that Antonio has journeyed outside Malfi, to France.
The words "France, Frenchman, French" all appear within the first four
lines of the text, a blunt indicator to ensure that the audience,
however inattentive, grasps the point that Antonio has been absent
from Malfi. He supports this point by referring to the timespan since
Antonio last saw Delio, "You have been long in France." The word
"long" suggests that a considerable time has passed since he was last
resident in Malfi. Equally, Delio's description of Antonio, as a "very
formal frenchman in habit" infers that Antonio had been in France for
long enough to adopt French fashions, rather than his native Italian
dress.

Altogether, Webster, in the opening burst sets up Antonio as a
stranger to Malfi, but an adopted resident of the French court. Thus,
when Delio asks the open ended-question the audience appreciate
Antonio speaks from experience built from a lengthy duration in
France:

"How do you like the French court?"

Webster's question does not ask a specific question, rather it demands
a lengthy reply. Antonio's response is not the view of an outsider
whose short stay failed to unearth negative aspects of the foreign
reign. Instead he speaks from fact due to the time he spent in France.
The reply is informative, as expected from a character who is cast as
a "formal frenchman" with a straightforward answer then an extended
explanation. Antonio "admires" the French system, which he sets up as
the benchmark from which the audience must view the court of Mal...


... middle of paper ...


...tonio's admiration of the uncorrupt French court.
Equally, where Antonio favours the French court, he also favours the
Duchess, then gives a list of the reasons for doing so. It is
therefore assumed that they are the "silver drops" in the corrupt
state, set to contrast against the corruption of the brothers.

The final two characters of the act I feel are dramatic constructs.
Delio is used by the writer in this scene so that Antonio can speak
candidly about France. By speaking to a friend, the audience value his
comment more than were it to be made in public to a group of people.
Delio is also used later in the act to hold the plot together, when
Antonio points out the duke and describes him as a scoundrel. "This is
the Duke of Calabria…. The devils speak (in him)." Bosola is crafted
in a similar way. The authorial mouthpiece of Antonio cannot intensely

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