the duchess of malfi, john webster - essay - (2023)

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last updated on June 7, 2022 by enotes editorial. Number of words: 9832

Which: Bradbrook, m. VS. "the duchess of malfi" inJohn Webster, citizen and playwright,p. 142-65. New York: Columbia University Press, 1980.

[In the following essay, Bradbrook focuses on the contemporary context ofthe duchess of malfito perform the drama, including the original Jacobean staging and original story of the play. He also likens the play's style and structure to a masque in order to illuminate the drama as it would have been perceived by its original audience.]

in the only predominant disorder; in the other the prevailing wisdom; in one the fervor of the body and the form of outward strength at all heights of heroic deeds; in the other, the enduring and unconquered inner kingdom of the spirit, intact, undisturbed by still more outrageous and tyrannical sufferings.1

[George Chapman, letter of dedication to his translation of HomersOdyssey,1614]

Chapman's comparison of theIliasand theOdysseyit would do for both of Webster's great tragedies; Though anyone could be subtitled "A Woman in Chess," Vittoria's "Heroic Feat" serves her worldly ambitions, while the Aragonese princess' courage gives her the strength to face the consequences of her quest for happiness and fulfillment.

the similarities in structure (duke and cardinal united in a punitive alliance) should not obscure the differences. since they were revived, the superiority ofthe duchess of malfisecured half a dozen revives for eachthe white devilThe play was probably performed in the winter of 1613/14 and certainly before 12 December 1614, for William Osler (who first played Antonio) died on that day. In Webster's day, the play was considered his major work from the start and seems to enjoy enduring success on the stage. It was one of the opening pieces for the cockpit at court in 1635, a command performance for kings.

Almost twenty years later, the son of old John Heminges, leader of this troupe, recalled the crowds that flocked to Blackfriars where the King's Men were putting on the play. In a macabre spoof for the amputation of a grieving finger, he has a procession of poets escort them to the banks of the Styx:

It had been planned and we were approaching in state but Webster's brother didn't want to borrow a car, he swore they were all hired to sadly carry the Malfi Duchess on his way. (2)

Webster had withdrawn, albeit temporarily, from the company of his former acting friends in order to regain the conditions in which he could thrive. Blackfriars (opened only three or four years earlier) was the first indoor theater for an adult group who had been together for almost twenty years and had a long tradition of revenge plays. Burbage, creator ofDorf,was in the cast. Webster made the most of the intimate setting of this room for another family tragedy, a more significant family than before, including the home.

The crowds of carriages thronging Blackfriars were a common cause of complaints. Dignitaries, even kings, had visited there. What could have drawn the king's men's attention to Webster? possibly the print output ofthe white devil,with its lavish tribute to the actors and lamentation of conditions at Red Bull. Possibly the downfall of some of its playwrights - the retirement of Shakespeare and Beaumont.

When Webster published the tragedy, all the actors' names (with their roles) were prefixed, the first example of such an homage.3John Lowin as Bosola was credited as leading actor; Burbage played Ferdinand, Duke of Calabria, and was later succeeded by Taylor; Henry Condell played the Cardinal of Aragon and Richard Sharpe played the Duchess; Burbage's apprentice, Nicholas Tooley, voiced some supporting roles.

This team has included both highs and lows in its hearings. They were used to acting at court, but they also kept their old riverside theatre, the Globe, and apparently moved Webster's play there, although some scenes called for darkness and silence. the prison scenes do not call for a small cell but take up the whole stage, suggesting the black monks.

Webster's dedication offered this work to a grandson of Lord Hundson, who had been the patron of the company in Queen Elizabeth's day. other playwrights gave him verses of praise; Middleton, Rowley (leader of Prince Charles' men and future collaborator) and the young John Ford of the Middle Temple jointly affirmed that the work sealed Webster's immortality and compared him to the greatest poets of Greece or Rome. Middleton described the audience as being overcome with sympathy;Sympathyalthough it is a key word towards the end of the piece, it is almost always used ironically: "Your piety is not related to you" (iv. i. 135).

The story is much simpler and bolder in relief than Vittoria's. the historical base was both more remote and tenuous; Webster got it from the painterpleasure palace(1567), a context that did not impose historical rigor. this narrative source is of minimal importance in itself. Litanies of a protracted royal death rite are constructed at major public occasions and are based on many literary forms, notably the two contradictory forms of the funeral elegy and the nuptial masque. (the latter is now extinct).

Webster developed the reverse religious ritual of Brachiano's death, adding to it a complex recollection not only of many books and other literary forms, but also of life events, such important events as the funeral of Prince Henry and the wedding rites of Princess Elizabeth. and the Elector Palatine in 1613, local events such as the oversight of Robert Dove's charity for the damned at Newgate. with this he combined an attention to his individual actors and to the effects that might be produced in his theater, which is nearer than any dramatist but Shakespeare was willing to go. He knew what to ask of a boy who had played Hermione or Queen Katherine. Webster turned his theater into a playing instrument, but he too had vibrated to perform before creating it. his use of as yet unpublished plays (macbeth, oteloÖAnthony and Cleopatra) shows your attention. Consequently, it shares with Shakespeare the possibility of reinterpretation. This paradoxical result, born of richness and complexity, admits of a variety of valid interpretations and emphases. it is the reward for a performer's art. With Shakespeare, Webster draws new relevance from the experiences and cultural concerns of modern audiences. for example, the modern view that the Duke of Calabria was incestuously possessed by his twin sister may satisfactorily compensate for inaccessible Jacobean theological or social moods, just as in a living organism one part may take over the function of another. this attitude is the hallmark of the classic, always renewable through transformation. Today, few believe in supernatural evil or personal demons unless they have personally encountered extreme horror and collective evil.

this chapter therefore examines first the societal background, then the psychological and finally the contemporary theatre, in order to restore the missing context; not to replace modern reading, but to enrich it.

the duchess of malfidiffers fromthe white devil,that it was firmly rooted in recent history and the distinction produces a different conception of the play, also influenced by the very different playing conditions at Blackfriars.

the story had survived only because it had been told by a contemporary, Matheo Bandello, who told it as the tragedy of Antonio; This Italian bishop may have been the delio of the work, as he seems to have known Antonio personally. The tragic 'conformation' conferred upon the painter by the French had made it legendary over the course of a hundred years, the interval between the assassination of Antonio Bologna in Milan in October 1513 and Webster's play. The secret marriage between the young widow Duchess and the butler of her house, their five happy years, their escape and the revenge of their brothers were told through long speeches, lamentations and songs by the two lovers. the painter showed what historical records do not provide: the imprisonment and death by strangulation of the Duchess, along with her faithful maid and their two children; Later, on the Cardinal's orders, he briefly ended the record of Antonio's murder.4

in such a legend, webster was free to add contemporary colour. The Spanish rulers of the Kingdom of Naples could be interpreted in the light of contemporary Spanish honor and pride. (Indeed, Lope de Vega himself wrote a play about the Duchess' story a few years later.) There was also the freedom to play it in relation to the noblest of theater forms, the masquerade, albeit in an unusual and paradoxical form and the occasion turned on its head. the ancient fairy tale and the modern instance, eternity and time, were united in webster, and without any dogmatic fixations. his negative capacity, or 'power to be in doubts, mysteries, fears, without irritating grasp of fact and reason', has been enhanced by contrasts of dark and light, diamond and mist, so that his perspectives in this piece are more expansive and yet his style is softer. the sharp contrasts of the central scene inthe white devilThey became nightmares in the Duchess' prison in Act IV. the overall effect remains paradoxical: the epigrams of Bosola and the Duchess produce numinous shudders, the abrupt interruptions in speech the stealthy invasion of menacing forces, theatrical characters the implications they carry. Instead of the ambassadors representing the political aspect of Vittoria's challenge, hell opens up in the Duchess' prison; Since the time of Charles Lamb, these scenes have been considered "out of this world." Madness itself was considered a devilish possession, and the madman's "comic" masquerade foreshadows Fernando's later madness.

there is no single "source". Bandello's narrative records his extreme shock, which he worked through by blaming everyone: Antonio for his hubris, the Duchess for her lust, the brothers for their cruelty; his position is contradictory. For Webster's generation, the end of the love affair between Penelope Rich and Charles Blount or the story of Antonio Pérez and the Princess of Eboli offered possible confirmations. With this Webster-era analogue, the modern reader is at least better equipped to better understand the price of private security amidst the magnificence of the court, and also the psychology of the spy. For Webster's primary method of crafting the story was to create the unique character of Bosola from the servants of the Duchess's household, her executioners in prison, and the named assassin of Antonio in Milan, a Lombard captain. Bosola's insecurity, his bitter banter and self-mockery, his constant and incessant demand for "reward" that is always denied him, and finally his love of costume as a form of psychological relief, are all reflected in Pérez. Better than any other writer of his time, Webster recognized the dark side of political power, the cruel control of intelligence networks, the blows of betrayal. In the staging, Bosola often dominates the play, so the lives of the Aragonese princes serve only as a backdrop for their self-destruction. this spy, who repents and takes revenge for the murder he himself committed under orders, confirms the servant's tragic fate. The great lady who ends her days in darkness, a prisoner in her own palace, shares the pride of Penelope Rich and Ana de Mendoza, Princess of Eboli.

every Jacobin would know that madness was hereditary in royal blood, that it was the duchess' crime to have contaminated it with base marriage; You would also learn the story of Don Carlos, heir to Felipe II, who was strangled in prison.

The final element of public opinion that Webster infused into his work may not have been recognized by his contemporaries. his own mourning for England's heir, Henry, Prince of Wales, who had died in November 1612, had settled in a few weeksa monumental column,his elegy. here many of the pictures, then tightly linkedthe duchess of malfi,lie about howsevered endsIt's not a memorable performance in itself, but it points to one of the sources of the tragedy; this widespread popular mourning provided strong emotional impulses that fed into the tragedy and were transformed.

a reading of the work in the sense of contemporary notions of social duty or social structure is possible; It's also entirely possible to read it as a character study of the four main characters with religious undertones, or as a subtle variation on masquerade perspectives. History is not so much "open" to the moral alternatives that are powerfulthe white devilin terms of gender differences, interpretative approach or emphasis, highlights and shadows. It has therefore appealed to modern poets who have adapted it in a thoroughly Websterian way.

Borrowing from private theater practice, Webster divides the play into five acts, focusing on the courtyard, the bedroom, the world, the prison, and the tomb. but these places are not well defined. in the prison scene, the waxwork display of mortification, the mask of the madman, and the execution ritual itself are theatrical; belong to the Höllenburg ofMacbeth,with his porter and his alarm bell, with the shows in the witches' cave. these in turn reflect the "image of great destiny" of medieval drama: heaven and hell. The king's men at that time reinforced this element in their productions with new effectsMacbeth,and with the last works of shakespeare. his own experience of courtly masquerade (where the witches were represented for the anti-masquerade ofthe mask of the queen) must have influenced his overall style.5It was a secular ritual that used religious terms but never introduced religious material.

the legendary, the contemporary, the dramatic ritualistic are laminated, and this liner adds to the dramatic life of the work. what now needs to be replaced by contemporary Webster lamination is something of our time: both t. s. Eliot and Allen Tate added this perspective to the original poetry in their texts. Eliot chooses the bedroom scene in which the Duchess is surprised, partly by Antonio's prank to leave her, and sees in her mirror not her husband's face but that of her brother holding a dagger. This is adjusted so that the two characters become two aspects of a man who both loves and hates. the effect is not pity but terror:

"You have reason to love me, I entered my heart before you deigned to ask for the keys," with her back turned, her bare arms fixed in a question, her hands behind her hair and that Firelight that glowed where muscles contracted. ...I suppose they found her there turning to question the silence behind her.(6)

Allen Tate contrasts the Duchess' story with the barrenness of a modern reading:

the stage is about to be swept with corpses. You don't stand a better chance than an infusoria in a hollow molar of an Eohippus. ...
now contemplating the later-entering emptiness, unaltered by the "severe gesture" of your death, splits the line of pessimism into two infinities. ...
and the catharsis disappears in the warm water of a yawn.(7)

If Bosola and Flamineo's cynicism is to joke about moral values ​​they can't afford, then Tates isPersonaIn this poem, it fits the piece quite well. his own comedy begins in the opening scene at court; then, in act ii, bosola uses the tone of dissatisfaction in his mockery of the painting of women; Fernando's actions begin with the manic grandeur of forbidding his courtiers to laugh unless he laughs. Later, while he is silently conferring with his brother, and someone comments: "Herr Ferdinand is laughing," it seems

Like a deadly cannon that lights up before it smokes.

[iii. iii. 54-5]

The Duchess's merriment consists of mere crude, rather childish banter with her maid and husband, but Ferdinand's entrance puts her in the bitter wit with which he is playing his game of banishing Antonio. it does not engage in or suspect espionage; Her wit serves primarily to control her own pain and resentment and works on herself (as Bosola's works on herself as well).

Historically, the removal of Antonio Bologna and his Duchess from this world has been neatly and expertly accomplished; There was no scandal and few comments. It was a family affair; The Duchess simply disappeared and was never seen again, her secret marriage coinciding with her secret death. in this work, unique among Webster's works, there is no judgement; Tyranny is condemned by Fernando's self-indictment:

With what authority did you execute?
that damn sentence
for your-
mine? I was your judge
made every ceremonial form of the law
condemn them not to be? formed a full jury
announce your sentence in court?
Where can you find this judgment recorded?
unless in hell...?

[iv. ii. 298-304]

The only form of condemnation we witnessed was that of his banishment from Ancona, carried out in a quiet spectacle at the Shrine of Our Lady of Loreto. this was evidently staged with great splendour, as an Italian visitor to London in 1618 commented. During the ceremony, the Cardinal forcibly removed the Duchess's wedding ring from her finger, an ecclesiastical act of nullity of the contract; this ecclesiastical judgment was followed by punishment with the secular arm (banishment). From the comments of the two viewers, one also learns that the pope has seized the duchy ("but for what justice?" "Of course I think for none / only at the instigation of his brother").

In the case of Antonio Pérez and the Princess of Eboli, the focus was on the arbitrariness of the Spanish trial, with the ruthless use of ecclesiastical charges in the absence of secular evidenceRelationshipspublished in England. he showed the English (including English Catholics) the superiority of English justice. There is no justice in the family's acts of vengeance against the Duchess, who keep calling it tyranny.

If the drama had been viewed simply as a family story, as might have been done by one of Webster's young friends from the court inns, the Aragonese brothers would have failed in their sense of duty in advising the young Duchess to live single. and then go away and leave her. it was her duty to look about the world in general, find a suitable husband, and introduce him to her. the absolute authority of the head of the family over all members was not contested, and the natural subordination of the sister to the brother appears in several English plays.8but to force the duchess into the heroic role of the virtuous widow - a role which individuals could certainly choose, which was decent for older women, which could bestow extraordinary power on a Catherine de Medici - was tyrannical. In fact, Ferdinand later pretends to be planning a marriage to Malateste, and the cardinal also claims to have a plan for his new marriage. Antonio, as her faithful servant, advises her to get married before making her declaration of love. (In any stage comedy, the remarriage of widows is a central assumption.)

Whatever the value of a "contract in a chamber," the Duchess is destroying her own reputation by not publicizing her marriage. Antonio is aware that "the mean mob says straight out that she's a whore". he tells his brother that "my reputation is secure", but he declares that once lost it is irretrievable (iii. ii. 116-35). He declares like a child that love is found only between shepherds or orphans without dowries. Marriage as a social contract, a larger family affair, means that if Antonio was her husband, he was not her "lord and husband"; he mocks himself as the lord of misrule, ruling only at night. it just isn't one of the greats; her role in marriage is passive, actually feminine; The Duchess, acting as the male half of society, proposes the treaty, directs its action, plots its escape, confronts his brothers. In the end, Antonio only hopes to apologize to his new relatives. as a member of the House he should have respected their ranks; Since he is a higher servant, the brothers have his life as cheap as Bosola's.

Prison was the usual punishment for clandestine marriages between a great lady and a servant. The most outstanding example is John Donne, secretary to the Lord Keeper, who, after marrying the Keeper's niece, Anne More, in December 1601, was sent to Fleet Prison two months later for conspiracy to violate civil law and morals. The cleric who performed the ceremony was also imprisoned, as was the man who had "gifted" the bride, a gift he certainly could not give. Years of poverty followed. the case of lady arbella stuart is frequently mentioned in connection with this work; in this case it was his proximity to the throne that caused his imprisonment.

One of the works Webster was certainly reading at the time, for there are many "links" in that work, was Montaigne's essay "On Some Verses of Virgil" (Book 3, Chapter 5), which deals with love and marriage. Montaigne assumes, without further scrutiny, the double standards that men would face in the face of almost any crime in their family before their wives were unfaithful. the special passion of the italian people, love (“luxury is like a wild animal that first rages on its chains and then lets go”), is more pronounced in women than in men. marriage is something else: “Marriage, in its turn, has honor, justice, gain, and permanence; a simple but more general pleasure, love only merges with pleasure; and it got really ticklish; livelier, more picturesque, and sharper... a pleasure kindled by difficulty; There should be some kind of tingling, stinging, stinging.It's no longer love once without arrows and without fire.Webster laminates Montaigne's cold and sometimes alarming study of the relationship between the sexes with Sidney's fiery passion.Arcadia: the perfection of his two heroines in prison, their love woes. in sydney he found the device of the wax figures used to torture his duchess. Florio de Montaigne's translation was dedicated, among others, to Penelope Rich; The collision between Sidney's brilliant examples of virtue and Montaigne's sardonic riddles must have been accentuated by bitter contrasts in the life of a woman who linked these two works.

Penelope's last fight was for the right to call herself the Countess of Devonshire; The Duchess of Malfi is never given a personal name. it is always referred to by its title. his private person is repressed in his public role; we never meet giovanna d'aragona. but it is the struggle between these two elements that her maid laments in the last words of Act I:

I do not know whether the spirit of greatness or of woman predominates in her, but she shows a terrible madness; I owe you a lot of pity.

[I. I. 504-6]

Webster later used a different antithesis, comparing "the character of a virtuous widow" who never remarried to "an ordinary widow" who married again and again: noble and comic, holy and ridiculous. In this work, however, he showed a character in two different roles, overt and covert. Her public role as Duchess gives her no power within the family; She makes her domestic choice with the feeling that she is acting like a soldier

In some great battles they have recognized the danger and performed almost impossible deeds.

[I. I. 344-6]

and he suggests to Antonio that "love mingled with fear is the sweetest thing" (iii. ii. 66).

The Duchess of Malfi's life was torn in two by her clandestine marriage; Her integrity was eventually restored for the price she was willing to pay. change and grow as few characters do; and ultimately the language he uses is that of religious experience, there is nothing doctrinal about it. because he is denied the consolation of the Church (which the Spaniards have always been most particular about bestowing on the victim); she must improvise her own ceremonies. Cardinal and Fernando use church and state ceremonies to unleash their own perversions.

For the Duchess, the tragic awakening begins with a pathetic variation on her brother's admonition that happiness only resides in undemanding shepherds or orphans without a gift:

the birds that live in the field
in the wild uses of nature he lives happier than we; because they can choose their companions and sing in spring with their sweet delicacies.

[iii. v. 18-21]

this is the pastoral happiness Webster has drawn elsewhere in his "Character of a Beautiful and Happy Milkmaid."

When saying goodbye to Antonio, he hopes that 'i' the 'eternal church' will not be so separated and sees the heavy hand of heaven in his distress:

I have often seen my son whip his upper body and compare me to him; nothing made me walk properly except the sky whip.

[iii. v. 81-3]

this is not a sustainable attitude, for human pride and even religious curses on other points contradict it. her diamond quality combats her fragility: she is not stoic; Contradictory passions replace her initial disbelief and sleepwalking calm.

The hell or purgatory that the Duchess endures in prison is defined by her seclusion or detachment. Her first words after Antonio left her are "My laurels are quite dry" (iii. v. 93).9The laurel, which protected the Roman emperors from thunder, was also their mark of good reputation. Placed in her own palace, she enters a darker and grander realm, on which she provides her own choral commentary:

I heard that Charon's ship carries the whole murky lake but brings nothing back.

[iii. v. 107-9]

these Roman commentaries transcend their own role; They give a divine view.

The stillness of the prison scenes is preceded by Bosola's account of his own deep, silent pain. the scene could well be her own bedroom where she was joking with antonio, the coat of arms of the duchy of malfi still emblazoned on the wall. the 'shows' by antonio and the children following the 'proof of love' from the hands of the dead make her feel that life is hell. She invites a ritual punishment for a bad marriage:

if they would tie me to this lifeless log and leave me to freeze to death.

[iv. 1. 68-9]10

a deep sense of unreality has taken hold of her; a "not only confusing, but unfathomable" world is created by overlaying two images into a new "art"; the magic ring and dead man's hand are "witchcraft"; the "show" is the preparatory phase for his tomb. Bosola tries to turn this into penance, into rites for the dying. the madmen with their mocking jokes (like a great courtesan anti-mask),11Woe to the carriage that brought my wife from the masquerade at three in the morning! it had a great bed of feathers in it” (iv. ii. 104-6), he continues with the doomsday babble. His comments on sex and violence serve both as a prelude to the "mask" of the Duchess's execution and as a foretaste of the supernatural evil that will be unleashed at the end when Fernando believes he has been turned into a wolf and when , in the middle of one Storm, "the devil rocks his own son". because a storm marks the final holocaust.

With the three reverse actions of a veritable masque: the entry of the executioners, his invitation to the Duchess to join them, and his presentation of the gifts that bring "ultimate benefit, ultimate pain", the Duchess discovers that the coffin has indeed been replaced the bridal bed; She's welcomed ruin before, but her new insight goes deeper:

I perceive death, now I'm wide awake, the best gift is, they can give or I can take.

[iv. ii. 224-5]

bosola revoked his title; When she declared "I am still the Duchess of Malfi", perhaps glancing at or pointing to the sign on her bed, the audience could be reminded that the arms of those condemned to death are lowered. When this happened to Mary Queen of Scots, she replaced her royal arms with a crucifix. Bosola's latest costume also takes him out of history and into the world of Webster, the community charity for poor Newgate prisoners:

I'm the common bellhop who's usually sent to see the convicts the night before they suffer.

