It has been asserted that, through her willfulness, the Duchess invites her own destruction. However the assertion has to be looked at from a 17th century point-of-view, as well as a modern one. The assertion is firmly rooted in the issue of human rights, and that issue has changed and evolved an enormous amount over the past few centuries, since Duchess of Malfi was written.
Society in the early 17th century was very different from ours today; then, women were far below men in stature and respect - they had no rights, and husbands and other male family members treated them more like possessions than human beings. While most women accepted this, there were, as always, those who rebelled - the Duchess is one such rebel. She refuses to accept the rules of society, instead choosing her own path to follow?an unpredictable and dangerous path, as is eventually seen with her capture, torture and death at the hands of her own brothers. For example, in Act I, Scene II, no sooner have Ferdinand and the Cardinal warned her against remarrying, than she and Antonio are arranging to be married - a perfect example of her headstrong attitude. She is also remarkably open towards Antonio about the whole affair; indeed, it is her who moves their relationship onwards from light-hearted ?irting to marriage itself, when she gives her wedding ring to Antonio, saying:
And I did vow never to part with it,
But to my second husband.
This forwardness would have shocked 17th century audiences, who would have expected the man to have been the most con?dent of the two, although it seems perfectly natural to us today.
This is her wilfulness - her rejection of standard pr...
... middle of paper ...
... accepted and what was not, and she chose to do things her own way. The assertion that she invited her own destruction is probably a valid one; however, her willfulness did not cause her destruction - the insanity of her brothers is responsible for that; her willfulness was simply the match that lit the fuse. It was not society's fault, it is the Duchess and her brothers' fault for not ?tting into that society. The Duchess would not adapt herself, so she expected everything else to adapt and, in doing so, invited her own destruction. Even to the very end she remains strong-willed and decisive, refusing to show any fear of her imminent death, or regret for her past actions:
Doth not death fright you?
DUCHESS Who would be afraid on't?
Knowing to meet such excellent company
In th'other world.
Need Writing Help?
Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.Check your paper »
- Tragic figures are characters that aim for a goal but never reach it. They suffer throughout their story and are most likely to die before the play ends. The tragic hero is the most commonly known of these figures, but tragic villains also exist. An example of the tragic hero is Franz Woyzeck, of Georg Büchner’s working-class tragedy ‘Woyzeck’. Compared and contrasted to Woyzeck is the tragic villain, Ferdinand, of John Webster’s tragedy ‘The Duchess of Malfi’. Both characters fail to gain what they desire because they suffer of a mental illness.... [tags: Tragic hero, Tragedy, The Duchess of Malfi]
2050 words (5.9 pages)
- Webster based his plot on a true story set in Italy, a story that has as central themes inequality, injustice, and corruption. In my opinion one of the best techniques that Webster used to transmit these themes was to make the characters appear to be something that they are not. Furthermore, all the important characters of the play have both good and bad sides, and some of them (Cardinal) are “bad” but appear to be “good”. This contrast between good and bad and the changes of personality, help the author to build a play full of tragedy and therefore this maintains the reader’s attention focused on the play and anxious to see what is going to happen next.... [tags: The Duchess of Malfi]
852 words (2.4 pages)
- The principal characters and their roles We follow after bubbles, blown in th'air. Pleasure of life, what is't. Only the good hours of an ague The Jacobean age was one of questioning and uncertainty about many issues, such as religion, politics and law. At the same time it was rediscovering the potency of Classical texts of Rome and Greece, and reinterpreting tragic form to suit its own ends. The Duchess of Malfi is a revenge tragedy, but Webster has used the form for much more than just its entertainment value; he has used it as a vehicle for the exploration of some themes relevant to the society of his time.... [tags: Duchess of Malfi Webster Papers]
2605 words (7.4 pages)
- 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.... [tags: Webster Duchess Malfi Essays]
2929 words (8.4 pages)
- John Webster's play The Duchess of Malfi is an illustration of the unequal power relations between the sexes during the sixteenth century. In the play the brothers Ferdinand and the Cardinal are shown as men who want to control their sister the Duchess by not letting her remarry. Out of this situation emerges the Duchess who, in spite of her promise not to marry again (p. 1298), will do the complete opposite, thus defying male power. Her conversation with Antonio (lines 317-61, pp. 1292-3) is an example of this because in her speech the Duchess intends to make Antonio realize that she is against both the conventions of marriage codes and men's assumptions of women's sexuality.... [tags: Duchess of Malfi Essays]
599 words (1.7 pages)
- The Duchess Of Malfi by John Webster as A Revenge Tragedy “The Duchess of Malfi” is a macabre, tragic play, written by the English dramatist John Webster. It begins as a love story, with a Duchess who marries beneath her class, and ends as a nightmarish tragedy as her two brothers exact their revenge, destroying themselves in the process.... [tags: Webster Malfi Duchess]
1417 words (4 pages)
- English literature is continuously developing into a more complex, and interwoven network of shared, or argued ideas. Proof of this goes back into all of the varieties of literature that we have discovered from times past, as well as anything new that is written today. One example of these works of art that has been studied intensely over the years includes the story of The Duchess of Malfi written by John Webster somewhere between 1580 and 1625. This is a story of tragic loss, desperate love, and vicious vengeance which all comes together to form one of the greatest tragedies of all time.... [tags: Tragedy, Shakespearean tragedy]
1347 words (3.8 pages)
- John Webster’s The Duchess of Malfi was written in the early 1600’s and is often considered to be Webster’s masterpiece. The story takes place in the Italian city of Amalfi during the sixteenth century, where the Duchess of the court of Amalfi is a young widow who has fallen in love with her steward, Antonio. Both of her brothers – the Cardinal and Duke Ferdinand – are against her remarrying and are very powerful. In becoming suspicious of the Duchess, Ferdinand hires Bosola to spy on her, while the Duchess thinks she has employed him as head of her stables.... [tags: essays research papers]
466 words (1.3 pages)
- The Standards and Values by which the Court of Malfi Lives The values that govern character's decisions in The Duchess of Malfi are diametrically opposed to the modern day ethos by which we are accustomed to live. The play is set in a time and society where today's basic sociability, fairness and freedom from oppression were completely unheard of and unprecedented. Those in power saw no point to their authority if they did not take full advantage of their influence, nobody would lookout for anyone else and people's livelihoods depended on kings' fickle whims.... [tags: The Duchess of Malfi Literature Essays]
1656 words (4.7 pages)
- The Duchess of Malfi - Character Summary "The birds that live i' th' field On the wild benefit of nature, live Happier than we; for they may choose their mates, And carol their sweet pleasures to the spring." The Duchess of Malfi (3.5.18-21) The Duchess of Malfi: Character Summary A widow, the duchess rules her duchy alone. Lonely and in love, she secretly marries her steward Antonio. This is done in a hand-fast marriage witnessed by Cariola, the Duchess' hand-maiden. By choosing to marry Antonio in secret, the Duchess neglects her duty to her people.... [tags: English Literature]
8513 words (24.3 pages)