[iv. ii. 173-4]

the ritual also got her out of the dreamland of celebration; It is like Giovanna Bologna giving instructions for the care of her children and sending a final message to her brothers: "Go tell my brothers when I go to bed / then they can eat in silence" (iv. II. 236- 7) as he kneels to “enter heaven.” there is almost a hint of latent cannibalism in the image evoking an earlier one.12As the grisly comedy about the maid's death ends, Bosola sees where she is - "a perspective that shows us hell" - and calls the event "murder."

"I am still Duchess of Malfi" had asserted the "Empire of the Mind" against Ferdinand's "Tyrannical Affliction"; Bosola replies, "It is so disruptive to your sleep." woke up," although she later improvised one.

For those who would see the Duchess as a martyr of love, the timing of her death is crucial. Critical judgment has placed her at every point on the scale separating the beautiful Rosamond or Jane Shore from the Virgin Martyr (a play about Saint Dorothy in Red Bull had just been performed). The Duchess' death becomes Bosola, the awaited miracle. the sight of his face also “awakens” Ferdinand to what he has done: “cover his face; my eyes are dazzling; she died young' (iv. ii. 264). in the darkness of the prison, this portends a halo; Sex, violence and religion merge into nine short words.

she had smoothed and sanctified the first portrait Antonio made of her for his friend; But when she finally appears to him "a face bowed in sorrow" in the graveyard, she seems a mere grim specter, still Antonio's wife, still bound to the earth.

Giovanna Bologna is obscurely buried in the ruins of an ancient monastery; It's like "my wife" that Antonio recognizes the voice of the echo. the scene is highly ritualized (perhaps echo was sung, as in the echo scenes in monteverdi), but this truly dark being has been heard crying in labor before. the unknown self in the Duchess should perhaps be heard as another voice, without security, a voice as homeless as the birds that once envied her freedom. this voice offers no comfort. he will "never see her again".

theological security, "which some call the suburbs of hell," had betrayed the Duchess. he is the "prime enemy of mortals". The belief that the future is assured and springs from self, good works, or good intentions is the Pharisee's vice, but it also springs from that combination of pride and generosity that defeats prudence. Security means an unchecked assumption of security, privilege and stability; facilitates denial or responsibility, is basically self-centered and inattentive.

Antonio knows that the faithful advisors must warn the prince "of what to expect" (i.i.22), but when the Duchess presents him with her wedding ring "to support the eye" he sees "a saucy and ambitious devil 'dancing in circle' which the Duchess removes by slipping the ring on her finger. she feels his "trembling". they embrace her words are majestic or fantastic, but her blush deepens, she begs him to take her to the bridal bed. To counter the Duchess, Webster invented Julia, the Cardinal's mistress, who takes a man when she feels the urge. In a parody of the Duchess's courtship, she seizes Bosola by entering with two pistols and asks him what love potion he put in her drink. his ending is another macabre joke; The cardinal poisons her by giving her his Bible to kiss.

had the Duchess been lascivious she would have tried her arts on her jailers; and indeed the nature of Bosola's devotion is very much like love when, having thought her dead, he finds her still alive:

she is warm, she is breathing. On your pale lips I will melt my heart to treasure them with a new color.

[iv. ii. 341-3]

Antonio and Bosola are almost equidistant from the Aragonese royal family; Fernando had thought of using Antonio as his spy, and for him there was not much to distinguish between the chief of the house servants and a "strong bosun" or one of the porters who carried coal to the house of the lady duchess. Accommodation. From his ducal height, he twice snubs Bosola for trying to find an explanation for the espionage he intends to carry out, offers his sister the hand for a kiss and even angrily behaves mercilessly with the doctor's confidentiality. The cardinal, whom Antonio opened up about as a religious hypocrite, is preparing to eliminate Bosola because he won't risk blackmail from those who know him as a "fellow assassin." the emptiness of the Cardinal's priestly role is the final revelation of the work. in the last scene, the cardinal and the duke are both in prison; The cardinal has set up his own prison, closed the doors and ordered his court to ignore cries for help. The "random trials, random murders" that eventually emerge from the corpse-strewn stage are a stark contrast to the Duchess's "Chamber of Last Presence" ritual, but take place in a prison and maybe some lighting or "blocking" or that the cardinal's coat of arms, could relate the two scenes.

the cardinal already knows he is in hell; As he searches his fishponds for his own image, he has seen "a thing armed with a rake" which seems to hit him. (It echoes the scene in which the Duchess sees Fernando's face instead of Antonio's.) The clothes of those condemned by the Inquisition were painted entirely with demons to show their inner condition; so the threatening devil, as it appears from the outside, is already really possessed and brings him down. this demon takes away the cardinal's power to pray; he is in a theological state of despair.

the cardinal "ends in a little dot, a kind of nothing". Bosola sees her murder as an act of justice, and in his last words the cardinal echoes his sister in asking her (now his) executioner for "mercy." however, he recognizes the sentence:

Oh justice! Now I suffer for what I had before: Pain is said to be the eldest son of sin.

[v. v. 53-5]

in a mockery ofuniversal human,As a Renaissance man, he has played many roles: discarding his cardinal's robes for the soldier's sword and armor; he endured the attentions of a fashionable mistress with a certain weariness. His cold manipulation of finances - it is the Pope who gets the Duchy of Malfi, not Ferdinand - ruins the Duchess and the veteran Antonio.

Ferdinand has only one open role - the secular head of the family, the soldier - and he plays it with enthusiasm, demonstratively. his moments of silence, playing the "political dormouse" and his manic outbursts of anger add up to a demonic and deadly insanity. Burbage, who had created the roles of Hamlet and Lear, played that role.

for a Jacobin, the madness of Spanish royalty and the Spanish code of honor would have been enough to explain it all; For a modern audience, the idea that Ferdinand's driving force is an incestuous fixation on his twin sister opens up a more accessible meaning today. he explains the ceremonial forms of his persecution; Rituals are a powerful way to disguise and control suppressed desires. He sees himself as a doctor performing purges, although he also sees the Duchess's behavior as punishment from Heaven for a sin in him or his brother, punishment through their shared flesh:

I could kill her in you or me now, 'cause I think there's a sin in us, heaven's vengeance.

[ii. v. 63-6]

(The devout Marcello had the same idea; see page 129.) The cardinal replies, "Are you completely insane?" His attempts at control in the scene where he meets her, along with his total refusal to listen to her or see Antonio, are part of the protective design Ferdinand uses to seal the inner chaos that will eventually lead him up.13The ritual execution of the Duchess gives him back the feeling of what he did to "my dearest friend" before this latest revelation destroys his mental balance for good. Such a declaration by Ferdinand has proved so useful in the modern setting that it is now almost orthodox.

Incest was not a subject on which the Jacobean playwrights had any qualms. Tourneur does it as a threatthe tragedy of the atheist,and Webster allows the noble lover to subscribe to himthe case of devil law.Currying favor with his relatives might be considered "a kind of incest," and Webster's young friend John Ford, basing a tragedy on fraternal incest, copied themes from that very play a dozen years later.14the hero and heroine in 'It's a shame she's a whoreThey come together in a private ceremony that invokes the very bond that should prevent this:

sister} on my knees brother even for our mother's dust I beseech you not to betray me to your joy or hatred; love me or kill me {sister. Brothers.

[I. ii. 249-55]

They are two innocents in a wicked world, and their union has the isolating effect of addiction, like Edward II's homosexuality in Marlowe's play. Society is uniformly disgusting, and these people have cut themselves off from it, each with a reflection of themselves. The fraternal relationship serves Ford, as it served Webster, in more than one job; its enduring and unchanging quality (which made a French heroine choose her brother over her husband because the second could be replaced but not the first) is reflected even in the final scene, for after entering with Annabella's heart on her dagger , in a parody of the devotional cult of the Sacred Heart, Giovanni dies with a prayer that restores him to a chaste distance, as if looking into a mirror:

Wherever I go, let me enjoy this grace to see my Annabella's face free.

vi. 107-8

'see' undoes ferdinand.

The strangling of the Duchess has much to commemorate Desdemona's strangling, not least her momentary rebirth after being presumed dead. But Fernando's remorse is shared by Bosola; it is he who sees the great abyss between "holy innocence sweetly sleeping on tortoise feathers" and his inner hell. Ferdinand feels that his life is connected to hers; they were twins, whoever is interested in settling such matters for the performance might imagine that the twins were linked in enmity towards their elder brother the Cardinal; This hidden animosity between the two men is evident in Ferdinand's effortless use of Cardinal as his pawn. He even usurps Ferdinand's role as a soldier, as he has nothing priestly about him other than his regalia, which is, of course, a sign of devilish intrusion into the more puritanical members of the English Church.

Fernando shares the ability to hurt with Bosola, his spy; the pain hidden behind an external facade is the thread of life that runs through the scenes of external violence.fifteenpain so great that "it makes us feel no pain" became "the silent pain that cuts the heart"; with ferdinand it appears in pictures, sometimes moving, sometimes strange:

you are nullified: and you took that thick sheet of lead that hid your husband's bones and you wrapped it around my heart.

[iii. ii. 111-14]

or 'pain is nothing; pain is often removed with fear of greater things, like a toothache at the sight of the barber coming to remove it” (vv. 59-61). His last words imply that he is one flesh and one dust with Giovanna:

my sister, oh my sister! there is the reason. Whether we fall by ambition, blood, or lust, we are like diamonds cut from our own dust.

[v. v. 71-3]

the sensitive perception of pain underlies and sharpens his brutality, but while the modern reading of his impulses as incestuous allows for valid portrayal, it seems likely that in Webster's day the same effect on audiences could have been achieved by other means.

Bosola, created by fusing three historical figures into a single tragic role, is unconvincing at times, but on stage the role can dominate the play. Bosola is a professional assassin willing to kill a minion to prevent him from opening a door. He has served as a galley slave for murders committed at the Cardinal's instigation. however, he is also a "fantastic scholar", slow at work, very busy with curious learning. When he defends Antonio as a faithful servant without reward and the Duchess carelessly reveals their marriage, he offers her the powerful tribute of the lost scholar's prayers. His choice of virtue over greatness will earn him a reputation with "sloppy" poets, who will presumably earn their own immortality from his story.

Antonio, "that trophy of a man / Raised by that strange motor, thy white hand," will also be extolled by poets when the heralds have exhausted their easily bestowed nobility. indeed, robert greene and george whetstone had given honors to the duchess of needy poets in england (see boklund, pp. 18-19).

But Bosola also advises disguising their escape as a religious pilgrimage to Loreto (transportation is their job). this proves the ruin of the Duchess, for it is papal territory. His praise is immediately followed by the disgusting downfall of his role as a spy:

What remains but that I reveal everything to my Lord? Oh that abominable quality of intelligence!

[iii. ii. 326-8]

Bosola, the chief instrument in the Duchess's betrayal and submission, also bears the strongest testimony to her virtues. In prison she may be hoping, in some vague way, to save her soul, if not her body, from Ferdinand's damned plan to "drive her to despair"; but there is a secret relationship between the two men that makes the servant in a way an emanation of his master.

Fernando, in such an expression, or again, when Bosola urges the necessity of his penance: "Damn! this body of his / while my blood flowed in was "worth more / than that which thou wished to console, called soul" (iv. i. 121-3) - and in the constant image of fire, blood, and storm, the surrounding him can be seen as devilishly possessed even before his madness takes over. This also leaves Bosola a prisoner of dark forces, seduced by demons in human form (as a "scholar" he may have once been in holy orders).

Ferdinand swore in the bedroom scene never to see the Duchess again. When Bosola meets them, he always does so in some form: 'Vizard' for his capture, disguised as an old man (the stage emblem for mortality), then a 'tomb painter', and finally the 'bell ringer'. '. Whether for their effect on her or to relieve himself, these disguises allow Bosola to act as a priest of sorts, even while presiding over the execution. however, in the end he still asks Fernando for a reward; expects the payment for the work: a pension. He is tricked by the two demons that brought him down so badly.

bosola is not the same type of protein shapeshifter as flamineo; his melancholy is not imputed, and his "mad dispositions" have more than a village touch; but he is a villager who cannot unpack his heart with words. yet his death speech is tightly orchestrated ("you can almost see the conductor's baton being raised," exclaims one critic). It begins very quietly with the involuntary murder of "his other self", his fellow servant and lover, the Duchess Antonio:

a mistake such as I have often seen in a play.

[v. v. 95-6]

he remembers "the dead walls or the vaulted tombs" where the voice of the Duchess rang out, but he heard none:

Oh this gloomy world! In what a shadow or deep abyss of darkness does humanity (female and fearful) live.

[v. v. 100-102]

He rises with a bold feeling, but it fades as he, too, senses the "Ship of Charon" approaching:

May worthy spirits never falter in suspicion to suffer death or shame for what is right: my journey is different.

[v. v. 103-5]

then, "staggering from distrust," he finishes these feeble litotes.

He may wittily poke fun at his own humiliation: "I think I shall soon grow the common coffin for cemeteries" (vv.ii.311-12), but with all his many roles, Bosola is never allowed the luxury of a To be me he is the masked one in two senses: he goes with ceremony to his captive duchess; it cites those scenes that were commonly understood as a parody or reversal of a courtly masquerade. Furthermore, from start to finish, the work depends on varying or enlarging, contracting or inverting the shapes of a mask.

The year 1613 had seen a large number of masks, particularly the three presented for the marriage of Princess Elizabeth to the Elector Palatine on Valentine's Day 1613. Two of those masks contained crazy anti-masks.sixteenDeveloped by Ben Jonson and Inigo Jones, the court mask celebrated the splendor of the royal house through the epiphany or revelation of a great personage (usually the queen) bearing the image of a divine or heroic being allegedly drawn from below to inhabit it a deadly frame. it was a rite of cosmic harmony, linking the government of the kingdom with the government of the spheres, or the marriage of some great personages with the unity of the cosmos. it was a secular sacrament. It was magical. the masked men finally came down from their stage to join the audience; The ensuing "feasts" or dances, sometimes preceded by offerings, were the main function of the rites.

It has long been a feature of revenge tragedy to end such a masquerade, only for the masquerades to turn on their hosts in a bloody act of vengeance. (Historically, during the reign of King Richard II, a mask was used to kidnap Thomas of Woodstock, who was later assassinated.)the spanish tragedy,the masks at MarstonAnthonys RachejDiscontent,the double mask cleanthe avengers tragedyit would have been known to both the king's men and Webster. Excitement, surprise, giving up the disguise were traits that also belonged to secret revenge.

Webster turned the old rite, which had its own built-in certainty, into a new drama of insecurity and skepticism. He leaves alternatives open. their rite is not of harmony but of disharmony, not of bright light but of darkness. Just as the specter of the old game of revenge has become nothing but the active image of a grieving imagination, so the melancholy of a Prince Hamlet resides not only in the Cardinal, "a melancholy cleric," but also in Rosencrantz's successor, Bosola the Spy. .

at court the fable, however small, must be strongly symbolic; the music, dancing, and sumptuous costumes offered a delicate blend of homage to the king, other kings' envoys, court, and a divine truth that platonically 'overshadowed' the plot.

the duchess of malfiit begins with matches and her brother's admonition to the Duchess to give up her collecting sprees; he characterizes them (as they were characterized earlier in tragedy) as hotbeds of lust. Her little masquerade with Antonio follows immediately as she leads the courtship through a discussion of accounts and estates.

Fernando's sudden appearance in his sister's bedroom with his gift of a dagger is a masquerade of the deadliest kind; He's following his own masquerade into firing Antonio, but he and she can't resist playing up their real-life situation with niceties like "he did that, unfortunately he wouldn't think of it" and "you can see gentlemen what." it is serving a prince with heart and soul” (iii. ii. 183-209).

A silent spectacle ensues, in which the Duke and Cardinal receive the news while Delio and Pescara perform the sinister pantomime for the audience:

these are your true pains of death, the pains of life, struggling with the great statesmen.

[iii. iii. 56-7]

the second silent spectacle (the cardinal takes on the soldier's garb and the duchess and antonio of ancona are banished) takes place in front of a very rich sanctuary. it leads directly to the scene of the capture of the Duchess and to the reverse rites of the prison scenes, the mask character of which has already been shown.

It has also been noted that Webster's elegy to Henry, Prince of Wales, who died on the eve of his sister's wedding, provided material for itthe duchess of malfi(see page 3). Laments for the prince were often accompanied by wedding songs for the princess. this is impressively reflected in the elegy for a little fable about pain being bathed in the cloak of pleasure. This fantasy of the ceremony being used for the opposite purpose of the original can be taken as an indication of how Webster uses masquerade more masterfully in his tragedy, as it is a mixture of "the joy of burial and the pain" of marriage ' had actually taken place in the winter of 1612/13.

she webstera monumental column,Recorded on Christmas Day 1612, within six weeks of the prince's death, it drew on other elegies by Cyril Tourneur and Thomas Heywood. the religious note sounds clear and unmistakable here. Webster recalled Prince Henry ten years later, in his final production (see page 180).

In recent years, theories have been put forward that Henry and his sister have often mirrored themselves in the drama.17In this work, Webster transformed the pain born of the failure of national hope among those who, like the Duchess, had “died young” into a pain that could not be defined and defied consolation. he took his elegiac fable from an old play,the prophecy of the shoemakerby robert wilson, which means it might have been staged. Pleasure was sent to earth by Jupiter, but he was recalled by a clap of thunder, leaving behind his "eyeseed robe" (a dress common in masquerades) on his ascension.18then comes pain, which bears a resemblance to Bosola:

a pain that had long lived in exile, drawing oars in the galleys and spending money and herself in judicial delays, and sadly counting many of their days by a prison calendar.

[ll. 162-6]

Finding the tunic, his face painted by an old courtesan, Pain is disguised and courted by great statesmen, to whom he gives

Intelligence that allows them to see themselves and their assets in false perspectives.

[ll. 184-5]

and 'of this accursed mask, which lasts day and night at our expense/' is all lust false; As Robert Wilson said, "It is pain masquerading as the herb of pleasure."

Pain is the "disguised" emotion that binds the unsympathetic twins Ferdinand and his sister; Pain, disguised as Bosola among many masks, finally emerges as Welcome:

It may be painful, but dying in such a good fight doesn't hurt me.

[v. v. 99-100]

and Antonio had hinted in the separation from the duchess (iii. vv. 61-5) that they are like a delicate and delicate instrument to be dismantled for repair; here he repeats the elegy:

like a broken disc in a wheel, or a bolt broken into pieces to make it real.

[a monumental column,ll. 241-2]

this hope cannot sustain it; His last words are

joy of life, what not? only the good hours of a fever.

[v. IV. 67-8]

if one were looking for a general fable for the whole work, it could be a mask of good reputation. this was a popular masked character and central to ben jonsonsqueen mask;19good fame is immortality. Antonio promises his Duchess to take care of his reputation, Fernando tells him that a reputation once lost is lost forever. The very strange fable that Bosola tells about his capture implies that good fame is not felt until death; Only a full life can be measured when those who seem to have few rights may have the most. the Bosola herself had previously promised the Duchess good fame through the poets who learned of her story; and so he actually kept himself alive.

the cardinal's good reputation is destroyed by his death. In the end, faithful Delio brings Antonio and the Duchess's eldest son, hoping to establish him "in his mother's right". this was not the duchy of amalfi, but her personal dowry; However, such an act would imply recognition of a legitimate marriage, since a bastard could not inherit anything. Delio is the one who closes the work with the simplest of the main harmonies:

the integrity of life is the best friend of glory, which will crown the end nobly beyond death.(20)

From the complexity that denies this, this proverbial verve can be saved if it is applied to the work itself. it is actually webster asking for his reward, his applause. 'crowns the end'. This time he got it.


  1. Addressed to Robert Carr, Earl of Somerset. from both sidesTambourine; Marston, Dekker and Chapman themselves had written double plays, as Shakespeare didEnrique IV.

  2. William Heminges, "Elegy on Randolph's Finger". Randolph, a minor dramatist, had been at Westminster School with Heminges. I think the reference might indicate that Webster himself was dead and his brother is now the head of the family; but the tragic jokes about the Styx inthe duchess of malfi,and the severed hand, might evoke an association.

  3. ben jonson presented a list of actorsevery man out of his moodin his 1616 folio, but did not give his papers.

  4. boklund [the sources of the white devil,uppsala, 1957] deals with the various stories derived from the Bandello.

  5. Contains plays from this period performed by the king's menking henry viii, the two noble relatives, the storm,the very spectacularthe tragedy of the second girl,fletchersamorous,a lossTragedy of the Twins

  6. t. s. Eliot,wasteland,Valerie Eliot Edition, [London] 1971, pp. 106-7. Eliot slightly changed his quote from iii. iii. 61-2; and webster modified it a bitArcadia; see pages. 49-50.

  7. Allen Tate,the bathers and other selected poems,Oxford, 1970, p. 75.

  8. p.ej. susan und sir charles mountford en heywood'sa woman killed with kindness,evadne a melantius en beaumont y fletchersthe tragedy of a maid,the sister of the chief of middleton and rowley's chiefa fair fightPenthea a proud fordthe broken heart

  9. this line is inspired by william alexander,Julius Caesar; see furthera monumental column,ll. 132-3; "We must not think that their great triumphs / need our withered laurels."

  10. inthe story of the dyingThe deceived king of Bohemia placed the body of his wife's kitchen boy in a coffin and tied his queen's living body to it, thereby closing the coffin.

  11. the mask of gentlemen,Thomas Campion had a mad anti-mask with a squad of frenzy for Princess Elizabeth's wedding.

  12. compare her earlier words: "With such mercy do men keep alive / pheasants and quail when they are not fat enough to be eaten" (iii. v. 110-13) and the fable she tells about the preparation of told to eat fish. His threat to starve to death is reminiscent of the starvation of a remorseful lover, Frankforda woman killed with kindnessand anticipates that of penthea inthe broken heart

  13. James Calderwood, „Zeremoniestile inthe duchess of malfi',critical essaysxii, reprinted in Jäger,Juan Webster,'Critical Penguin Anthologies', [London] 1969.

  14. The Duchess's impromptu wedding ritual could serve as a model for Giovanni and Annabella; Ferdinand has a horrific image of using his sister's heart as a sponge (II.v.15-16), which is actually seen in the later play when Giovanni comes in with Annabella's heart on his dagger. On the other hand, "bridal twins" was a term used for a married couple of the same age.

  15. see Antonio's stoic maxim: “Though in our misery there is fortune, / but not in our noblest sorrows; / contempt for pain that we may call it our own” (v. iii. 56-8), a vast improvement over william alexander, “for in our actions happiness has a part / but in our sufferings all things are ours” .

  16. catchfly,the mask of gentlemen,and Beaumont,the Masquerade of the Inner Temple and the Posada de Gray.Webster may have been associated withThe Middle Temple Masquerade and the Lincoln Inn,by chapman, moderated by richard martin.

  17. ver frances a. Yates,Shakespeare's Last Plays[london] 1975, and various works by glynne wickham.

  18. Queen Elizabeth's Rainbow Portrait, now in Hatfield, shows her in a robe covered with ears, eyes and a mouth, signifying fame. Chapman also features a number of such robes in his part ofhero and slimmer

  19. Webster took material from this masque for his letter of dedication to Lord Berkeley.

  20. the “integrity of life” is denied to the heroes of Beaumont and Fletcher; Philaster, Arbaces, Amintor all have to play roles that don't suit them. but the Duchess's identity crisis is unsolvable; Amintor commits suicide, but the other two are "adjusted".

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the duchess of malfiby John Webster

The following entry contains criticism of the Webster tragedythe duchess of malfi(1613). see also John Webster's review.

the duchess of malfiIt is one of the most frequently revived Jacobean plays, alongside Shakespeare. in fact, estimates ofthe duchess of malfi,along with the other great Webster tragedy,the white devil,have led some critics to rank Webster second only to Shakespeare as an author of tragedy. the origin of one of the major female characters on stage,the duchess of malfifocuses on the character of the Duchess, in which the audience sees a provocative mix of sensuality, passion, anger, pity and virtue. the work as a whole presents a complex intertwining of lust, incest, murder and torture with nobility, tenderness and forgiveness. the darkness and horror ofthe duchess of malfiThey are dramatically compelling, but their unexpected flashes of light give them a complexity and richness that has piqued the interest of scholars and listeners for centuries.

Storyline and main characters

A hallmark of Webster's drama is the portrayal of strong female characters. inthe white devilVittoria Corombona is powerful and intelligent, but also evil; the title character ofthe duchess of malfihe is strong, independent and noble. At the heart of the story is the relationship between the dowager duchess and her butler Antonio, whom she secretly marries, defying both social conventions and the wishes of her brothers, the cardinal and her twin Ferdinand. the brothers want the Duchess to remain single and appeal to Christian piety; However, as the play later reveals, her true motivations are greed and incestuous lust. Years pass before they learn the truth about their marriage, which is discovered by spy Daniel de Bosola. At Ferdinand's urging, Bosola kills the Duchess, but is later overcome with remorse. Bosola plans to rescue the escaped Antonio and punish the brothers, but he accidentally kills Antonio. Bosola then attacks the cardinal but is himself attacked by Ferdinand. Bosola manages to kill both brothers but is killed himself in the process. The work ends with the introduction of Antonio's son, the sole survivor of the family. Webster had many sources to draw on in writing the play, which is based on a true story, although his primary source was William Painter.pleasure palace(1567).

One of Webster's most important contributions to the development of the story was his characterization of the main characters, particularly the Duchess herself. Fernando is the Duke of Calabria, a menacing man who seems obsessed with suppressing sexual impulses. Despite being the Duchess' twin brother, he is cruel to her from the start, and his use of Bosola as a spy is indicative of his suspicious nature. Ferdinand's brother, the cardinal, is equally cruel, but while Ferdinand is short-tempered, the cardinal is cold and calculating. his membership in the church gives him seemingly supernatural powers, but that power is evil; More than once the cardinal is associated with the devil. In a symbolic act of their diabolical alliance, the cardinal murders his secret lover Julia with a poisoned Bible. The Duchess contrasts with her siblings, but she's not perfect. In her scenes with Antonio she is unabashedly sexual. she is passionate and sometimes haughty, but also motherly tender, dignified and devout. During his torture and death at the hands of Fernando and Bosola, he displays a Christian attitude of forgiveness and trust in his salvation. Her character's ambiguity is crystallized when she says as she dies, "I'm still the Duchess of Malfi," a statement open to various interpretations. Antonio's character lacks the complexity of the three brothers; he is more a victim than an actor in tragedy. He is a dignified man, despite being of a lower class than the Duchess, and his aversion to lust is in stark contrast to the lust of almost every other man in the play. however, his nobility seems naïve in the context of the court. On the contrary, Bosola's world-weary demeanor betrays his understanding of courtly intrigues. Bosola begins the play as cynical and selfish. When he manipulates the Duchess into revealing the truth, he comes across as completely ruthless and unsympathetic. However, Bosola's transformation in the final act of the play leaves his character open to interpretation. die as he lived, a murderer; However, his appreciation of the Duchess' virtue and pity for her make him a more likable character than the brothers who hired him.

main topics

key issues forthe duchess of malfiThese include identity, sexuality and power, which are closely intertwined in the tragedy. the theme of identity runs through the work in different ways. the twin relationship between ferdinand and the duchess makes the characters mirror each other; the frequent presence of mirrors as stage props makes the metaphor explicit. The Duchess also wrestles with the issue of conflicting public and private identities: her status as an aristocratic lady is at odds with her love for the lowly-born Antonio, and the connection between birth and identity is an open question throughout the work. Her brothers insist on the identity of the virtuous widow, which she refuses to accept. When she says "I'm still the Duchess of Malfi," it's not clear if she's affirming or deploring that identity. The theme of sexuality is linked to identity, particularly in relation to Ferdinand and the Duchess. his apparent desire for her is a perversion of socially accepted sexuality as well as a kind of narcissism. Sexuality is generally associated with danger and violence, with the most explicit sexual characters portrayed as the most evil. even the duchess' comparatively healthy sexuality is suspect, a sign of excessive passion, though not, as Ferdinand and the cardinal would imagine, a sign of depravity. Although the Duchess has neither Ferdinand's incestuous desires nor the Cardinal's adventures, it is in a sense her sexuality that drives the play's violence. but the desire for power is also a dominant force in drama; The Duchess' siblings are motivated by a desire to control the family fortune. More generally, however, the work raises questions about the basis of power and authority and who rightfully holds it. The corrupted authority of Ferdinand and the cardinal raises doubts about their power, while the duchess's nobility, in the face of her death, suggests the possibility of a different kind of authority.

critical reception

The initial reaction to Webster's work was strong. for decades the play belonged to the royal plays and has been performed over the centuries as one of the great tragedies of the English Renaissance. The role of the Duchess remains a favorite of leading actresses including Dame Peggy Ashcroft and Juliet Stevenson. As the critic John Russell Brown has suggested,the duchess of malfiit offers a rich variety of interpretations for the stage, keeping it relevant to a modern audience. Literary scholars have focused their attention on both the form and the themes of the work. Webster's talent as a manager was controversial. In his Webster Drama Studio, Charles R. Forker has described Webster as one of the first playwrights to successfully create distinct psychological portraits of his characters, a claim later critics have concurred. but because the duchess dies in act four, act five sometimes seems disconnected from the fully coherent first four acts. Early critics saw this as a sign of Webster's lower skill as a playwright, but more recent scholars have suggested that Webster employed a complex structure that is not flawed but rather ingenious and innovative. christina luckyj's study of form in webster's work proposes a different model to understand the structure of his works by suggesting a pattern of repetition and circular movement rather than a linear progression through successive acts. Jacqueline Pearson has viewed the play in general and has argued that the difference between Act Five and the others is the presence of tragicomic elements that separate the final scenes from the sheer tragedy of the earlier part of the play. as I C. Bradbrook has noted,the duchess of malfiIt also includes the dramatic form of masque, a genre that would have been easily recognized and understood by a Renaissance audience. A trend toward feminist studies of Renaissance drama in the late 1980s and 1990s brought the Duchess to the attention of various scholars. As a strong, sexual woman who nonetheless dies to proclaim Christian piety and forgiveness, the Duchess has defied definitive interpretation. the model of subversion and containment applied by some critics to much Renaissance drama seems to fit the duchess being severely punished for her private violations of the patriarchal order. However, as Emily Bartles has argued, the Duchess' apparent complicity in her "containment" poses a challenge to this model. The containment of his sexuality has particularly intrigued critics. Dympna Callaghan and Laura Behling are among the feminist scholars who have included the Duchess in studies of the discourse of sexuality. As Behling has suggested, in the character of the Duchess, the relationships between gender, sexuality, and power come to the fore, posing a challenge to traditional notions of authority that remain unresolved.

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Source: Pearson, Jacqueline. "'contemple my tragedy': tragedy and anti-tragedy inthe duchess of malfi" inTragedy and tragicomedy in the works of John Webster,p. 84-95. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1980.

[In the following essay, Pearson argues that the first four acts ofthe duchess of malfiThey are clearly a tragedy, the structure of the work is fragmented in the last act, with hints of satire and tragicomedy. The blending does not work, he argues, to amalgamate these elements, but rather to distinguish true tragedy from other forms of experience.]

the failure ofthe white devilin 1612 seems to have caused Webster to reevaluate his own view of tragedy and its relationship to other dramatic genres. Certain methods of construction, clashing tones, use of satirical commentary, and ironic repetition remain, but the differences between the works are perhaps most striking.the duchess of malfiHe makes little use of moral redefinitionsthe white devil: Good and evil have a clearer meaning, and the ambiguity is less an expression of the true nature of the world than an evasion. The Duchess is a much less ambiguous heroine than Vittoria, a good woman who is forced into an ambiguous situation by the menacing society around her, hiding behind "masks and curtains" (iii.2.159) when making open and open demonstrations would prefer feelings, expresses himself "in riddles and dreams" (i.1.446) when he would rather speak clearly and unequivocally.the white devilit focuses on ambiguous characters, the later game on obviously more tragic characters, a great lady who loves too much and is murdered at the instigation of her brothers.the white devilfrom the start he introduces tragicomic events, ironic undermining and the modifying use of laughter. the later work at least seems to begin as a tragedy of passion.

Neverthelessthe duchess of malfimay have created even more serious problems of structure and unitythe white devilwith its ironic repetition and deliberate fragmentation. The first four acts seem to depict a palpable tragedy, but Webster lets his heroine die for one act before the play ends.the duchess of malfiit begins as tragedy and only in the fifth act confronts tragedy with satire, tragicomedy and a distorted view of tragic absolutes. This construction causes great uncertainty among critics about the unity of the work. William Archer found it "broken" and Ian Scott-Kilvert found this last act an "anti-climax" that was "fatal to the unity of the play".1However, I think this is far removed from our experience of the play in the theater and I want to explore the fifth act and its relation to what went before.

the first four acts ofthe duchess of malfiform a coherent tragedy. In fact, tragedy seems inevitable very early on. already at the end of the first act, cariola defines the work as a tragedy: the courtship of the duchess with her butler appears to her as "a terrible madness" that deserves "pity" (i.1.506). the tragic feelings of fear and pity are inherent in the plot. As the play progresses, the tragic emotions become ever more urgent and inescapable. In Act Four the agony and death of the Duchess is presented as a formal 'tragedy' (iv.2.8, 36, 288), written by Ferdinand, performed by Bosola, centered on the Duchess and acted out in the Aristotelian combination of 'pity' will. (iv.1.88, 90, 95, 138, iv.2.34, 259, 273, 347) and "terror" (iv.2.189). Wherethe white deviluses "tragedy" or "tragic", usually involves mockery or at least an uncertain answer. the fourth act ofthe duchess of malfiUse such words much easier and more seriously.

The tragic center of the play is threatened by bitter comedy and fictional imagery, which the Duchess must contrast with her own tragic awareness and keen understanding of the line between truth and falsehood. Bosola's costumes, Fernando's ambiguous vote, his sinister wit with the dead man's hand, the masquerade of the madman, Cariola's desperate attempt to escape death by improvising fiction, the "sad spectacle" (iv.1.57) of the dead Antonio and his son turning only to turn out to be 'false statues' (iv.2.351), the 'boring theatre' (iv.1.84), the 'good actor' playing a 'rogue part' (iv.1.289-90), all of that creates a pervasive sense of fiction and unreality that can only be conquered by the Duchess's wide-eyed, 'wide-awake' acceptance of the tragedy (iv.2.224). tragedy is surrounded and tested by unreality and dark comedy. He is also tested by memories of a happy past that stand in sharp contrast to the horror of the present. As I have already indicated, the scene is charged with echoes of the courtship scene. Again, Bosola's vision of the Duchess as a "troubled bedfellow" (iv.2.140) is a poignant reminder of Cariola's quips about her lover being "the greatest bedfellow" (iii.2.13). Under the onslaught of dark comedy, fiction, memories of past happiness and illusory promises of a happy future, the Duchess must laboriously rescue tragic absolutes by insisting on her own identity and her own clairvoyance.

While the Duchess maintains tragic heroine status, she has an ambiguous relationship with some of the absolutes we might expect from tragedy. she chooses not to "pray" (iv.1.95) but to "curse the stars" (iv.1.96) and the world itself into "chaos" (iv.1.99). Throughout the play, the Duchess acted as a spokeswoman for fertile disorder, rejecting the "vain ceremony" (i.1.456), the traditional role of nobility, and the traditionally passive role of women. She is contrasted with Antonio, whose conventional admiration for the "established order" (i.1.6) is only abandoned after his death. here, for a moment, the Duchess's acceptance of the fertile disorder almost slips into will for general destruction, but she finally dies in humility and "obedience" (iv.2.169), kneels to enter heaven, and insists on her own conscience and understanding. 'wide awake' (iv.2.224).

The most extreme manifestation of anti-tragedy and menacing theatricality faced by the Duchess is the madman's mask. This skin not only attacks the Duchess, but also separates us from the game world by presenting a distorted version of it. The shrill music, the dialogue in which there is no communication, and the increasingly extreme vision of physical and spiritual degeneration both mirror and comment on the work itself. The mask and its characters provide a grotesque picture of the world of the play, and some of the madmen are quite mirroring accurately reflects some of the central characters of the play. the third madman is clearly reminiscent of the cardinal, the corrupt and sensual cleric. The fourth, the Mad Physician, may reflect Ferdinand, believing himself to be a physician treating the Duchess's 'strong fevers' (iv.1.142), who sent him the sinister mask of madmen as a 'cure'” (iv. 2.43), and that he finally needs a doctor to treat his own insanity. he himself makes the connection for us: “Physicians are like kings” (vv. 2:66). the second madman, perhaps also the one discussed in lines 103-105, is perhaps a distorted version of bosola, "shows the graves" (iv.2.102) and indulges in misogynist and slanderous "glass house" stories" (iv .2.77, ii.2.7). The Mask of the Fools not only represents an attack on the Duchess through the forces of satire, but really does help keep her sane, protecting her basic sanity in the face of the grotesque madness of her opponents Ferdinand, the Cardinal and Bosola claims. .

This painful confrontation between tragedy and anti-tragedy is further complicated by the connections that are made between representatives of the two. Not only is Bosola like Antonio, he's also like the Duchess in this scene. the duchess is "crazy" (iv.2.17) and initially believes that bosola is also "crazy" (iv.2.114). she compares his suffering to that of "the suntanned galley slave" (iv.2.28), and we recall that Bosola had served a sentence on the galley for a cardinal-commissioned murder (i.1.71-3). the two are not only enemies but also almost allies. Bosola's web of questions helps the Duchess to define herself, and her pessimism underscores her assertion.

the death of the duchess is then positioned as the tragic center of the work, described as 'tragedy' surrounded by 'pity' and 'terror', struggling against anti-tragedy and ultimately leading to a triumphant affirmation of its own identity. . , "I am still the Duchess of Malfi" (iv.2.142). The Duchess is as much a tragic heroine who comes to a tragic conclusion as she is the heroine of a tragic comedy, such as R.B.'s Virginia, Escape from Tragedy to a Heavenly Life Afterlife. However, after the death of the Duchess, this staged tragedy turns into an anti-tragedy. Tragedy is parodied in Cariola's vigorous struggle for life. it creates a web of fictions, such as "i am pregnant" (iv.2.254), which bosola clairvoyantly recognizes as fictions. Cariola is lured into nefarious ways to avoid shame. Unlike her lover, she cannot break free of fiction even after her death, and the only kind of love and motherhood she can claim as her exists only in fiction.

It is therefore unfair that the play moves away from tragedy in the fifth act: the Duchess' tragic moment, hard won, is precarious and collapses as soon as she dies, and the recurrence of tragedy is illustrated in several small reversals, or tragedy parodies . if cariola parodies the tragic actors, ferdinand parodies the tragic audience. his reaction to his sister's death is a perversion of the tragic catharsis the public is experiencing. he first denies (iv.2.259) and then accepts the validity of the tragic "compassion" (iv.2.273), sees the event as one of "horror" (iv.2.311, 314) and interprets the whole as "tragedy" (iv .2.288). For Fernando, however, pity and fear are not removed: they are violently aroused, so that he rushes out "absently" (iv.2.336). This reversal of catharsis also leads Ferdinand to reverse a tragic understanding of the situation: he tries to pin all the blame on Bosola, to imagine a fictional happy ending, and to take refuge in obviously false fictional motifs and imagery.

At this point, as Ferdinand parodies reactions to the tragedy, the Duchess is momentarily resuscitated in another reversal of the tragedy. At the moment it seems that all of the above is just a tragicomedy that wants death. For Bosola, this rich confusion of tragedy and tragicomedy poses insoluble problems. even tragic feelings are confused until it seems that "pity would destroy pity" (iv.2.347). As the Duchess faces and accepts the truth of her situation and Ferdinand shies away from her, Bosola wrestles with loyalties torn between reality and fiction, presenting the dying Duchess with a half-real, half-surreal tale of Antonio living and reconciling with her brothers . Bosola's exposure to tragedy still leaves him primed to use fiction, and however kind his motives may be, this willful falsehood suggests that Bosola's reliance on fiction and deception will inform his actions, even now that he does "painted honor" (iv.2.336) rejected. where ferdinand withdraws from the tragedy, bosola accepts it in a modified form and takes off his disguise. however, this acceptance is complex and ambiguous. his change of direction is only accomplished when he is convinced he has missed his chance for a reward, so he has a strong undertone of personal malice. It's also a change in attitude that doesn't seem to affect his behavior much, only the people who are his friends and enemies. Just see Bosola's move to the Duchess' side as a new commitment to 'doing what he knows is morally right' or even 'redemption'2seems to simplify. It's a strange kind of conversion that's just a second option for material advancement, and that breeds the same kind of murder and betrayal as his unregenerate self.

Additionally, this change to the Bosola isn't entirely for the better. it expresses itself not only in a discovery of his own "guilty conscience" (iv.2.356), but also in a considerable obscuration of his clear moral perception. previously he always displayed a clear moral understanding, even when it was strictly excluded from his actions. From that moment on, he no longer has a special relationship with the public, he is less self-critical and we find it less easy to accept his assessments. his vow, for example, to give the Duchess's body to "some good women" (iv.2.372) is apparently without irony, even though he was involved in the very murder of the two good women in the play. Bosola, he himself should have been the first to realize that earlier in the play, returns just as mischievously as he left, because he always took him with him.

the fourth act ofthe duchess of malfi,then he presents a tragedy in which a good woman comes to a tragic assertion of herself. However, this tragic center emerges from a mass of anti-tragic material: a masque that offers a grotesquely distorted view of the play itself, a parody of the tragic moment in which Cariola rejects tragedy and Ferdinand perverts tragic catharsis, and a tragicomedy in Miniature in which the Duchess is briefly resurrected. The law seeks to suggest as richly as possible the diversity of human reactions to the disaster without detracting from the centrality of the Duchess' positive statement. For the strong few there is the possibility of tragedy: for the majority there is only uncertainty, ambiguity, or denial of the difficult absolutes of tragedy. There is never any real doubt about the Duchess's courage and her essential innocence: the central ambiguities of the play lie rather in the effect of her love and her death on those around her. in the final scene, the focus shifts from tragedy to tragedy's inversions and parodies, and from the duchess to bosola and antonio. Without the Duchess's harsh integrity, the tragedy degenerates into satire, self-deception, despair and madness.

Dorothea Krook sees tragedy as an interlocking succession of four entities, "the act of shame or terror," the "suffering" it causes, the particular "knowledge" produced by that suffering, and the "confirmation or affirmation of the dignity of the person”. '. human mind' that produces this new and special knowledge.3If this is a valid scheme for tragedy,the duchess of malfihe seems to use the tragic framework in a peculiarly skeptical and ironic way. in the fourth act, the death of the duchess forms a true tragic center. The end of the act and the fifth act provide a series of inversions or parodies of the tragic scheme, in which almost all tragic values ​​are denied. The first three acts show an ambivalent view of the tragic "act of shame or horror": The unequal marriage of the Duchess is perceived by Ferdinand, not necessarily by the audience, as shameful and terrible. the fourth act contrasts genuine tragic "knowing" with knowing of a dubious kind. The fifth act ends the play with an ambiguous look at the tragic statement.

In many ways, the style and imagery of Act Fifth is very different from the previous play. The play has arranged tragedy as a climax, the highest in artistic form and moral achievement, from which the final act traces a precipitous descent. the language itself changes to emphasize this change in quality. the end of the fourth act and the fifth act itself are full of negations, 'silence' (IV.2.5, V.4.83), 'never' (V.5.90), 'not' (V.5.108), 'not to be ' (iv.2.301) and especially 'nothing' (iv.1.138, iv.2.15, v.2.33, 39, 54, 231, 330, 347, v.5.59, 79, 118) which echoes in the last action. after affirming the life and death of the duchess, she leaves behind a negative and sterile society.

In the last act, too, the play's comedic and tragi-comic imagery becomes more extreme and grotesque. Julia's courtship of Bosola begins as a staged tragicomedy, in which she threatens him with a gun, and ends in real tragedy, such as the death of Flamineo inthe white devilThe 'fatal verdict' (v.2.85) falling on Ferdinand, the play's chief exponent of satirical comedy, is that he is frozen in this one attitude, a comical madman afraid of his own shadow. The cardinal dies laughing too, condemned by the fictions he thought he had mastered.

the fifth act is thus deliberately separated from the first four acts by a change in vocabulary and by an increased emphasis on comic and tragicomic events. It's also separated by a focus shift to specific characters. we grow further and further away from the characters, and it becomes increasingly difficult to take what they are telling us at face value, until we can view even the final words of the play with critical objectivity. The characters delegated by the audience, Bosola, Antonio and the Duchess, either disappear from the play or this special relationship is destroyed. Antonio, in particular, who began directing our processes, has shrunk since the death of his wife. his character has collapsed. Bosola has adopted his clairvoyant character and betrayed his stubborn integrity. only his less attractive features remain, his subconscious wanting mischief, his impotent indecisiveness, his lack of judgment, his desire for "any security" (v.1.67). her death frees him at least from his fear and from his conventional wonder at the "established order" (i.1.6) of court life, which never shakes him and which helps to judge him. like Fernando and the cardinal, it is destroyed by the death of the duchess.

Despite Webster's intentional use of contrasting modes in the final scenes, the theme is closely related to what happened before. The final act may have been a second tragedy stemming from the Duchess's murder, an "act of shame or terror" that may have led her killers to tragic realization and affirmation. in the final act, however, the tragic structures are only suggested, only to be denied, turned around, parodied or accepted only to a limited extent. Viewing this series of anti-tragedies is the starkly contrasting presence of the Duchess. Significantly, almost literally, the dead Duchess haunts the final act, a constant and poignant reminder of a better way of life. after her apparent death she is revived for a moment, she "hunts" bosola and may even appear when he imagines he can see her, "da, da!" (v.2.346). She can be heard again in the echo scene and maybe seen again, "a face contorted with pain" (v.3.45). of course, she is spoken of constantly in the final act, and is metaphorically present in the echoes and summaries of the past that permeate the play's finale. Appearing three times after her apparent death, it seems as if she and the life force she represents are sure-fire. his tragic statement confronts the skeptical world he has left behind, and the tragi-comic dissonances created by this antithesis modify the effect of the last act.

The fifth act contains a rich number of parodies or incomplete versions of the tragedy. intentionally fictitious versions of the tragedy have replaced the real tragedy of the duchess: the cardinal's rather unsubstantiated story of the ominous persecution of the family by a woman who was murdered by her own relatives "because of her wealth" (V.2.94) comes the on next learn to understand the tragedy. This invention is a parody of the Duchess' story: it reminds us of Ferdinand's claim that he had hoped "by her death to gain an infinite mass of treasures" (iv.2.285). The cardinal who attempts to define tragedy in only these patently fictitious terms finds a fitting death. he is the center of a dangerous fiction in this last act, as he uses "colors of light marble" to hide his "rotten intentions" (vv.2.297-8). To safely dispose of Julia's body, she concocts elaborate fiction and warns her followers not to disturb her:

When he's asleep, I get up and do some of his crazy stuff... pretending I'm in danger.


it is also threatened by black comedy. his courtiers believe that his cries for help are simply "fake" (vv. 5.20), and imagine how the cardinal will "laugh at them" (vv. 5.33) if they mistake his fiction for reality. for his attempt to manipulate fiction fails the cardinal himself, and his death provides both an accurate judgment of him and an accurate reversal of the tragic process. Suffering is surrounded by comedy, knowledge brings only despair, and instead of asserting his own identity and human dignity, the cardinal is reduced to "a small point, a kind of nothingness" (vv. 5:79) who only wants to lose his sense of Self and 'forsaken and never meant to be' (v.5.90).

the death of the cardinal forms a clear anti-tragedy in which the precarious tragic moment of the duchess dissolves. Fernando's death follows the same pattern, also surrounding itself with fiction and comedy rather than being scattered on the positive aspects of tragedy. Fernando's madness is another opposite of tragic knowledge. Rather than asserting his own individuality like the Duchess, he sees himself as a soldier in battle who becomes a commentary on the family breakup. Both Ferdinand and the cardinal have a brief flash of self-awareness, but are not allowed to make a statement like that of the Duchess. ferdinand quotes giovanni inthe white devilacknowledge that "pain is regarded as the eldest child of sin" (vv.5.55), but retain little sense of personal identity or personal involvement. his fate does not seem to him to be his fault, but only caused by the nature of the world: "Like diamonds we are cut from our own dust" (v.5.73). the Duchess manages to see into the future as she dies. Fernando can only look back and the cardinal only welcomes oblivion. Her death reflects only negative versions of the Duchess' claim.

The Duchess' tragedy is followed by a series of distorted versions of it, increasingly alienated from the spirit of the tragedy. Cariola resists and lies, Julia refuses to evaluate her own life, the cardinal and Fernando turn back and parody the achievement of tragic realization and validation. Antonio's death is also presented as anti-tragedy. The scene of the Duchess's murder is carefully lengthened to allow her to make her final statement: Antonio is casually and accidentally murdered. this painfully ironic scene allows doubts about the possibility of fair action in a post-tragic world. Bosola, attempting to commit himself to "penance" (v.2.348), "the most just revenge" (v.2.343), inevitably finds himself in fiction: Antonio's murder is seen simply as "a mistake like mine many times". I saw / in a play” (v.5.95-6). Antonio's death gives the murdered a certain insight and confirmation: at least in the face of death he is able to "appear to me" (vv. 4:50). However, she is of such a subdued type that she seems like a parody of the Duchess's intensity. He achieves a limited sort of self-definition, but it's a weary sort that consists largely of regret for his past actions and an admission that his judgment was flawed throughout the play. at the beginning of the play he praised the "fixed order" (i.1.6) of the French court. now she dies with a deep distrust of the ambiguous "order" imposed by great men, desiring her son to "fly through the courts of princes" (vv.4.72). Tragedy is replaced by a gruesome accident and an eerie gloom.

cariola, julia, fernando, cardenal and antonio are each at the center of a tiny anti-tragedy in which the duchess's values ​​cannot be upheld but are reversed or distorted. However, the final act focuses on Bosola, and its anti-tragedy is the most complex of all. Bosola was, of course, an ambiguous figure from the start: 'very brave' but poisoned by 'lack of deeds' (i.1.76, 80) he would 'look up to heaven' but the devil intervenes in his way. Light (ii .1.94-5). This ambiguity increases instead of being resolved in the final act. like cardinal bosola, despite new good resolutions, he gets entangled in fiction. He uses fiction with the Cardinal and Juliet, but also, and this is a novelty, with himself. He claims "atonement" (v.2.348) and uncritically claims to be engaged in a "more just revenge" (v.2.343). , apparently not realizing the irony of revenge for a crime he himself committed. This is underscored by the ironic divergence between his intention to join Antonio and the accidental assassination of his possible ally.

in the final act, the incidents it contains move further away from the paradoxical stillness of formal tragedy. Antonio's death is casual, ironic and confusing, Fernando and the cardinal are devastated by fiction and comedy. finally the scene with the death of bosola reaches the extreme stage of tragedy. flamineo recognized some 'goodness' (wdv.6.269) at his death, the latest of many ironic reversals of the work's value terms. Bosola also believes that he cannot harm him... to die in such a good fight / (v.5.99-100). however, he didn't like his gamethe white devilestablished this kind of moral inversion as a valid method to sum up an evil and divided world. Bosola's redefinition of the adjective "good" seems less convincing, an uncritical shift in responsibility that is the opposite of tragic knowledge. This sense of his own righteousness is profoundly undermined by the accidental murder of Antonio and the accidental murder of his servant, by the emphasis placed on Bosola's reluctant sense of "carelessness" (vv. 5:87) that lasts to the end of her life lasts . , and through images of uncertainty and fiction, "in the fog" (v.5.94), "in a game" (v.5.96). Bosola's definition of himself as a justified avenger is also punctuated by Malateste's brutally simple summary of his career, "Wretched thing of blood" (v.5.94).

The ultimate irony of this ironic work is the unreliability of his last words, which we must view with criticism and detachment: the Duchess's death claim dissolves into mild pessimism and misunderstanding. Flaminio's critical agnosticism in the face of death sums up the overall impact of his agnostic work. Bosola does not: the tragic upbeat action of the previous play undermines his narrow and conventionally stoic sentiments. he insists that human beings are only "dead walls or vaulted tombs, / destroyed without echo" (vv.5.97-8). However, we are compelled to question this reductionist view of human life by reminding ourselves that we have just heard the Duchess' tomb echoing back in the literal sense. again Bosola speaks of the "deep pit of darkness" in which mankind lives, "feminine and fearful" (v.5.101-2). this sydney quoteArcadia4It appears to have been specifically altered to make the adjective "feminine" ambiguous when the play's heroine was anything but "fearful" and died because she refused to see the world as merely "an abyss of darkness." Bosola's pessimism is discredited by our memory of what came before: a world the Duchess produced and colored by her values ​​seems more than an abyss of darkness. The Bosola's two most negative definitions of human life are thus negated by their context, but this ambiguous and indirect statement is the only one offered by the final act of the play. Finally, Bosola urges "worthy spirits" not to fear death in the service of "what is just" (vv.5.103-4). however, this last attempt at affirmation is tempered at the last moment by the sudden intuition that he himself is not one of those dignified spirits whose death will permit the tragic affirmation: "mine is another journey" (v.5.105).

Bosola's death, like all other deaths in this final act, offers an ironic reversal of tragedy with ambiguous realization and confirmation. The whole scene also takes the form of these ironic versions of the tragedy. even the last lines of delio, presented to us as a concluding summary, are ironically undermined. Delio seeks to redefine greatness, summarizing the play's suggestions that greatness lies not in birth or power, but in moral excellence. the "great men" of the play (v.5.118) ferdinand and the cardinal have lost their identity as completely as melting footprints with melting snow. People are only truly "great" when they are "lords of truth" (v.5.119). only "integrity of life," a complete and moral life, leads to immortal "glory" (v.5.120). the duchess, like the heroine of a tragic comedy, is assured of a kind of immortality through her urgency and friendliness. However, if Webster intended his audience to know the source of his quote, he could only add disturbing irony to a seemingly conventional summary. Horace's ode begins with 'integer vitae...' (Oden,1, xxii) extols the man of perfect purity and innocence. his kindness even protects him from physical danger, for even the wild wolf will not attack the truly virtuous man. In Webster's play, however, not even the Duchess's "integrity of life" can protect her, her husband, or their children from Ferdinand the Wolf. The final lines of the work, which seem to offer 'validation', are complex and ambiguous, as is the vision of the work's future. Antonio's son becomes duke "by mother right" (v.5.113), and we might think that this is a restoration of political and moral order. The true heir, however, as Webster makes clear to us earlier in the play (iii.3.69-71), is the Duchess's son by her first marriage, and Antonio's son, who seems about to restore order, is the son of his horoscope predicted a "short life" and a "violent death" (ii.3.63), and whom Antony wanted to "blow up the princely courts" (v.4.73). even the final restoration of the order of the work is deeply ironic. The Duchess' tragedy sits at the top of a descending scale, and the play returns from that height to the confusions, ironies and uncertainties of our real lives.

the duchess of malfiIt seems to me that it's not broken or confused, but rather establishes a significant relationship between the tragedy and other types of experiences. Comic, satirical and tragi-comic elements are raised to objectively define tragedy and place the tragic affirmation of a heroic individual in the perspective of an anti-heroic society. Fletcher's definition of tragicomedy made it clear what kind of work it wasnoWriting that mixed "joy and kill" and included both violence and celebration, "laughing together".5However, this is precisely the type of work Webster writes inthe duchess of malfi,where tragic affirmations trump comedy and satire, but are rejected by an unheroic society that rejects the Duchess' tragic values, willfully misinterprets them, lags behind them, or fatally misinterprets them. Tragedy has learned to tell the whole truth.the white deviljthe duchess of malfiincludes miniature tragicomedy and ironically qualifies tragedy: Webster then specialized in formal tragicomedy in his career, withthe case of devil law(1617) ja cure for a cuckold(1625).


  1. William Archer, Review of the 1919 ProductionMalfi, nineteenth century(Vol. 87, No. 515, January 1920): Ian Scott-Kilvert,Juan Webster(1964), p. 25

  2. C. Gram. thayer, 'the ambiguity of bosola', (philological studies54, 1957), S. 168, 170.

  3. Dorotea Krook,elements of tragedy(new shelter, 1969), pp. 8-9.

  4. Sidney,Arcadiav (constructionii.177): 'in such a shadow, or rather in an abyss of darkness, mankind lives full of worms...'.

  5. introduction tothe faithful shepherdess,Glover und Wallace, (Cambridge 1906), Band II, p. 522.

cite this page as follows:

"The Duchess of Malfi – Jacqueline Pearson (1980 essay)"Literary Criticism (1400-1800)edited by michael l. lablanca vol. 80. Storm 2003enotes.com28 ene. 2023 />

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*the fall of Caesar; or in both directions[with Thomas Dekker, Michael Drayton, Thomas Middleton and Anthony Munday] (work) 1602

*Christmas only comes once a year[con henry chettle, dekker y thomas heywood] (obra) 1602

the famous story by sir thomas wyat. with the coronation of Queen Mary and the arrival of King Philip[mit Chettle, Dekker, Heywood und Wenworth Smith] (obra) 1602

*Dame jane[mit Dekker, Chettle, Heywood und Smith] (Werk) 1602

west like[with Dekker] (play) 1604

north hoe[with Dekker] (game) 1605

the white jump(drama) 1612

a monumental column erected to commemorate henry, the late prince of wales(Poem) 1613

Malfy Dutchchesse Tragedy(drama) 1614

*the costume[date unknown]

the case of devil law(Game c. 1619-22

*the late murder of the son of the mother; or keep the widow awake[with Dekker, John Ford and William Rowley] (play) 1624

Memorials dating back to remarkable antiquity celebrated in London. in confirmation of John Gore(Poems) 1624

a cure for a cuckold[with Rowley] (game) c. 1624-25

Celery and Virginia: a tragedy(drama) 1634

The Complete Works of John Webster.4 vols. [edited by f. yo lucas] (drama and poetry)

the white devil[edited by John Russell Brown] (work) 1960

the duchess of malfi[edited by John Russell Brown] (work) 1964

the case of devil law[edited by elizabeth m. brennan] (work) 1975

*These works no longer exist.

cite this page as follows:

"the duchess of malfi - major works"Literary Criticism (1400-1800)edited by michael l. lablanca vol. 80. Storm 2003enotes.com28 ene. 2023 />

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fuente: forker, charles r.”the duchess of malfi" inSkulls Under the Skin: The John Webster Achievementp. 304-28. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1986.

[In this excerpt, Forker takes a psychological approach to the character studies of Ferdinand the Cardinal and the Duchess. Forker argues that the ambiguity of Webster's characters is a sign of his ability to develop highly drawn and individualized characters.]


again as inthe white devil,Focusing on the complex interrelationship of three siblings, two brothers and a sister, Webster examines the inherent ironies and contradictions that their relatedness and independence can exhibit in combination. In Bosola he gives us a more developed and imaginative version of Flamineo, the disaffected intellectual. and also returns as a strong heroine who, despite her differing moral orientations, controls the emotional temperature of the play by virtue of her psychic energy, her indomitable spirit and her audacity to face her own nature under terrible pressure with no cowardice and ultimately no self-delusion Webster uses several types or roles that he had used in earlier tragedies: the maid who acts as a dramatic foil for her mistress, the corrupt and worldly cardinal who "should have been Pope" (ii 163), the deranged criminal nobleman , the lustful courtesan, the decrepit cuckold, the surviving child of the carnage, even the doctor and lawyer grotesque. And this despite the fact that the Duchess of Malfi dominates her game more consistently than the 2nd Duchess of Braccianothe white devil,Webster once again bases his drama on an intricate system of cross-relationships that exploits the paradoxes of union and separation, attraction and repulsion, love and death, sexuality and murder, involving five main characters and several minors.

Beneath his vivid individualizations of personality—and these must be counted among his greatest strengths—the playwright implants the unsettling notion that radical differences can arise from a common source. Commenting on the orderly state in the opening scene, Antonio notes that "drops of pure silver" or poisoned water can flow from the "common well" of "a prince's court" (i.i.11-15). Webster emphasizes the consanguinity of Ferdinand the Cardinal and the Duchess not only to emphasize the contrasts between health and disease or between the natural and the unnatural in a single family (as inRey Lear), but also to point out that the three most powerful advocates of hate and love at work share their lives through strong, if ambivalent, bonds that only death can break. The Duchess and Ferdinand are biological twins, while he and the Cardinal are morally related - twins "in quality" (i.i.172). Like Cain and Abel, the persecutors and the persecuted are primarily related. Antonio calls them "three beautiful medals, / fused into a single figure" but "of ... different temperaments" (i.i.188-189). Fascinated by the elements of equality in diversity and by the threats to stable identities that such ambiguities imply, Webster builds the psychology of these relationships in the dynamics of their tragic structure.

A certain vagueness or ambiguity of motivation is therefore a necessary part of Webster's scheme and may partly explain why commentators have judged the Duchess so harshly in some cases and so compassionately in others, or why the causes of Fernando's odd cruelty towards his sister have turned out being so tough. questionable. We can first address the inevitable question of incest. Though Webster seems to portray a Fernando largely unaware of his own sexual nature, and though even Bosola, with his characteristic attention to human wickedness, refrains from commenting on the subject, the play's language and plot persistently hint at jealousy. part without fully confirming it. Certainly Mulryne is right when he notes that Webster's refusal to speak specifically about this sexual involvement (in contrast to Ford's proceedings inIt's a shame she's a whore) actually "helps to make the Duchess' tragedy [more] confusing".1When Ferdinand commissioned Bosola to spy on his sister, he first protested (to the spy's surprise) that he did not want to marry the "young widow" again, and then deliberately surprised his interlocutor: "Don't ask why, but be careful . “. satisfied, / I say no” (i.i.255-258). what he hides from Bosola seems to be hidden from himself as well. From then on, Fernando betrays an obsession with the Duchess's body that transcends neither the more rigorous and Mediterranean conception of "acquiring" family "honor" (i.i.296; ii.v.21-23) nor the desire to "an infinite mass to inherit "treasures" (iv.ii.285), may explain the motives given for their killing.2

Webster presents the "Grand Duke of Calabria" (i.i.87) in a context of obscene ambiguity, appropriately relating his aggressiveness as a soldier to a marked tendency to voluptuously retaliate by drawing and reloading weapons (i.i.113-114 ) and a must also suppress such puns in others, as when he silences his courtiers because they laugh at the sexual implications of "stuttering by bowing" (ii.120). later, in the same scene, Fernando addresses the Duchess (for the first time in the play) with the ambiguous line: "Sister, I have a suit for you..." (i.i.213). Superficially, of course, he recommends bosola for the "provisional of [his] horse" (i.i.217), but the suggestion of a more personal and underground meaning strikes one, and Webster is quick to reinforce this first impression by embarrassingly making Ferdinand insist on having sex in his Tirade against remarriage. As a widow, she should "already know what a man is" but is nonetheless prone to having her "highblood" (ii 294-297) influenced by youth and other male attractions. Those who have "married twice" are "the most prodigal", their "livers...more defiled/than the sheep of Laban" and possibly "harlots" (ii 297-301) if, like diamonds, they must pass through more than a pair of hands . the court is "a rancid pasture" (note the animal implications) in which women who hide their "darkest deeds" or even "most intimate thoughts" are like "witches" who "suck the devil" (i.i.306 - 315) . Fernando accuses his sister of craving "lustful pleasures", rudely observes while threatening her with "his father's dagger" that "women like the part that like the lamprey / never has a bone", then claims when she protests that he was only referring to "the tongue" (ii.326-338). her parting epithet is "lustful widow" (i.i.340).

The Duke's reaction to the news that his sister has given birth is one of rage, horror and sexual excitement. his imagination swings wildly between exaggerated fantasies of their forbidden sex life and, even more extravagantly, of the fanatical punishments he intends to inflict. in her fevered mind she becomes "a notorious whore," "a cursed sister," employing "cunning pimps" and other secret "pleasure transports" (ii.v.3-10); he envisions his partner "in the shameful act of sin" (it does not occur to him that she might be married at this point) as "a strong boatswain," an athletic woodcutter who "can pull the sled, / or may draw the bar, or unless a handsome squire / carries coals to his private quarters” (ii.v.41-45). sexual stimulation is evident. and Ferdinand would eradicate these intolerable images with the "sponge" of "his bleeding heart" (ii.v.15), "throw his palace against their ears," uproot their forests, ruin their meadows, and "their common territory." ii.v.18-20). he would "cleanse" his sister's "infected blood" with "fire" and "glass chalice" and, after "cutting her into pieces", would leave his "bastard" a handkerchief of it, soaked with his own tears from the child could make "lint for his mother's wounds" (ii.v.24-31). he would "quench her wild fire" with her "harlot blood" (ii.v.47-48).

These delusions reach their climax in his vision of the lovers being consumed in the act of lovemaking:

I would have their corpses burned in a coal mine, with the window covered lest their cursed smoke rise to heaven: or I would dip the sheets in which they lie in pitch or sulphur, wrap them, and then light them like a match; or else cook his bastard to a cullis and abandon his lascivious father to renew the sin on his back.


Although the Duke is clearly enraged at the idea of ​​his sister's sexual relations with an unknown lover, he can imagine a revenge that would "renew" rather than quench that lover's passion. Act Two ends with Ferdinand's admission that his sister's relationship has not only "set him in a cold sweat," but also produced a kind of frustrated paralysis:

Until I know who's pouncing on my sister, I won't move: knowing that, I'll find scorpions impaling my whips and fix them in a general eclipse.


meanwhile he "behaves dangerously" but is mysteriously "quiet" and "seems to sleep / the storm as dormouse do in winter" (iii.i.20-22). Webster is evidently at pains to emphasize the sexual component in what Antonio had previously described as the Duke's "more vicious and turbulent nature" (ii.169).

Critics have sometimes cited Ferdinand's delay in taking action against the Duchess until after the birth of two more children as evidence that Webster was incompetent in the dramatic craft; But as John Russell Brown points out in his edition (pp. 67-68), the passage of the years can plausibly be understood as further evidence of the entrenched nature of the Duke's neurotic conflict, and particularly his struggle with both Guilt and Blame, and I wish the developmental pattern of the last three acts would seem to confirm Brown's insight, since Ferdinand's behavior towards his sister combines sadistic approach with timid withdrawal. His first speech to the Duchess in Act III consists of two casual and superficially unrelated comments: that he will "go to bed immediately" and that he is "about to speak a husband" (iii.i.38-40) for you . As accidental as this juxtaposition may be, it is nonetheless characteristic of Ferdinand's habit of dealing with his own emotions through repression. He consciously wants to make his sister uncomfortable by reminding her that she is disobeying him by taking a secret lover, but in a deeper layer of his psyche he may be fighting his own alarming attraction to her. When the Duchess tries to defend herself against the "scandalous report... touching [her] honour," he insists on remaining "deaf," pretending to reassure her that she's "safe/in [her]. ] own innocence" and have nothing to do with fear; but even as he withdraws from openly confronting her with his potentially explosive secret, he mentions his "steadfast love" and "pours" his deceptive intimacy into her "bosom" (iii.i.47-55). comforted by the delusion that her immediate danger is past, the Duchess leaves the stage to her brother, who, in the briefest soliloquy, states that "his guilt is stepping on hot bars" (iii.i.56-57). . Ironically, the words reveal more about his own precariousness, morally and psychologically, than theirs.

After arranging to procure "a false key / in [the Duchess's] bedroom", Ferdinand now challenges Bosola to "guess" its purpose (iii.i.80-82), and then retires to privacy back without satisfying him. Meanwhile, he struggles to dismiss the notion of Bosola sorcery as a possible cause of loving attachment: Can it be true that "potions" or "spells" "can make us love whether we want it or not?" (iii .i.67-68). (Significantly, Fernando combines sexuality with witchcraft throughout the drama.) The scene of the Duke's sudden intrusion into his sister's bedroom further strains the already established tension between his sexual dislike (a manifestation of guilt) and his intense erotic fascination. He draws his dagger again, a deadly and phallic instrument, and presents the bare blade to the Duchess, countering her bold assertion that whether she was "doomed to live or to die," she could "do either as a prince" with a sexual desire . Loaded pun: "Die quick then!" (iii.ii.70-71). his abrupt command to her to commit suicide (probably suggested by a similar episode in Marlowe's life)Tamburin Teil i[iii.ii], in which Agydas also gets a dagger for daring to love Zenocrates) shows us a Ferdinand in which aggression and self-destruction are two sides of the same disorder.

Although the Duke has hoped to find out the identity of the Duchess's lover and possibly break their embrace, he suddenly refuses to see Antonio, "now convinced" that the revelation would have "such violent repercussions / that he would be damned". (iii.ii.93-95) Brother and sister alike. therefore he commands his invisible partner to "continue to enjoy his lust and a wretched life, / on that condition" (iii.ii.98-99), but to remain hidden and unidentified. He also announces that he "shall never see [the Duchess] again" (iii.ii.141), indeed he conducts all subsequent communications with her through the Bosola agency or in the dark, such as when he dead shakes her hand to kiss her The atmospheric, perhaps literally blacked out stage on which much of the central action takes place is obviously symbolic of the blackness that almost obscures the moral order in this tragedy, but the effects of "Owllight" (iv ii.334) also speak volumes about the semi-conscious lust, terror and sadism so darkly enmeshed in Ferdinand's own psyche. The duke can hardly bear to look at his sister, even after he has strangled her ("cover her face: my eyes are dazzling: she died young" [iv.ii.264]), but at the same time he cannot resist looking (" Leave me to see his face -" [iv.ii.272]). .ii.280) In Renaissance usage the term "friend" sometimes meant lover or beloved, as in Lucius' words about Claudius inmeasure for measure,"she made her friend pregnant" (i.iv.29). Thus Webster presents Fernando's self-alienation as one aspect of his claustrophobic devotion - almost as his identification - with the image of his sister. the confused love-hate feelings he expresses toward her are dramatized in part as a transference of inadmissible feelings about himself. and just as the duke imposes a sort of artificial blindness on his relations between himself and his victims, he now commands Bosola, the agent of his villainy, "never to look [at] him again" (iv.ii. 317 ). . For Ferdinand, the full light of self-knowledge is unbearable, but enough light was produced not only to "blind" his eyes with tears, but to cause a mental collapse almost immediately. he becomes the creature of his own "craft of darkness" (iv.ii.335), a term he himself applies to murder but is more commonly used by Jacobins for copulation.3

Webster's The Duke of Calabria is an impressively sophisticated study of the psychology of a sadist oppressed by guilt and horrified to the point of self-deception by the nature of his own erotic impulses. the aristocratic pride and hope of wealth which he cites to explain his behavior are less false than inadequate and superficial. it is his sister's clandestine "marriage" (particularly to a socially inferior, symbolically interrupting his essential closeness to a more acceptable self-image) that "draws a torrent of bile through [his] heart" (iv.ii. 286-287) and that causes him to retaliate in equal measure by interfering so destructively in the competitive relationship. and the obsession with the image logically leads to revenge with his grotesque substitution of a dead and alien hand for Fernando's living hand and wax figures for real corpses. the duchess is "permeated with art" (iv.i.111) because the objective naturalness of her relationship with a stranger ruins the indispensable private illusion on which her brother lives.

Three speeches in particular reflect the intimate nature of Ferdinand's grief and his return to intricately choreographed agony. When the captive duchess asks her brother why he is so unreasonable against their second union, he cannot answer directly; instead responds with a threat and a tortured cry:

you are nullified: and you took the thick sheet of lead that hid your husband's bones and you wrapped it around my heart.


the allusion to her first husband's funeral in such a context is instructive, showing how instinctively he identifies with his deceased sexual partner. the same hard, impenetrable metal that forever isolates the dead lover from the duchess cuts the living brother for the same purpose, murdering his heart in the process. It is not surprising, therefore, that Fernando responds by imposing so many emblems of death on his sister, including, of course, the coffin, which will be his "last chamber of presence" (iv.ii.171) and the rope, which it is (at least in the case of Cariola) referred to as "wedding ring" (iv.ii.249). The ritual of strangling and burying his twin becomes an insidious device of self-suppression, a way of twisting his need for forbidden intimacy into a kind ofmacabre dance.

But Webster addressed Ferdinand's difficulties with his self-image earlier in the play. When the enraged Duke, struggling to control his emotions, is first informed by letter of the Duchess's "whore[ry]" (ii.v.4), he reveals to his brother how closely he holds his own identity feels. She is connected to these emotions. of the cardinal and his sister:

I will only study to appear what I am not. I could kill her now, on you or on me, because I think it's a sin on us, heaven takes revenge.


In his mechanistic notion of 'thing' and in his passionate attempt to moralize what he cannot understand, we acknowledge Ferdinand's failed attempts to confront his deepest feelings. a later outburst, in response to bosola's plea for compassion for the duchess' "tender skin", once again manifests the simultaneous feelings of identification and alienation that characterize the duke's relationship with his sister:

hell again! this body of his, while my blood flowed pure in it, was worth more than what you wanted to comfort, called soul -


the complete decomposition of personality that finally reaches ferdinand is the logical consequence not only of the guilt of a murderer, but also of a spiritual hopelessness: his desire to love his twin sister and hate himself for the same love for the symptoms of this illness, such as portrayed by Webster are remarkably similar to certain modern descriptions of schizophrenia. John Vernon comments that for the typical schizophrenic, "personality areas are fragmented and mutually exclusive"; The experience is marked by "the simultaneous presence, but absolute separation, of a fantastic space and a real space".4Sufferers are often plagued by the awareness that individuality is somehow outside or separate from their own body, a problem they seek to compensate by retreating into subjective fantasies, which then take on a hideous objectivity of their own. Schizophrenics are therefore highly prone to hallucinations and role-playing, as well as obsessions with dismemberment (symbolic self-amputation or self-disposition) or with the merging of the self with other identities. Ferdinand not only presents his sister with a ring and a severed hand (his grotesque recreation of their engagement and perverse literal expression of shaking her hand), but also imagines himself as a wolf digging up corpses and being watched at midnight. "with a man's leg / on his shoulder" (v.ii.14-15). Lycanthropy seems rightly to dramatize Seneca's principle (elaborated in his well-known moral letterabout anger) that man is never so close to beasts as when he is angry. but as elizabeth brennan has hinted, webster also seems to associate it with lovesickness. the treatises of pierre boaistuau and jacques ferrand combine the jealousy of lovers with the madness of the wolf,5And Ferdinand, in curious anticipation of his own illness, likens his sister's confession to marrying again to "the howling of a wolf" (iii.ii.88). He also speaks of Antonio's sons as "young wolves" (iv.ii.259). the unconscious identification with the duchess and her descendants seems to put his rejection into perspective. Webster portrays the mad duke condemned not only to reliving the horror of his crimes ("strangling is a very peaceful death" [v.iv.34]) and living in fear of discovery, but also the terrifying feeling of the The schizophrenic experiences demise both inside and outside his own body. Fernando believes he is both a wolf and not a wolf - oddly "furry... inside" - and thus demands that his sense of being "torn" with "swords" be confirmed (v.ii.17-19) . A moment later we see him in a vain attempt to make the terrible "otherness" that oppresses him fall upon his shadow, and he will "strangle" her (v.ii.38) as he had already strangled his sister.

In his study of the doppelganger as a literary and psychological archetype, Otto Rank addresses the obsession with twins or shadows as a well-known form of narcissistic self-portrayal. Rooted in the myths and customs of many cultures, both primitive and sophisticated, this motif became particularly popular with the advent of continental romanticism (no doubt for its applicability to issues of identity and self-awareness), and for this reason Rank draws his examples primarily from works of the 19th and 20th centuries. his ideas are of course also relevant to earlier literature, even if Renaissance playwrights, for example, did not formulate such configurations discursively or expressed them in a post-Freudian vocabulary. Indeed, Ferdinand's love-hate relationship with his twin sister, as dramatized by Webster, shows a surprisingly close pattern of the constellation of actions and feelings classifying the central aspects of the model:

always … [the] double works past each other with its prototype; and, as a rule, the catastrophe occurs in relation to a woman and mostly ends in suicide, the road to death for the troublesome pursuer. In some cases, this situation is combined or even replaced with total paranoia [Ferdinand's fear of his own shadow], thereby assuming the image of a totally paranoid delusional system.6

Ferdinand eventually torments and kills a version of himself in his twin sister, a character who—simultaneously but unforgivingly—symbolizes his infatuation with and disgust with his own ego. Many of the narratives Rank cites involve wild jealousy on the part of the protagonist when his alter ego becomes involved with a rival lover. moreover, a late variant of the Narcissus myth establishes a significant identity of the handsome youth with his twin sister, after whose death the boy eases her grief by diverting his love from her to his own image. In some stories, the hero's shadow also represents his accusatory conscience or impending death. It can hardly be a coincidence that Geoffrey Whitneya selection of emblems(Leiden, 1586), a book that Webster seems to have known, presents the picture of a murderer afraid of guilt in the form of his own shadow.7the tragic constant in Rank's exploration ofdoubleThe reason is the protagonist's inability to love, a condition that leads to unbearable frustration, fear, self-loathing and despair, almost invariably ending in death from violence and some form of denial and self-degradation.

The half-admitted hints of incestuous passion that Webster bestows on Ferdinand's character are, of course, inseparable from other elements of his composition: the aching loneliness, the wild aggression, the extreme volatility, the sick fixation on the contamination of his lineage. . tyrannical pride, nightmarish imagination, simultaneous selfishness and fear of one's buried nature, suicidal destructiveness, almost childlike capacity for tears, crippling remorse, and critics might be less inclined to doubt the sexual motive of their behavior if they didn't contemplate it isolated.8Every facet of Ferdinand's demeanor and, characteristically, of course, his discontinuous speech,9his "distorted silence" (iii.iii.58), punctuated by explosive laughter, reflects psychological incoherence and moral chaos. together they illustrate, through negation, the quality discussed in the previous chapter that Delio praises in the strongest characters of tragedy, namely "integrity of life" (vv. 120).

Ferdinand's passionate embodiment of evil is, of course, in part the result of Webster's need to balance his heroine's equally passionate expression of goodness. As their physical twinning suggests, the two characters are both complementary and opposite, each being primarily defined by intense emotional engagement with another human being. but it is the third family member, the cardinal, who brings another and more mysterious dimension of evil to the tragedy.

like his sister, the "melancholic clergyman" (i.i.157-158) is only mentioned with the title throughout. In the case of the Duchess, this emphasis on rank seems destined to dramatically establish her as the reigning princess, and thereby heighten her tragic stature; in no way diminishes or limits your private sensitivity, your magnetic individuality. but the cardinal's anonymity gives him a grim detachment; and Webster seems to intentionally minimize certain features in order to achieve something like grandeur. as Duke Franz inthe white devil,the prelate ofthe duchess of malfihe tends to work behind the scenes and through the agency of subordinates, emerging as the most powerful but least recognizable protagonist: a cold character who somehow approaches the objectivity, even the absolute, of allegory, but who also in its opacity creates fear of misunderstanding. Webster's images suggest a man who is not only evil in himself but is the source of evil in others. it is negatively creative: "The spring of his face is but the breeding of toads..." (i.i.158-159); "This cardinal has made more angry faces with his oppression than Michelangelo has ever made good..." (iii.iii.51-52). the fire-immune "salamander" may live in the violent "eye" of the duke (iii.iii.49), but, as Bosola notes, the cardinal "does notRazabasilisk” in his and therefore embodies death: “it is nothing but murder” (v.ii.146-147). If Fernando represents the chaotic and bestial in a given individual, the cardinal represents destruction made scientific, abstract, intellectual, and nihilistic. its allusion to Galileo's "fantastic glass" (ii.iv.16) seems perfectly in character. embodies an evil rationalized to its basic principles and raised almost to the level of a metaphysical concept. Webster associates both brothers with the devil, but while Fernando seems sexually bound by a personal demon, the cardinal is the mouthpiece of hell. Antonio comments that "oracles/hang from his lips" through which "the devil speaks" (i.i.184-186). according to bosola, "some guys... are possessed by the devil, but this great man could have possessed the greatest of demons and could have made it worse" (i.i.45-47). at least Webster begins his characterization with some distinction in mind. but then, typically, it blurs them in the final act, for the cardinal loses his satanic dignity in the murderous struggle that ends his life, shattering the carefully crafted facade of frigid control and shrinking in a heartbeat to the cowardice of a "Leveret." " . (vv45). Bosola utters Webster's epitaph:

now it seems your greatness was only outward; for you fall from yourself faster than calamity can push you.


as befits such a deliberately distant character, the play is silent on the cardinal's motif. Of course, the priest shares his brother's disgust at mixing "the royal blood of Aragon and Castile" (ii.v.22) with that of a commoner, but he gives no further reason for his unrelenting cruelty to the duchess, a cruelty which he not only tolerates, but seems to initiate. he doesn't bother, for example, to excuse the duke's desire for greater wealth. we see him scold his partner in revenge for "flying beyond [his] sanity" for allowing useless "anger" and "undue anger" to "distort" his outward behavior; and acutely perceives the onset of dementia, for which his brother's frenzied emotionality is a symptom: "Are you completely insane?" the cardinal “may / become angry without this rupture” (ii.v.46-58) – that is, without raising his voice – and can distinguish with characteristic detachment between his own and the duke's attitude towards revenge: “Though I commended / the fullness of total devotion seemed / to come from Fernando” (v.ii.107-109). This quiet, slightly unnerved villainy, especially in the early acts of the tragedy, comes close to denying human cardinal status, and we think of Coleridge's idea of ​​"motiveless wickedness" as if the Churchman were a sophisticated mutant of conventional vice: a figure of it Function it is easy to portray depravity, but stripped of traditional wit, energy and active control. While this phrasing has its appeal, it is overly simplistic, as the diabolical mysticism projected by the character is more illusory than real. all too human and anything but malevolent are the inner feelings that finally come to light: tortured conscience and fear of death and damnation. Below, the cardinal looks more like Ferdinand than we initially suspect, as both are very afraid of themselves. Just as the Duke cannot shake off his alter ego, which as a shadow relentlessly pursues him, the Cardinal is haunted by his own hostile image, reflected as a menacing shadow in his "fish ponds": "I think I see something, armed with a rake , / which seems to hit me:—” (V.V.5-7) the tormented conscience is projected as a vision of eternal punishment.

For most of the storyline, Webster keeps the Cardinal in the background, where he, as an inscrutable, malevolent presence, can evoke without explaining the poisoned ethos that all other characters are forced to live in. we hear more from him than he tells us himself, and the cleric is conspicuously absent in Act IV, when the Duchess' sufferings reach their tragic climax and resolution. but its influence can be felt even when you don't see it. politically he seems stronger than his brother. After testing Bosola in villain service before the plot begins, he suppresses Ferdinand's short-sighted inclination to appoint Antonio as Secret Service agent ("his nature is too honest for such a deal") and easily installs the replacement, although he "would not be seen 't' (i.i.225-230). He's more in touch with Italy's military and diplomatic affairs, which we only vaguely hear about, and indeed seems to be the onepower behind the throneof international intrigues. it is he who asks about naval strategy ("Are the galleys coming?" [i.i.149]) and the Emperor's need for his commission ("Should we then become soldiers?" [iii.iii.1]). It is also he who "requests the state of Ancona / that [the lovers] may be banished" (iii.iii.66-67), who persuades the pope to conquer the duchy of amalfi, and who z his letter seeks Antonio's confiscated property for Julia. The Cardinal is immediately informed by Ferdinand of the delivery of a son to the Duchess and, although as culpable in her murder as his brother, wears the camouflage of passivity and pretends that even Bosola is ignorant of her death. Later, but only after Ferdinand has slipped into culpable insanity, do we see him taking more active charge of events and covering up his brother by inventing the appearance of an "old woman... murdered... for her wealth" (v. ii .92). -94), got rid of his overly curious lover with the poisoned book and attempted, albeit now unsuccessfully, to manipulate Bosola. It is ironic that Antonio naively places his hopes for reconciliation in an appeal to the cardinal, and that the cleric sets the stage for his own death by instructing the courtiers to ignore both the duke's "crazy tricks" and his own ( V. IV. 15). . ) or screams for help. but both ironies depend heavily on the perception of the prelate as the main source of Machiavellian power in the play.

except in the last movement, when the mask falls from his face, the cardinal adds to the work's atmosphere of danger and uncertainty. Webster rarely brings it to the fore, and then only to serve one of two purposes, neither of which reveals the inner man. The first is to join Fernando in an antiphonal intimidation of the Duchess into forcing on her the “awfully good advice” (i.i.312) not to remarry, which she herself acknowledges as theatrical and artificial: “I think that this speech between the two of you were studied, / came out so round" (i.i.329-330). here the Aragonese brothers speak with one voice, so to speak, and the dubbing, like a chorus, tries to multiply the effect of the same evil. like pintersThe birthday party,In Goldberg and McCann's similar attack on Stanley, Webster provides us with a phalanx of repression that cannot help but evoke sympathy for the victim and underscore the isolation of their plight. but nothing of the cardinal's individuality emerges here.

The second variation on the pattern is, of course, the Juliet subplot. the scenes in which the churchman is seen with his mistress represent a sort of close-up of the character, and these—particularly the poisoning by a Bible—were sometimes seen as melodramatic excesses, a sensational departure from naturalism, ie. Part of the unfortunate "chaotic Carneficina" that Baldini speaks of.10While the voluptuous and murderous prelates belong more to the conventional theatricality and anti-Catholicism of gory tragedy than to psychological veracity, Webster's more Gothic play is not without structural and moral relevance. The totally mechanical sexuality of the cardinal's relationship with Juliet shows us the thematic connection between love and death in yet another aspect: the seriocomic. Possessing neither the human warmth of the Duchess's betrothal to Antonio nor the polymorphic perversity of Ferdinand's pent-up passion, the Cardinal's almost ridiculous entanglement with Juliet is dramatized as a merely cynical and ultimately boring experiment in physical gratification, an essentially casual and elusive affair. Hypocrite without passion. and even pleasure. He feigns affection just to gain privilege and extract information. he loves her at first "wisely" (i.e., "jealously") (ii.iv.24-25), keeps her docile by dependency, then weary of the burden, regards her as his "slow consumption" from which he "neither nor away would be given up" (v.ii.228-230). Total selfishness and lack of genuine attachment makes the moral point and makes it appropriate in the spirit of a somber parody akin to the selfish automatonsthe tragedy of the avengerSexuality, whether fertile and normative like that of the Duchess, smothered and violent like that of Ferdinand, or cynically routine like that of the Cardinal, always ends in murder, and the common dust to which tragedy reduces such differences suggests once more than in Webster's universe. Physical death is the inexorable accompaniment of erotic relationships, regardless of their mental or ethical health.

Webster may have invented the Cardinal's lubricity as a stark contrast to the Duchess's "divine... celibacy" who, in the words of her most devoted admirer, "cuts off every lascivious and vain hope" (i.i.199-200). however, he treats these episodes with calculated superficiality, as if to show us how arid and emotionally empty the cleric actually is. The fact that he has a mistress is consistent with his other public accomplishments (playing tennis, dancing, courting ladies, and wrestling in one-on-one combat), all of which are "flashes" that "formally superficially hang over him." . " and bear no significant relation to his life. "Melancholy" and "inner character" (i.i.154-157). Webster's emblem of this space between inner and outer self is the ceremony at Loretto, where the cardinal casts off his ecclesiastical regalia, dons military armor and banishes the Duchess and her family from Ancona.

This formal show, silent but accompanied by the "solemn music" von "severalClerics” (iii.iv.7) and the commentary of the pilgrims, depicts the cardinal's self-depersonalization and the expulsion of the duchess from a city-state. The silence of the protagonists endows them, as in aliving painting,a special objectivity. the scene not only creates maximum aesthetic distance between us and its main character, but also serves as a kind of parallel to Ferdinand's ritual punishment of the duchess. both brothers make a ceremonial of their violence, imposing a mask-like artifice on actions that stem from and embody moral disorder. the cardinal, for example, symbolically annuls his sister's marriage by taking her ring; Later, Ferdinand presents the Duchess with a wedding ring of his own, but gives the gift a dead hand. the rite of the cardinal is intended, among other things, to deprive the duchess of her actual legitimacy as wife, mother and ruler. As such, it must emphasize the disconnect between the soulful sentiments of individuals and the harsh impersonality of bureaucracy embodied in urban pageantry. the public metamorphosis from priest to soldier institutionalizes the subversion of human and religious values ​​in the play. As the sword replaces the pectoral cross, and martial adornments replace pastoral ones, so mercy gives way to vengeance and love to death. One remembers Prince John's rebuke of the rebellious Archbishop of York in Shakespeare's book.2 Heinrich IV.,who by donning his armor in the forest of Gaultree "has become a man of iron... turning words into swords and life into death" (iv.ii.8-10).11Webster's cardinal thus shapes the darkest of all cynicisms. he can condemn his sister for faking a pilgrimage for using religion as a strategy (a "little hood / to protect her from sun and storm" [iii.iii.60-61]), but encourage Bosola, breaking the seal of the confessional by bribing a priest to gather information (v.ii.135-137). in public ceremonies he even gives up the semblance of his priestly office, at least symbolically.

Although Webster obviously took pains to individualize the "Arragonian Brothers" (v.v.82), he also insisted on their complementarity. bosola characterizes them as a pair: two "plum-trees crookedly growing o'er ponds" which, though richly "laden with fruit" only nourish "crows, cakes, and caterpillars" (i.i.49-51); his twins "hearts are hollow graves, / rotten, and others that rot," and his "vengeance, / like two balls chained, ... goes arm in arm" (iv.ii.319-321). These images naturally emphasize their moral stagnation, their mutual corruption, and their association with decay and death. Both brothers, without a wife or children, represent infertility in different ways, in stark contrast to their sister's natural fertility and domestic instincts. she fathers children; they only encourage "sneakers, pimps, spies, atheists, and a thousand such political monsters" (ii.161-163). The brothers' shared destructiveness is aptly expressed in their shared commitment to the military. both threaten enemies in moments of great anger to have them "cut to pieces". Fernando, as mentioned above, applies the expression to his sister (ii.v.31); The Cardinal applies it to Bosola at the end of the work: "I will have you cut into pieces" (v.ii.292). The work seems to confirm Castruchio's principle (albeit in a different sense) that a "kingdom is never long silent where the ruler is a soldier" (i.i.103-104). Ironically, at one point Webster also makes a soldier out of the Duchess, but metaphorically, of course, to emphasize not her evil strength but her almost manly boldness:

Just as in some great battles men have performed near-impossible feats out of fear of danger (I have heard soldiers say so), so out of fear and threat I will attempt this dangerous endeavor. ...


Both Ferdinand and the Cardinal practice their corruption in an atmosphere of secrecy and intrigue, a fact that catches Webster's attention by bringing them both into possession of "master keys" for access to private chambers: the Duke receives one such bosola key to enter the duchess's chamber (iii.i.80), and the cardinal gives her a similar bosola to secretly dispose of Juliet's corpse (v.ii.327). The sexual implication of keys being secretly inserted into palace locks is eerily relevant to both contexts. Both brothers are masters of self-disguise, of course. Just as the Cardinal veiled his inner melancholy through a series of social or sporting activities, so Fernando "speaks in foreign tongues" and "hears ... with foreign ears" (i.i.173-174).

Of course, the most important similarity is the pangs of conscience that both brothers suffer for their collaborative murder, although, like the protagonists ofMacbeth,they suffer it in psychological isolation from one another. Also, as in Shakespeare's tragedy, his destiny is despair. Fernando collapses before our eyes, becoming really like the madman he put on his sister and experiencing the torment of hopelessness he was trying to push her into. the cardinal, though changing inwardly too, maintains a strange reserve almost to the end, "endures in blood" and "seems undaunted" (v.ii.336). After the strangulation, however, Bosola remarks that the cleric "has developed a wonderful melancholy" (v.ii.202), and Julia, noting that he is "much upset, tries (with fatal consequences for her)"/this to remove lead from [his] bosom" (v.ii.231-233). Both characters acknowledge the reality of their own damnation, which amounts to a kind of negative identity achieved in defeat. Ferdinand babbles wildly about carrying "a bribe to hell" (v.ii.41-42); his brother credits the "devil" with taking all "confidence in prayer" from him (v.iv.27-28), he is "amazed" by the "only material fire" (v.v.1-2), who is to burn the damned in different ways and finally only "wants to be forsaken and never think of it" (v.v.90). the accomplice:

Whether we fall by ambition, blood, or lust, we are like diamonds cut from our own dust.

(Verse 72-73)

Almighty in life, both brothers end up as ciphers of their own creation, and Webster amplifies the irony of self-destruction by having the cardinal scream for help ("help me, I'm your brother") only to receive his punishment. mortally wounded by a mad Fernando who thinks he is on a battlefield and facing his traitor: “the devil! / Is my brother fighting the opposing faction? (vv51-52). when one evil sister eliminates the otherRey Lear,so with the evil brothers ofthe duchess of malfibut oddly enough, Webster complicates the relationship at the last moment. Having consistently constructed the cardinal as the less human and more callous of the two, in his final statement he conveys to the cleric that Ferdinand, even in his right mind, would not be able to express a shred of brotherly concern:

look at my brother: he gave us these big wounds while we were fighting here in the reeds. ...


This confirms Antonio's earlier suggestion that the cleric did "something good" (ii.167). Additionally, it is perhaps worth noting that Webster suggests a connection between the prelate's death and his sister's by having him repeat his last word, "Mercy!" (iv.ii.353), just before Bosola pierces him: "Oh, mercy!" (vv41). but the verbal parallel only reinforces an ironic contrast, for while the Duchess had made her final appeal to God, the cleric seems to be making his to a human, the threatening Bosola. the impenetrable mystery of the cardinal's emotions is never fully revealed.

Webster appears to have fathered the vengeful brothersthe duchess of malfiin a way that, while understandable in social and moral terms, was familiar to the Renaissance, but also anticipated some ideas of 20th-century pathology. in hisanatomy of human destructiveness,Erich Fromm distinguishes two types of necrophilia: (a) an apparent type involving an erotic or quasi-erotic attraction to corpses and often an obsession with graves, bodily decomposition, dismemberment of corpses, and the like; Y (b) a more general type, sometimes manifested in political or military figures (Adolf Hitler is the best example), which can be described simply as a deep hatred of life, a desire to turn the living into its opposite, a love of life . Destruction for its own sake and an "exclusive interest in everything purely mechanical".12Both types of necrophilic personalities can exhibit significant levels of sadism, but in the second type, cruelty tends to be bureaucratic and impersonal. For example, it is said that Hitler, the murderer of millions, avoided personal visits to the front during World War II because he was afraid of seeing dead or wounded soldiers.13The typical necrophile is essentially self-destructive and often has strong impulses toward suicide. it also tends to overestimate the past as it is symbolically embodied in established institutions, rules, laws, caste, traditions and family possessions. in his thinking, whether personal, philosophical, or political, "the past is sacred, nothing new is valuable, drastic change is a crime against the 'natural' [i.e. strictly conservative] order."14Fromm derives his conception of necrophilia from the dualistic Freudian opposition of the life and death drives, and even goes so far as to suggest a causal connection between the child's incestuous or oedipal attraction to the mother and the transformation of this magnetism in certain individuals or narcissistic in one funeral request. the child symbolically transforms its mother, giver of life and sustainer, into a suffocating annihilator and bringer of death; the womb becomes the grave.

Of course, we don't have to accept Fromm's theories or his assumptions to recognize in his clinical data a set of symptoms or features that Webster invented or observed from experience to characterize his two wild antagonists. With his incestuous fixation and obsessive interest in artificial corpses, amputated limbs, coffins, ropes, and ritualistic details of execution, Ferdinand evidently corresponds to Fromm's first model. the Cardinal is closer to the second type with its cooler, more efficient, and remote-controlled killer. Such differences in behavior are, in my view, less significant than examining the common sources from which they derive. What is most apparent to a modern reader or theatergoer about the Aragonese brothers is their equally virulent hatred of natural vitality, emotional freedom, social flexibility and spiritual growth, values ​​with which their sister identifies.

In characterizing the Duchess, Webster faced several related difficulties. First, he had to idealize her so that she could serve as a worthy counterbalance to her corrupt brethren without sacrificing the vulnerability—even fallibility—that would make her a believable human being. She also had to emphasize the private nature of a public woman to show the personal charm and individuality that would not only explain her unusual relationship with her lover but also make it emotionally acceptable. at the same time, she could not compromise the essential dignity of an authentically real and tragic heroine as opposed to a bourgeois one or merely pathetic and sentimental. after all, since the facts of the Duchess' story placed her so prominently in the role of victim and victims, it was important to find a means of avoiding the impression of abject helplessness and passivity and of making the character dramatically attractive. Obviously, there was no easy solution to such problems, but in adapting a fundamentally strong, free, and authoritative personality to a situation of extreme restraint, Webster had to suggest untapped reserves of energy in the character and rely heavily on psychological conflict for her. Defying her brothers' wishes, the Duchess wanders into a pathless "desert" (i.i.359-361) without "friendly applause" or "guidance". The tragic journey he embarks on is largely solitary, both physically and spiritually, and ironically, this is true despite his romantic motivations. her husband cannot protect her or stand by her in a crisis, a crisis that Webster dramatizes as a harrowing test of self-discovery.

Furthermore, the playwright structured his drama to prevent or at least minimize the pernicious effect of evil, which resolves into a simple black-and-white or melodramatic conflict with untested and untested virtue. The lady's marriage and its consummation form the main events of the first act.fifteenHere we are introduced to the Duchess in both her public and private spheres, with the playwright carefully noting both her royal dominance under pressure and her strength of will. the second act focuses on her pregnancy and childbirth with its ominous consequences: the brothers' uncomfortable reaction to the news of the birth. Webster cleverly delays the direct confrontation between the Duke and his sister until Act III, after the birth of more children and Ferdinand's strange stasis intervene. The duke's shocking intrusion naturally leads to the lovers' flight and the duchess's forced return to Amalfi. Such an arrangement allows the playwright to devote the entire fourth act to the imprisonment, torture and culminating death of his heroine, while keeping her atmospherically present in the fifth act through the echo scene and reminiscent in the madness of Ferdinand and in the rapid accumulation of deaths which directly or indirectly attributable to his assassination. By condensing his main character's tragic career into four acts, and thereby placing the emotional catharsis early, Webster risked disappointment after his departure from the stage, but recognized the even greater risk of prolonging dramatic tension in a character who is the recipient is and not the initiator of the action.

While Webster intends his audience to respond positively to the Duchess, he doesn't take away any ambiguity from her demeanor, especially early on. in doing so, of course, he shows his kinship not only with his brothers, but also with the other main characters of the tragedy. She herself formulates the idea during her proposal to Antonio:

As a tyrant redoubles his words and errs terribly, so are we compelled to express our violent passions in riddles and dreams, and forsake the path of simple virtue, which never pretends what it is not.


His point, of course, is that in a world of inequality, a world where social position and political power determine human behavior more than romantic feelings, honest emotions, and therefore actions and the language used to express them, for some must assume extent. the colorful protector of the alien moral environment. In fact, the Duchess uses some of the same "political blunders" in her own affairs that she later despises on a Ferdinand who wants "de Antonio".head in a shop(iii.v.28-29). Forbidden love, no matter how commendable by a higher standard, may involve a conscious departure from the "path/simple virtue" as commonly or conventionally understood. Webster opens the play with Antony's eloquent account of the French court, a court where the king is "reasonable" and his council "caring," where noble character, genuine merit, and the pursuit of justice, truth, and other enlightened or Humanist forms of ideals promote "a settled order" and a "blessed government" (ii.6-17). Strategically placed, however, this passage defines the corruptions that the Duchess courageously opposes and by which she too is affected.

when the cardinal alludes with a certain hostility to his sister's "highblood" (ii.297), he himself reinforces the double meaning of the phrase, correctly perceiving that aristocratic rank and sexual passion are correlative components of his personality. Webster leaves us in no doubt as to the sincerity of the Duchess's romantic feelings for her butler, but the play raises questions about her cleverness in choosing a butler, her stubborn refusal to even consider her brothers' objections, and her underhandedness Means of Doing Both Edit your lawsuit to hide it from the world. In his "persona" as a lady, Antonio prepares the audience for her first appearance by enticing her social grace, her "speech" which is "full of ecstasy" but not too fickle, and the characteristic "look" she " gives,” emphasizes on a man,” leading him to “worship” her “sweet countenance.” He is quick to add that this smile, far from being flirtatious, signifies "divine... continence" and "a virtue so noble" that it even extends to his "dreams". but her summary praise that she is the mirror of perfection in which all other ladies should "dress" elicits a skeptical laugh from delio: "fie antonio, / you play wire with her praise" (i.i.190-206). The butler's praise is sufficient and quite plausible in a future lover, but it's also over the top. We think of Browning's ruthlessly cordial Duchess of Ferrara, whose "eyes were everywhere." When Cariola reflects in the monologue on "whether the spirit of greatness or that of a woman" (ii.504) predominates in her beloved, she speaks not only for herself but for us, since Webster insists strongly on the character's double face and this dramatizes strain

The tenacious will with which Webster so often equips his main characters can be seen in the Duchess from the first moment. young, confident and beautiful she has already made up her mind to take a second man before the action begins and we learn of her unwavering determination at a major dramatic moment just after her brothers hit her with dire warnings and she promised to, or at leastthey thoughtPromise: "I will never marry -" (ii.302):

Will that move me? If all my royal relatives stood in the way of this marriage, I would make them my humble footsteps. ...


these are bold but ruthless words. Though aware that she is inviting danger, the Duchess shows signs of hubris, if not outright naivety. When Antonio asks during the engagement, confused by his brothers' ferociousness, she is able to answer:

don't think of them: all discord outside this radius is worthy only of pity, and not of fear: but if they knew of it, time will easily disperse the storm.


When Fernando and the cardinal don't know what makes her sister special, she rejects them as well. Bosola's praise of Antonio wins her trust too easily, and she disastrously aggravates her situation by revealing her husband's identity and allowing her fake confidante to dictate the strategy of her escape to Loretto. He also unnecessarily increases Ferdinand's anger by the simplistic tone in which he defends second marriages: "Diamonds are the most valuable / They say they have passed through the hands of most jewelers" (ii.299-300).

Webster throws in some hints that despite her admirable resistance to tyranny, the Duchess isn't entirely honest with herself. She can freely give her heart to Antonio, but is willing to "let the old women report" that she "winked" at his choice (i.i.348-349); When this verb doesn't carry a slight sense of guilt (as brown glitter suggests), it certainly conveys the ability to turn a blind eye to undesirable realities. He also doesn't think a tarnished reputation should be the price of his romantic unconventionality. to make Cariola a witness to his legal contract"for gift money,she emphasizes that concealment is everything: "Your well-known secret I have given up / more than my life, my glory:—" (i.i.350-351). For all her courage and intelligence, the Duchess has no experience of court intrigue. Unable to foresee or anticipate emergencies, she is forced to improvise defensive measures that arouse more suspicion than they dispel: wearing old-fashioned clothes to disguise the pregnancy, locking the palace guard in their chambers under the pretense of a robbery, closing the door on departure organizing from antonio to ancona under the pretext of having mismanaged the household accounts. Without detracting from his generosity and basic goodness, Webster manages to convey the impression that danger sharpens the Duchess' passion and gives her taste. the words she puts into her husband's mouth in the tense moment when her brother has quietly stepped up behind her reflect an aspect of her own psychology: "Love mixed with fear is the sweetest" (iii.ii.66).

the strong effect thatthe duchess of malfiwhat he can do in the theater results largely from his heroine's vitality in the midst of such a macabre and deadly setting. What sticks in everyone's mind about the character, aside from his impressive strength, is his appetite for life. Webster naturally associates them with nature and natural processes. it contrasts with those happy "birds of the land" who "choose their mates freely" and "sing their sweet joys to spring" (iii.v.18-21); later, in his prison, he continues the bird metaphor, remarking somberly that "the robin and the nightingale / Never live long in cages" (iv.ii.13-14). The Duchess is a free spirit in a world of crushing confinement. Strangulation is a fitting symbol of her downfall, and her momentary revival as Desdemona suggests the tenacity of her will to survive. The work emphasizes her beauty, but only as an aspect of moral character and humanity. Bosola mentions the "form of beauty" which is "more discernible in her tears than in her smile" (iv.i.7-8), an arresting presence that casts Webster in apparent contrast to the repulsive cosmetic deformities of the grotesque ancients woman poses.

the regal stance in no way harms the Duchess's fit physique. The drama doesn't spare us the clinical details of her pregnancy, allowing us to actually witness her "vulture plus apricot meal" that Bosola offers to both of them to confirm his suspicions that she's "broody" (ii.ii.1- 3) and mined with fruits ripening in “horse manure” (ii.i.140).sixteenA by-product of this episode is the perception that his easy enjoyment of nature's "treats" (ii.i.143) overrides any fear of poison. The delicious scene in which she and Antonio prepare for bed shows us their playful domesticity, which she combines with both a sense of exalted status and the verbal equivalent of erotic foreplay:

I have to lie here.
should? You are a lord of bad government.
In fact, my period is only at night.
what will you carry me for
we will sleep together:-
Ah, what pleasure can two lovers find in a dream?


Such warm, relaxed playfulness provides the perfect context for Ferdinand's chilling invasion of his privacy, but the sense of humor so revealed is paramount to Webster's impact of three-dimensional humanity. Here's a testament to the Duchess' maternal instincts:

I beg you, look, you give my little one a cold syrup and let the girl say her goodnight prayer.


One of the ways in which Webster successfully conveys the impression of a dual role in his main character, emphasizing both her public image as a reigning princess and her private role as wife and mother, is by defining her inner struggle in terms of a dialectic between heroic self-assertion and religious humility. The Duchess never gives up her Christian faithIn its entiretybut in trying to drive them to despair, their pursuers bring them very close to the abyss into which they themselves have fallen. Her spiritual well-being requires the patience of a saint and martyr, but her role as a tragic protagonist requires a more selfish, less passive display of energy. Again, Webster does full justice to both foci, mixing and alternating them fluidly enough to create that uncanny fusion of sympathy, emotion, and wonder essential to great tragedy.

Fundamentally Christian values ​​shape both the attitude and actions of the Duchess. she regards their secret union, despite its irregularity, as "a sacrament of the Church" (iv.i.39) and clearly intends to celebrate it publicly as soon as possible: "we are now husband and wife." , and it is the church / that must repeat this..." (i.i.492-493). his belief in life after death is strong. she separates from her husband in the hope of meeting him "in the eternal church" (iii.v.71), speaks of the "excellent company / in the other world" which a doomed person "know[s ]” that she will “meet” (iv.ii.211-212) and salutes death on her knees, confident of entering the “gates of heaven” (iv.ii.232). Bosola is struck by her willingness to die and by a calm composure under duress that implies spiritual depth. He speaks of his "noble" demeanor, of the "majesty" he bestows on "adversity," and of "his silence," which "says more than when he speaks" (iv.i.5-10). she may ask forgiveness from her brother at one point (iv.i.31) and, with due compassion, forgives her tormentors. Webster suggests that his sanity amid the howling of lunatics is "a miracle," adding to the imagery of divine judgment ("molten bronze" and "flaming brimstone") a distant echo of Isaiah that he may share The Duchess associates The Messianic Sacrifice:

I know sad misery like the tanned galley slave with his oar; Necessity makes me suffer constantly, and habit makes it easy for me. ...


but of course the Duchess's religion is not free from conflicts and inconsistencies. feigning a pilgrimage, which Cariola calls "joking with religion," does not ease his conscience, and he grows impatient with his servant for protesting the ruse: "You are a superstitious fool—/Prepare us for ours at once." Departure before” (iii ii.317-320). He is torn between rejecting his lowest born's tendency to be all too indifferent to injustice ("Should I, as a slave-born Russian, consider / the suffering of tyranny as praise?") and the orthodox notion that earthly punishment be a necessary form of could divine guidance:

and yet, oh heaven, your heavy hand is gone. I have often seen my little son flogging his shirt, and I have compared myself to him: Nothing has made me good but the whip of heaven.


she questions whether identity as people know it persists after death ("Do you think we shall meet, / In the other world?" [iv.ii.18-19]), and her pessimism in Referring to their point Lower Ebbe acquires a tone close to nihilism: "I might curse the stars... nay, the world/its first chaos" (iv.i.96-99). threatens to teach his children to swear before they can stammer, "being born cursed" (iii.v.115), and implores "heaven to cease crowning martyrs long enough" for their children to "punish", brethren (iv .i.107-108). At one point she seems ready to turn penance into suicide: "The Church enjoins fasting: / I shall die of hunger" (iv.i.75-76). She goes from savage hostility towards Bosola ("If I were a man / I would smack that false face against yours" [iii.v.117-118]) to a death-wish embrace: "I want to bleed" (iv.i. 109).

The fourth act's dynamic, which could be described as the Duchess' 'passion', is based on her psychological progression from external control through frustration, anger and near-despair to a deeper kind of serenity rooted in self-awareness and tragic acceptance of evil and animate religious belief. As Sir Walter Raleigh, another great prisoner, wrote at about the same time Webster was composing his work, "It is ... only death that can make a man suddenly recognize himself."18we hear first of his pain in relation to its outward manifestations: of his regal demeanor, his tears, his silence, and his "melancholy...intensified/with a strange disdain"; but Bosola notes that it is precisely this "constraint" that makes her, with emotional intensity, "realize the joys she has deprived herself of" (iv.i.11-15). After the Gift of the Dead Hand and her encounter with wax corpses, the Duchess only wants to escape life to die with her husband. When informed that she must go on living, she begins to suffer from mental "daggers" and describes herself as "such a wretched thing / She cannot feel sorry for herself" (iv.i.89-90). At this point she is about to lose control of herself, and Webster marks her transition into a more precarious state of mind by abandoning the phrase, "I will pray: no, / I will swear: -" (iv.i. 95-96). impotent rage follows as she lashes out at the enemy stars, the seasons, the universe itself, and as Bosola mockingly reminds her that "the stars still shine" (iv.i.100). Ironically, his emphasis on her cosmic helplessness also confirms a distant and mysterious order that suggests that even in a world as black as Webster's Italy, the light cannot be completely extinguished. in trying to loosen his grip on coherence, bosola inadvertently claims that it somehow exists.

The range of torments the Duchess is subjected to seem to shift the focus from physical shocks to mental disorders, from the terrors of death and the great puppet to the madman's defeat, conceived as a means of forcing her to break free of the spirit . Comprised of music, dance, lyrical verse and satirical prose, the lengthy anti-masquerade is an ordered performance of chaos, a grotesque ballet of rational collapse that not only tests the lady's psychic strength, but also puts her in danger brings . nervous to fight fear in its most existential form, the threat to her own self. the proliferation of references to physical dissolution in the tradition ofcontempt for the worldFrom the savage misidentifications of madness and Bosola's shifting disguises, the Duchess somehow extracts the savagery to overcome despair and regain a sense of who and what she is. Her tormentors seek to shatter her inner core, engulfing her in a kaleidoscopic maelstrom of frenzied movements, grave babble and macabre rituals, attempting to erase the boundaries that separate her from her enforced context. but in a person of the Duchess' independence, the barrier between sanity and madness is not so easy to break. they only succeed in persuading her to a more resilient self-definition: "I am still the Duchess of Malfi" (iv.ii.142).19she stands for a moment against the vacillating forces without and within like a female Coriolanus, "as if a man were his own author / and knew no other kin" (Coriolanus,v. iii. 36-37).

this affirmation is more than a simple self-assertion, as dramatized earlier in The Lady's Challenge to Marital Conventions. it implies spiritual expansion and growth, deeper insight, even a fundamental realignment of values. it certainly includes a willingness to face execution in an expanded frame of reference, as the Duchess is no longer simply trying to escape further suffering:

Tell my brothers I feel death now I'm wide awake The best gift is they can give or I can take.


Real calm becomes an outward expression of both protest against injustice and tragic acceptance of the inevitable. perhaps a certain ambivalence can be derived from his disturbing image of the gates of death with two hinges opening 'both ways' (iv.ii.222). In any case, authority and dignified submission define the Duchess's voice as she nears her end, and the two tones are poignantly blended in her death speech:

pull and pull tight, for thy mighty power must bring down the heavens upon me: but abide; The gates of heaven do not have so high arches as the palaces of princes, who enter there must kneel. – (knees.) Come, violent death, serve the mandrake to put me to sleep! Go and tell my brothers that when I lie down they can eat in silence.


The Duchess is not merciful in her good nights, but alongside the aristocratic demeanor there is a sense of appropriate relief from a long struggle and a satisfying sense of tragic conclusion.

wie Gloucester inRey Lear,Webster's heroine moves from a limited consciousness (perhaps tinged with self-deception and complacency) through torture and discouragement to a deeper understanding of evil and a more tolerant and transcendent view of reality. but webster makes her seem more resilient than gloucester due to her vulnerability as a woman and by stimulating the mental breakdown even lear succumbs to and which she is miraculously inaccessible to. The sanity that the Duchess maintains even in the heart of her long nightmare gives her a special quality of heroism. In a way it nullifies Cariola's earlier comment about the "terrible madness" (I.I.506) of marrying Antonio, and also sets the stage for the theatrical contrast to Ferdinand's madness after his exemplary life has been extinguished. In a deeper sense, the whole spectacle of the Duchess's suffering and death represents a dramatic confirmation of what Antonio might know from his distilled praise of his bride-to-be: "it stains the time past, illuminates the time to come" (i.i.209). In fact, tragedy characterizes its protagonist as a source of splendour, enclosed by obscurity in time and space. And Webster processes this almost surreal imagery in the dark staging of the Echo scene, in which Antonio, contemplating meaningfully over the ruins, suddenly catches a glimpse of his murdered wife's image as "a pained face" surrounded by "a bright... light” is illuminated. (v.iii). .44-45).

our complex response to the Duchess as a personality in which selfishness and religious submission are somehow coordinated seems, as so often with Webster, to be related to her own self-awareness as a tragic protagonist. This reflexivity, like that of Shakespeare's Richard II (which Webster may have recalled), may imply a tendency toward solipsism. with some forbearance it may perhaps consider itself a suitable subject for the painter, sculptor or tragedian - or enjoy being considered:

how do i look now
I like your photo in the gallery,
much life in appearance but nothing in practice;
or rather as an awesome monument
whose ruins even a pity.
very appropriate:
and happiness seems only to have his sight
to think about my tragedy. ...


but the Duchess's reaction or use of these artistic and theatrical allusions also reflects an attempt (as is traditional in revenge tragedies) to objectify, and thus understand and localize, her own experience. Silence is more threatening to them than noise because it throws them back into the formless terrors of their worst imaginations. Like Richard, he needs to hear sad tales of the death of kings to expand and, in a sense, depersonalize his situation:

Sit down;
Tell me a sad tragedy.
Oh, it will increase your melancholy.
you are deceived
hearing of greater pain would ease mine. ...


Despite the obvious Shakespearean analogy, this is a far cry from the sentimentality of Ricardo's "Tell my sad story / And send the listeners to bed weeping" (Richard II,v.i.44-45).20

As a regal and necessarily ceremonial figure, the Duchess is by definition a role-player; her acceptance of the tragic role imposed on her by her cruel brothers and her own desire for emotional fulfillment is more of a confrontation with herself than a cloying escape from reality: “I think this world is a boring theater / Because I play a role it is not against my will” (iv.i.84-85). He had previously lamented the chaos of a state in which decency and authenticity had to be veiled from the forces of corrupt power: "Oh misery! it seems to me that unjust deeds / should wear these masks and veils, and not we:—” (iii.ii.158-159). Seeing herself as one of the many tragic "princes" with whom "the wheel of fortune is overloaded" (iii.v.96), the Duchess psychologically connects to a whole pattern of history and literature, both providing a traditional context for her downfall and currently serves as its own choir. Webster doesn't call them eitherMirror for judgesConcept in a lazy way or as a mere cliché. Antonio, as mentioned above, introduces the mirror image when in his "Persona" he suggests the Duchess be the model for lowly ladies (i.i.204-205). the familiar metaphor then comes to life in unexpectedly dramatic ways when 'the glass' (iii.ii.1) is imported as stage property. We mark the downward acceleration of his unhappiness from the ironic moment when the Duchess, while looking in her mirror while undressing, finds that her "hair is tangled" and turning "grey" (iii.ii.53-59 ). Apparently, it's the same glass that a few seconds later reflects not only its own changing image, but also its twin's frozen presence. a cognition of identity is linked to a sudden awareness of an external danger, a link to which tragedy is otherwise closely linked. (Both Fernando and the cardinal, as we have already mentioned, also have to deal with strange horrors in the form of self-images: shadows or reflections in the water.) The Duchess of Malfi not only appropriates something of Richard II's tragic self-confidence; She, too, has her own "mirror scene," one just as theatrically and thematically provoking as his.


  1. j. R. mulryne, „the white deviljthe duchess of malfi," inJacobean Theater,John Russell Brown und Bernard Harris Edition, Stratford-upon-Avon Studies, 1 (London: Edward Arnold, 1960), p. 222.

  2. Several critics have pointed out that Ferdinand could hardly expect to benefit materially from his sister's assassination, since her first husband's son would logically inherit the duchy. John Russell Brown, in his note on this passage, suggests (correctly, I think) that the Duke's words represent "an instinctive attempt to 'cover up' a deep feeling" (the duchess of malfi,Page. 132).

  3. the pimp in shakespearePericles,for example he uses the term in its sexual meaning: "he would do the works of darkness..." ( See alsoRey Lear: "a servant...served the lusts of my mistress's heart and accomplished with her the act of darkness..." (iii.iv.84-87). Johnson uses the expression inthe devil is an ass( Emilia plays with the expression in response to Desdemona's "wouldn't you do such an act for everyone?" question: "I couldn't do well in the dark" (othello,iv.iii.66-69).

  4. Vernon,The Garden and the Map: Schizophrenia in Twentieth-Century Literature and Culture.(Urban: University of Illinois Press, 1973), S. 23-24.

  5. Brennan, "The Relation between Brother and Sister in the Works of John Webster",modern language test,58 (1963), 493-494.

  6. autumn assortment,double: a psychoanalytic study,trans. und Hrsg. Harry Tucker jr. (Chapel Hill: North Carolina University Press, 1971), p. 33.

  7. ver R. mi. R. Madelaine, „the duchess of malfiand two emblems in Whitney and Peacham",notes and questions29 (1982), 146-147.

  8. Q. I Lucas, although he notes the reference to incest in itthe beautiful tavern maid,Consider this article inThe Duchessas "only a suggestion and a non-essential" (Construction,2, 24). For Gunnar Boklund the incest motif seems "... unlikely" because "the tenor of the crucial passages" is so similar to that of the painter ("The Duchess of Malfi": Sources, Themes, Characters,p. 99). Muriel Bradbrook, while acknowledging that "the modern reading of [Fernando's] impulses as incestuous makes valid presentation possible," believes that "in Webster's day the same effect on audiences could have been achieved by other means" (Bradbrook,John Webster, citizen and playwright[London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1980], p. 159).

  9. In the first scene, Webster notes Ferdinand's disturbing habit of abruptly changing the subject of speech.

  10. see gabriele baldini,John Webster and the Language of Tragedy(Rome: University Editions, 1953), p. 169

  11. Webster may also have recalled Shakespeare's haughty Cardinal Beaufort, Bishop of Winchester, described by the Earl of Salisbury in2 Henry sawas "more like a soldier than a churchman..." (ii.184).

  12. From my,The anatomy of human destructiveness(Greenwich, Conn.: Fawcett Publications, 1975), pág. 369

  13. ebd., p. 450.

  14. ebd., p. 377.

  15. the first edition ofThe Duchess(1623), in contrast to that ofthe white devil(1612), specifies divisions by law. Since Webster carefully oversaw the publication of his own tragedy, these divisions appear authoritarian, or at least authorized.

  16. the apricot episode does not appear in the painter. R.w. Dent quotes a passage from Guevara's book based on an incident by Tito Livio.choose princes(a book from which the playwright drew other material) as a conceivable source; Nick,Loan from John Webster(Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1960), p. 193. Webster may also have been inspired by Marlowedoctor fist(ed. John D. Jump [Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1962]), in which the title character, with the help of Mephistopheles, grows grapes for the pregnant Duchess of Vanholt out of season. Webster's "candy" may be an echo of Marlowe's "rare and delicious" morsels (xvii.12-13). Bosola's role as the duchess's traitor also has a Mephistophelic aspect, for Webster closely identifies the cynic with devil images: Antonio says, for example, that Bosola "would look up to heaven," but "the devil... is in [his] light" (ii. i.94-95). and Bosola earlier describes himself as a "familiar" and "a very picturesque invisible devil in the flesh" (ii.259-260).

  17. The Duchess' reference to "cast iron" derives, at least indirectly, from God's threat of punishment referred to in Deuteronomy 28:23. the comparison of his suffering to that of a "galley slave" is taken from a passage in Grimestonesgeneral inventory of the history of france(p. 817) in which the author quotes Jacqueline d'entremont (widow of the Protestant martyr Admiral Coligny), who was also persecuted for her religion and, like the Duchess of Malfi, imprisoned and tortured in Italy. Documents dent both sources (loan from John Webster,p. 234-235). but Webster's phrase 'lived with sorrowful misery' is curiously reminiscent, accidental or not, of King James' interpretation of Isaiah's prophecy of the passion of Christ: 'despised and rejected among men; a man full of sorrows, full of sorrow" (Isaiah 53:3).

  18. Raleigh,the history of the world(1614), Book V; see the abridged edition of c. well. Patrides (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1971), p. 396

  19. Eugen M. Waith suggests that Webster may be indebted for the most famous verse to Duchess Seneca's Medea, who claims "Medea superest" (Media,--- I 166) at a time when all help has left her; Wait,Ideas of Greatness: Heroic Drama in England(London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1971), p. 145. john studley, the translator of the sixteenth centuryMedia,translates the statement "Medea remains"; see Thomas Newton, ed.,Seneca his ten tragedies,1581 (Londres: Constable and Co., 1927; rept., 2 Bände in 1, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1964), ii, 62.

  20. The execution scene may contain another memory ofRichard II,although the echo (if any) is rather weak. The Duchess's annoyed sentence to Bosola and her other pursuers: "For heaven's sake, / So I was out of your whisper" (iv.ii.222-223), sounds suspiciously similar to Richard's impatience with Bolingbroke's end of the interrogation scene: "where whenever you want, I was out of your sight" (iv.i.316).

cite this page as follows:

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luck, read "the duchess of malfi" in hisWorld Perspective: John Webster and the Jacobean Drama,p. 137-70. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1983.

looks at the tragedy from the perspective of Webster's development as an author, with comparisons tothe white devil; It also focuses on Webster's view of human nature.

col, david w. „Webstersthe duchess of malfiexplainer59, Nr. 1 (2000): 7.

analyzes Fernando's death speech and his use of horse metaphors.

enterline, lynn. "'hairy inside':the duchess of malfiand the body of lycanthropy.”Yale-Review-Magazin7, nr. 2 (1994): 85-129.

applies a psychoanalytic approach to interpreting melancholythe duchess of malfi,Focusing on questions of reflection and vision.

Kahan, Jeffrey. tree or trellis? Jacobean Representations of Death inthe duchess of malfiEnglish language notes37, Nr. 3 (2000): 35-6.

he speculates on the way deaths are staged in the play and points out the different effects achieved through the use of different types of props.

Ranald, Margaret Loftus.Juan Webster.Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1989, 149 p.

examines Webster's career as a whole, looking at his female characters and villains and their collaborations; includes a short biography.

shareholder, ok. The aristocratic woman as a scapegoat: romantic love and class antagonism inthe spanish tragedy,the duchess of malfi,jThe challenge.Elisabethanisches Theater14 (1991): 127-51.

analyzes the relationship between the Duchess and Antonio from a class perspective and compares it to the relationships depicted in other Jacobean tragedies.

Thompson, Leslie. "Happiness and virtue inthe duchess of malfiComparative Drama33, Nr. 4 (1999): 474-94.

She compares the Duchess' depiction of herself as bliss to contemporary visual imagery of the goddess to shed light on how a Jacobean audience might have perceived the character.

The following sources published by the Gale Group provide more information about Webster's life and career:british writers,vol. 2;Concise Dictionary of British Literary Biography: Vor 1660;discover authors;Discover Authors: British Edition;Discover Authors: Canadian Edition;Author discovery modules: most studied playwrights and authors;theater critic,vol. 2;dictionary of literary biography,vol. 58;International Theater Dictionary: Playwrights;literary criticism 1400 to 1800,vol. 33;Literary Resource Center;Reference book on English literatureEdition 2;criticism of world literature;world literature and its timevol. 3.

cite this page as follows:

"The Duchess of Malfi - Further Reading"Literary Criticism (1400-1800)edited by michael l. lablanca vol. 80. Storm 2003enotes.com28 ene. 2023 />

Use:When citing an online source, it is important to provide all necessary data. The above appointment includes 2 or 3 appointments.

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Those: Goldberg, dena. „the duchess of malfi,the royal prerogative and the Puritan conscience.” inBetween Worlds: A Study in the Works of John Webster,pgs. 100-1 Waterloo, Ontario: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 1987.

[In the following essay, Goldberg analyzes the political and intellectual context ofthe duchess of malfi,considering contemporary discussions of absolutism, the reign of James I and individualism. Goldberg suggests that Webster was writing against the prevailing worldview of the time.]

Webster's challenge to the rationalistic, hierarchical view of humanity that was the cornerstone of orthodox Renaissance philosophy is even more poignantthe duchess of malfifrom what had beenthe white devilAs I have already said, the "reason" the Cardinal speaks of is only an instrument of statesmanship. And Ferdinand's assumption that humans are, or should be, better than other animals makes him a destructive force, while his sister's passionate search for her own fulfillment is blessed with a fundamental humility and gentleness. In fact, Webster reversed the traditional hierarchy so that rational ability is lower on the scale of values ​​than the sensory and emotional abilities that humans share with other creatures. The devastating effects of the myth of reason are examined simultaneously at two related levels: the human microcosm and the macrocosm of political society.

the notion that among the creatures of the universe only humans are endowed with reason has always had hierarchical political consequences. Beginning with Plato, the conception of man as a being whose 'inferior' faculties (sensory, emotional) are controlled by the superior faculty of reason implied a social stratification in which the thinkers dominate the doers. In a well-ordered state, as in a well-ordered personality, everything is in its proper place in the hierarchy and fulfilling its proper function. Since the best society is that in which reason reigns supreme, the ideal rulers are those people who have most completely subordinated their other faculties to their reason. It would be as absurd for passionate individuals (or workers) to rule the state as it would be for the human heart (or hand) to rule the human head.

In the tradition of Aquinas and Hooker, this classic concept was supported by a further analogy with God as the supreme intellectual force, ruling the universe through immutable laws of "eternal reason". the "operations of nature," says Saint Thomas Aquinas, "apparently proceed in an orderly manner, even like the operations of a wise man."1Good rulers are like God in that their ruling intelligence creates order and harmony in their realm, just as eternal intelligence created order and harmony throughout the universe.

For Aquino and Hooker, this meant the rule of law. Just as God could never violate the immutable laws of reason and nature that he created, so good rulers would never violate the positive law that was created in the image of divine law.2In its original and orthodox form, the comparison between king and god did not imply that the king could exercise absolute power at his whim. in the seventeenth century, however, the traditional analogies became useful to those who, through a shift in emphasis, could incorporate them into a justification of absolutism. In the writings of Richelieu and James, the traditional association of reason with the ruling class becomes a total identification of law with the king. People are supposed to be reasonable, but actually most are not. Therefore, it is the king's role to impose justice and reason on his subjects. Reason can rule only when sovereign power is absolute:

Common sense leads each of us to see that the rational man should only do what is reasonable, otherwise he would be acting against his nature and consequently against his Creator. It also teaches us that the taller and more conspicuous a person is, the more he must be aware of this principle and the less he must abuse the rational process that is his essence, for the superiority he has over other people demands of him to preserve that part of his nature and purpose expressly given to him by him who elected him for his exaltation.

At this point in the passage, Richelieu faithfully reproduces the orthodox commonplaces of natural law philosophy. this is the "given" part of the argument, easily amenable to "common sense". what he really intends to do is revealed in the following lines:

This rule is the source of another, which teaches us that while we should never want the performance of anything that is not reasonable and fair, neither should we want the performance of anything without it being fulfilled and our mandates with be followed with complete obedience, for otherwise reason would not really reign supreme.3

It is a small step beyond James' statement that "it is not lawful to dispute the secret of the King's power".4

we can now grasp the full meaning of the Duchess's impatience with outward form. That she is reprehensible on both political and sexual grounds according to traditional notions of order is relevant given Webster's position of total antagonism to the supposedly natural system of hierarchies with which he associates with significant historical right tyranny. Thus she violates her inferior position as a woman by courting Antonio; he rejects the notion that his position as ruler requires stricter repression of his animal nature; and she ignores the class structure of her society by marrying her socially inferior. his rebellion on the macrocosmic (social) level is entangled with his rebellion on the microcosmic (personal) level. and the "desert" into which it intentionally enters is the chaotic and indefinite fullness of life once the artificial limitations imposed by a hierarchical ideology have been shed.

The Duchess of Malfi does not believe in universal harmony based on obedience, order and rational limitation. Rather, it proceeds from the premise that personal harmony with the universe depends upon acceptance of the true laws of human nature, which, abandoning the vain pretense of argument, appear to be very similar to those that govern the rest of creation . . if the Duchess is wrong, it is only because she is unaware that her isolated act cannot be contested by society as a whole. As Calderwood puts it, "She displays a disrespect for external realities that is ... dangerously naïve."5He learns this when his former optimism gives way to an acknowledgment of his family's vulnerability. but in cosmic terms it is confirmed. their harmony with nature leads to a harmony within themselves that is not shaken by torments. And the echo Webster creates between the Duchess' claim that she is the Duchess of Malfi Still and Bosola's claim that the stars are still shining perhaps suggests a unity of personality with universal law - a triumph over the Mutability, which normally dominates the sublunar world - defeats the traditionalists on their own soil.

The Duchess is Webster's greatest tribute to human nature. Among those who questioned the natural rights philosophy were those, like Luther and Machiavelli, who viewed human nature as essentially evil. Haydn puts it very well that after centuries of theological conditioning it was inevitable that a naturalistic view of man would mean a degradation of humanity for most people.6the naturalistic image would be contrasted with the traditional ideal image, and people would respond by vigorously dismissing the former as heretical slander or grudgingly accepting it as harsh reality. So it is remarkable that there were those who thought people were irrational and did not consider this cause for complaint. Montaigne agrees with Machiavelli in rejecting the concepts of the "ruling role of reason, the hierarchical composition of the soul, the traditional association of happiness and virtue under right reason". but it differs in that it "still proclaims (with reservations) the essential goodness of human nature".7for montaigne, however, this quality does not lie in the development of a skill that distinguishes humans from animals; on the contrary, their goodness lies precisely in the instinctive qualities they share with other creatures. insideForgiveness,As I have already mentioned, Montaigne viciously attacks reason because it interferes with the proper working of the universal laws of nature. Animals, he says, are kind to their young, ignorant of the art of war, and in many cases loyal to their mates, while humans, with their supposed reason, are incapable of these natural virtues.8insideEssays,this negative emphasis tends to give way to a positive one, an affirmation of man's potential for true integration with the natural good once freed from the shackles of rationalist philosophy.

Webster follows the route of Montaigne and moves away from the iconoclasm ofthe white devilfor confirmation ofthe duchess of malfiHaydn writes of the nature of Montaigne:

she is the indifferent mother of infinite variety and mutability, and her works are all equally good, all children of her fertility in an innocent world of comprehensive systematization and universal ordering principles of degree, profession, etc. she is, if you will, venus genetrix, mother of instincts and senses, biological motivation and uninhibited fertility.9

according to this nature, and not according to the ghostly ideal of the philosophers, men must mold their own conduct, and in itthe duchess of malfiWebster creates such a human being, an intellectual being possessed of the simple virtue and dignity inherent in theForgiveness,montaigne had reserved for the animals. In creating this character, whose natural element is peace and love, and whose last thoughts as he nears a violent death are his children's cough medicine, Webster seems to be saying that it's possible for humans to escape the curse of the Reason. By making them a member of the ruling class, he proposes the extension of this ideal to the level of the macrocosm.

It's strange that Webster's critics don't think highly of the surprising fact that both of his great tragedies have female heroes.10Shakespeare did not write a single tragedy in which the hero was a woman (Cleopatra shares the honor with Antony). Nor did Webster's heroines correspond to the type of suffering woman that was becoming increasingly popular with private theatergoers. In fact, Webster's heroines don't fit any type, which is itself a challenge for audiences accustomed to seeing women on stage as either saints or sinners.

Other challenges are included in these characterizations. In the introduction I mentioned what I think is the most important thing about Webster's heroines: that they combine assertiveness with what was meant by femininity. without in any way implying that this is the caseesSomething like femininity, I want to point out that for Webster and her audience, femininity had to do with an affinity with nature. Notions of fertility as essential to woman's role, of the earth as feminine, of women as creatures of passion and impulse rather than reason, were part of the mindset of the period. It was precisely for this reason that women were not fit heroes: the hero of a tragedy (even if he does not use it) must possess the supreme human faculty, namely reason. Webster's choice to center his tragedies on women is one of the most significant manifestations of his rejection of the hierarchical ideology of his time.11What Webster's protagonists possess to a great extent is not the ability to reason, but the urge to live in harmony with nature.

the psychological opposite of the duchess, as we have seen, is represented by her brothers. perhaps the most intellectually innovative aspect ofthe duchess of malfiis his detailed study of the psychological implications of traditional hierarchical thinking. The ultimate proof of the superiority of the Duchess' concept of natural rights, and the play's greatest irony, is Ferdinand's degeneration to a subhuman level as he suffers from lycanthropy. but the fact that Ferdinand is in dangerous contradiction to the actual laws of nature was symbolically evident all along, since it is he, and not the Duchess, who is throughout the play associated with storms and earthquakes traditionally causing the rupture of the Nature symbolize the universe. tidy. For all her violation of social order, the Duchess is unable to curse the world "to its first chaos" (iv, i, 119), while Ferdinand's mere existence provokes the corresponding storms and whirlwinds that reflect on a cosmic scale his inner turmoil .12

On the individual psychological level, then, the myth of reason is an obstacle to true self-knowledge and self-realization. On the political level, those who act in the name of sanity and order are brutal and tyrannical. the cardinal, like richelieu, finds it convenient to use the word “reason” when it comes to reasons of state. Fernando is more complex, for although the cardinal's ideology is purely secular, Fernando's hierarchical beliefs are bolstered by a very literal interpretation of the traditional analogy between ruler and god. In this respect Fernando bears a striking resemblance to James I, whose political philosophy was a picture of the union of judge, king and god in a single personality. The people, James said, must recognize the king as "a judge appointed over them by God, having power to judge them, but only to be judged by God."13and told his son that God had made the king a "little one".Good,to sit on his throne and rule other people.”14one could not find better words for ferdinand's self-image, which i have already discussed from a less political point of view. In his characterization of Ferdinand, Webster developed the doctrine of divine right and combined political theory with its psychological counterpart in self-worship. I didn't have to go far. James' speech to Parliament in 1609 would have been sufficient in itself to provide the raw material for Ferdinand's portrait:

Kings are rightly called gods because they exercise some sort or semblance of divine power on earth... they make and bring to naught their subjects: they have power to rise and tear down; of life and death. … they have power to exalt the low and bring down the high, and make their subjects like men in chess; a pawn to capture a bishop or a knight.fifteen

It is a similarly awesome egoism that we feel in Ferdinand as he divinely destroys the Duchess, an egoism that finds satisfaction in the possession of absolute power over another life.

Although Ferdinand worships a hidden god, it would be wrong to conclude that Webster is implying a critique of Puritanism, since strict Calvinism was only one current in a very different movement. and Webster had much in common with the Puritans in his view of the relationship between the individual and the state ecclesiastical establishment. The secular power of the Church, as manifested in the structure of its hierarchy and in the continuing power of the ecclesiastical courts, was an important issue for Jacobean Puritans. In contrast to clerical control of matters of faith and morals, the Puritans emphasized the personal nature of religion and denied ecclesiastical courts the right to punish dissenters. A corollary to the belief that religion could not be enforced by law was the rejection of repentance and a corresponding emphasis on repentance for people who felt their covenant with God had been violated.sixteena similar emphasis on the primacy of the individual covenant led to a rejection of the mainstream church's anti-divorce position. Many Puritans seem to have felt, as Milton would say, that "it is not the outward continuation of marriage that keeps this covenant complete".17Although remarriage after divorce was forbidden by law, Puritan ministers repeatedly performed such marriages.18

this series of interconnected ideas is repeated in boththe white deviljthe duchess of malfiThe treatment of marriage in both works could be summed up in the Puritan thesis that "sending love andCompassion,Prohibiting aversion to nature's guilt instinct is not within the purview of any law.19this is perhaps an important issuetheMain theme – both works. Another important issue is the harmfulness of the alliance between church and state. inthe white devilthe secular power of the church is attacked in Webster's portrayal of the cardinal as judge and avenger. inthe duchess of malfi,Where the fusion of church and state is symbolized by the fraternal relationship of the cardinal and Ferdinand, clerical control of personal morality is at its most devastating. both works clearly show that far from sanctifying the state, the temporal power of the church only facilitates tyranny.

but the most striking echo of the Puritan doctrine inthe duchess of malfiIt is the dramatized antithesis of penance and penance that was built into the conflict between Ferdinand and the Duchess. Fernando's desire to atone for his sister's "petite" body springs not from a real desire to make her a penitent, but from his own perverse needs. she, on the other hand, converses with god in her own way, despite her indifference to the outward forms of religion. in this sense (as in the partner marriage of the duchess and antonio),the duchess of malfiis much closer to the Puritan ideology thanthe white devil; while earlier work shares the Puritan criticism,the duchess of malfiin the character of his heroine he expresses the puritanical ideal of the individual conscience. Speaking of Clarissa Halowe, Christopher Hill says:

Clarissa's position is a logical application of the Protestant theory of justification by faith, with its emphasis on the believer's inner intention and not on his outer actions. Purity of motive and chastity of spirit are more important than formal integrity of conduct.20

I believe the Duchess embodies this doctrine with a fervor and heroic grandeur that was no longer possible in Richardson's day. Confident in her own choices, impatient with ritual and superstition, humble when alone in the presence of God, and fiercely devoted to the Puritan ideal of marriage, the Duchess is a consummate Puritan heroine.

We can begin to feel the power of this game in its own time. According to Stone, the main causes of the decline in respect for the aristocracy in pre-revolutionary England were:

the widespread influence of the rise of individualism, the Calvinist belief in a spiritual hierarchy of the elect, and the Puritan exaltation of private conscience that influenced attitudes toward hierarchy and obedience in secular society.21

The spiritual hierarchy to which the Duchess belongs contrasts with the power hierarchy represented by her brothers. As her earthly power crumbles, the Duchess's spiritual strength prevails. nor is this a message from another world, as bosola is moved by his example to fight for what is right in this world.22

but ifthe white deviljthe duchess of malfithey express a revolutionary individualism akin to the Puritan emphasis on individual conscience, they do not share the Puritan belief in the potential regenerative power of a purified common law. while the Puritan party of Webster's day saw common law as the basis of resistance to established power, boththe white deviljthe duchess of malfiThey represent the futility of invoking any law when the law is synonymous with power. Vittoria appeals to the law at her trial - and her demands anticipate the legal reforms that were to take place during the Revolutionary period - but there is no point in invoking the law in the Monticelso court. inthe white devil,the destruction of the individual is a tragic inevitability.

inthe duchess of malfi,Moreover, the only kind of law that exists is the law Bacon spoke of when he admitted that there is "a kind of force that claims to be law and a kind of law that claims to be law." than tastes of righteousness".23In a fit of remorse, Fernando accuses Bosola of executing the Duchess without a warrant:

With what authority did you execute?
that damn sentence
for your-
mine? I was your judge
made every ceremonial form of the law,
Condemn you to nothingness? formed a full jury
Do you bring your verdict to the i'th court?

(iv, ii, 320-325)

At first glance, Ferdinand's statement seems to imply that there is a difference between law and violence in the world ofthe duchess of malfiIn reality, this difference is as obscure and elusive as in the real world of Jacobean England. The realities of the Jacobean legal system - or lack thereof - are reflected in the world ofthe duchess of malfiFerdinand may currently regret his disdain for forms of common law, but the fact remains that he lives in a world where such disdain for those in power is possible. As ruler of his small kingdom and judge, he directs the legal apparatus of the state. That he's not used to worrying about whether or not he's following the rules of the law is evident when he ends his little speech about the ceremonies of the law by declaring that he's just as determined to execute Bosola as they are duchess . Essentially, like James I, Fernando believes he is above the law. and it literally is.

In such a world of lions and foxes, the Duchess cannot survive. The beauty it embodies is a real potential for humanity (Antonio says it "enlightens the times to come" [i,i,213]), but it is being destroyed by a world where good comes with power seems incompatible. and yet at the end of the play there is a strong suggestion that good could and should be stronger than it is. because the world has changed even slightly as a result of the life and death of the Duchess. part of the hierarchy has collapsed and revealed its inner weaknesses. and a man has learned that it is necessary to act according to the dictates of conscience, for there is no greater defeat than a life devoted to cynical obedience to a corrupt master.

Critics were very mixed when asked about Bosola's role in the play. While some see Act Fifth as a conversion implying some kind of hope for the future, others feel that Bosola does little or nothing to dispel the sense of a "meaningless universe".24what is left at the end of the work. Clifford Leech, for example, concludes that "hope cannot run very deep" at the end of the play because bosola is a pathetic excuse for a hero:

the key to the dominating tension at the end of the work lies in the presentation of bosola. In this last act we have seen him sympathize with Antonio and his late wife but ruthlessly killing an innocent servant, accidentally killing Antonio and always complaining of carelessness. as an instrument of justice it is pathetically imperfect, while it had shown itself to be a torturer and executioner.25

In a more recent variation on this view, Jacqueline Pearson argues that when the focus shifts from the Duchess to Bosola and Antonio at the end of the play, the general focus "shifts from tragedy to reversals and parodies of tragedy". According to Pearson, Webster's goal is "to define tragedy objectively and to place the tragic assertion of a heroic individual in the perspective of an anti-heroic society".26

While I agree with critics who refuse to orchestrate Bosola's act five transition into a heroic symphony, I would also argue that precisely because Bosola does not suddenly and miraculously transform into a tragic hero, we can believe in his transformation has. and because we can believe that its change is not just a literary convention, that it might actually happen in life, the play should not make us despair.

Webster seems to be saying that although the Duchess embodies an ideal, it is the bosolas of the world, "pathetically imperfect" as they are, who determine how those ideals affect events. That Bosola is crucial is such a troubling point that Webster spends an entire act of the play trying to impress him with the audience. Leech's dissatisfaction with Bosola as "an instrument of justice" is understandable. Fortinbras would do a cleaner job. Not only is Bosola ethically flawed, capable of utter coldness in the face of human suffering, and almost incurably opportunistic, but also (I can't think of a better word to describe it) creepy. I think it's this rot, which he seems to exude like bad breath, that makes it so difficult for us to accept him as the Duchess's avenger.

and yet the Duchess herself sees such goodness in Bosola that she makes the fatal mistake of trusting him at what I consider to be the climax momentUps and downsIn the game. The Duchess' tragic mistake (to use another old-fashioned term) has been that she was cocky all along.27At a time when he desperately needs friends, Bosola offers a lengthy defense of Antonio, whom the Duchess has tried to frame as guilty of dishonest management. there is nothing in it for bosola. As opportunistic as it may be, your move would be to back your denunciation, hoping to stand up in their eyes. but it does the opposite. He fully subscribes to the position that she is wrong, that Antonio is being dishonest. Concluding that Bosola is a good man, the Duchess fatally confides in him her secrets: that she is married to Antonio and that they are about to flee. Bosola finally expresses his astonishment that virtue (antonio) should be so recognized and rewarded by authority (the duchess). When the scene ends and the Duchess uses Bosola to help her and her family, we wonder what Bosola will do. I think we really do know.

bosola will return to his boss and report what he knows. he hates himself for it. Her defense of Antonio, her praise of the Duchess for marrying Antonio, are sincere; but he cannot act on his ethical premises because bosola is basically a slave, with the spirit and will of a slave who at the same time abhors and humiliates himself before his master.

A dominant image of the play, expressed in the opening scene, is a comparison between a virtuous court and a fountain of clean water, as opposed to a desecrated court or fountain, which pollutes everything when it falls. The work confirms the picture: the Duchess is a pure source; Ferdinand, the strongest stream, carries the infection. Bosola, a mass of conflicting impulses, is infected by the power of Ferdinand's disease. Called to exploit his worst impulses, although the love of good is always present, he acquiesces in one way or another. I don't think he's really a torturer. As I read Act Four, I see Bosola as an inquisitive, inquisitive character, testing the Duchess' seemingly limitless gift of sanity. He is Ferdinand's tool and all that entails, and as such he cannot avoid making Ferdinand's wishes come true. However, he asks Fernando to stop the torture. he would like to see the Duchess overthrown because that would justify his cynicism. but he would love to see her win because he loves her.

It is in the nature of tragedy that if the characters had known from the start what they know by the end, the tragedy would never have happened. Had the Duchess not trusted Bosola, she and her family might have escaped. Had Bosola had the courage to stop being Fernando's cesspool, his trust would have been justified. when bosola finally reverses the course of the current, something very important has happened. By giving us Bosola as the avenger instead of, say, Antonio, Webster makes the deeply unsettling implication that it's up to bumbling sinners like us to resist infection by corrupt authorities.


  1. Hiram Haydn,the counter-Renaissance(New York: Scribners, 1950), p. 132.

  2. ebd., p. 133.

  3. the political testament of Cardinal Richelieu,Arrangement and Trans. Henry Bertram Hill (Madison, Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin Press, 1961), p. 71-72.

  4. see above, Chapter 3, p. 103

  5. Jakob L. Kessel, "the duchess of malfi: Styles of Ceremony“, in Norman Rabkin, Hrsg.,20th-century interpretations of the Duchess of Malfi(englewood cliffs, n.j.: prentice-hall, 1968), pág. 79.

  6. Hey,the counter-renaissance,Page. 382

  7. ebd., p. 405.

  8. the complete essays of montaigne,Editing and Trans. Donald Frame (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1960), pp. 10-11. 130-1

  9. Hey,the counter-renaissance,Page. 465

  10. Muriel Bradbrook notes Webster's general interest in women's issues (John Webster: Citizen and Playwright[New York: Columbia University Press, 1980], pp. 119, 142, 430 and elsewhere), but Webster's sympathy for women was generally noted in more general works on Elizabethan and Jacobean drama (see above, Introduction, note 31). simon pastor doesn't concern himself with itthe white devil,but he finds that having the Duchess at the heart of his game makes a differencethe duchess of malfifrom other works ca. 1612 which have active and sexual female characters (Amazons and warriors[NewYork: St. Martin's Press, 1981], S. . 116-118).

  11. There was an unfortunate tendency among some feminist critics of Shakespeare to accept the bard's refusal to place women at the center of his tragedies without protest. thus linda bamber is content to find women at the center of comedy: “the female other … is shakespeare's natural ally in the style of celebratory comedy. Precisely because it is different, precisely because its inner workings are hidden from its author, it seems endowed with precisely those qualities that make comedy: a continuous and reliable identity, self-acceptance, a talent for ordinary pleasures.Comic Women, Tragic Men: A Study in Gender and Gender in Shakespeare[Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1982], p. 41). Paula S. follows a similar train of thought. Berggren in "The Role of Woman: Female Sexuality as Power in Shakespeare's Plays" (inthe role of women: a feminist critique of shakespeare,Editing Carolyn Lenz, et al. [Urban: University of Illinois Press, 1980]). Berggren says, “The comic world requires kids to keep racing to ensure community and continuity; the tragic world, abhorring such consolation, consequently turns its back on a female lead. the women who exist in tragedy must leave their mark by rejecting their femininity, through sublime sacrifice, or as midwives of the hero's passion” (pp. 18-19). Berggren refers tothe duchess of malfiin a footnote, but his generalizations stand.

    Of course, according to these critics, the Duchess "possesses comedy qualities in abundance." Webster's work shows that these qualities can also contribute to tragedy. Shakespeare did not writethe duchess of malfibecause he was more committed than Webster to rationalist ideology, with its built-in hierarchical and sexist implications.

    Shakespeare is an imposing figure, of course, but we must resist what a recent critic has dubbed "the dominance of the patriarchal bard" if it seriously leads us to think of women as good for a laugh. (see Kathleen Mcluskie, "The Patriarchal Bard: Feminist Critique and Shakespeare:Rey Learjmeasure for measure,” in Jonathan Dollimore and Alan Sinfield, eds.,Political Shakespeare: New Essays in Cultural Materialism[ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1985]).

  12. on storms etc. see e.g. Subway. w. labranz,the picture of the Elizabethan world(New York: Macmillan, 1944), p. 86.

  13. the political works of james iedited by charles mcilwain (cambridge: harvard university press, 1918), p. xiii.

  14. ebd., p. xxxv.

  15. "An Address to the Lords and Commons of Parliament at Whitehall", inpolitical works,Page. 308

  16. Christoph Hill,Century of Revolution, 1603-1714(London: Nelson, 1961), S. 79-80.

  17. the doctrine and discipline of divorce,incomplete works in proseGen. Hrsg., Don Wolfe (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1963), vol. ii, p. 258.

  18. Ernst Sirluck, ed., vol. ii de milton,complete works in prosep. 146. The relationship between the Puritan ideology regarding marriage and the role of women on the one hand and English Renaissance drama on the other hand is one of Juliet Dusinberre's main concerns inShakespeare and the nature of women.(London: macmillan, 1975).

  19. teaching and disciplinePage. 345

  20. Christoph Hill,Puritanism and Revolution(London: Secker and Warburg, 1958), p. 385

  21. Lawrence Stein,The Crisis of the Aristocracy(Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1967), p. 351.

  22. It's instructive to think of the Duchess as the type of her in light of Simon Shepherd's discussion of Spencer's Britomartwarrior woman(Amazons and warriors[NewYork: St. Martin's Press, 1981]): “britomart's lover is the gentleman who represents justice; she herself represents chastity. true righteousness can be saved and restored only when chastity overcomes its opposite, lust” (p. 5); "In search not only of its own destiny, but also of its historical commitment to Great Britain, britomart sets out for artegall" (p. 27); "The true warrior will challenge men to greater courage and their true militancy" (p. 28). Pastor reminds us that Webster was working in a tradition that combined female virtue with political rejuvenation.

  23. quoted by William Holdsworth,A History of English Law(London: methuen, 1922), vol. v, p. 249.

  24. Norman Berlin, "the duchess of malfi: Act v and Gender”,gender3 (1970), p. 360).

  25. Sanguijuela Clifford,webster: the duchess of malfi(London: Arnold, 1963), p. 27

  26. Tragedy and Tragicomedy in the Works of John Webster(Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1980), pp. 89-95. up his chapterthe duchess of malfiessentially reaffirms the position expressed by berlin in the article cited above.

  27. compare leonora leet brodwin: "Your tragic error lies not in choosing love, but in overestimating the ability of a hostile world to accept your vision of moral health" (Elizabethan love tragedy1587-1625 [New York: New York University Press, 1971], p. 286). My perception of this work agrees with Brodwin's in several respects, notably where he says that the Duchess's "frightening madness" lay in her desire to satisfy both the demands of her size and womanhood" (p. 284 ).

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Source: luckyj, christina. "Concentric design:the duchess of malfi" inA Winter Serpent: Dramatic Form in John Webster's Tragedies,p. 126-47. Athen: Georgia University Press, 1989.

[In this excerpt, luckyj applies its model of Webster's use of repetition and juxtaposition to the structure ofthe duchess of malfiluckyj's analysis attempts to fit the fifth act into the play's structure, responding to the common argument that the act does not fit the coherent pattern of the first four.]

even more thanthe white devil,Webster arranges scenes inthe duchess of malficoncentric, creating a strong central dramatic focus framed by starkly contrasting plot sequences. One of the most obvious examples of this type of scenic construction is iii.ii. The scene is important to the plot as it traces the Duchess and Antonio's rapid demise, from the intimacy of the bedroom swap that opens the scene, to their separation, to Antonio's unwitting betrayal of Bosola by Bosola, the Duchess. this is the clear linear movement of the long scene. However, the internal organization of the scene complicates this simple linearity by establishing significant contrasts and emphasis. the scene is clearly divided into five dramatic sequences; the first two stand side by side, as do the last two, while the central sequence links the two main parts. finally, the final sequence of the scene is reminiscent of the first; the Duchess's virtue endures even if her fortune fails to materialize.

The first part of the scene consists of two dramatic episodes clearly juxtaposed. The affectionate, domestic conversation between Antonio and the Duchess as they prepare for bed stands in stark contrast to the highly charged conversation between Ferdinand and the Duchess that follows. Between the two interviews, after Antonio and Cariola have left the stage and before Ferdinand has entered, the Duchess sits alone in front of her mirror. speaks aloud with warmth and confidence to an Antonio who is no longer there.

Doesn't it change the color of my hair? When my hair is gray I'll make the whole court powder their hair with arras to be like me: you have reason to love me; I took you into my heart before you deigned to ask for the keys.


This is the silent center of the episode, visually emphasizing both the Duchess's strength and vulnerability. Her strength is conveyed through her confident pose, even when she is at her most physically vulnerable (almost certainly clad only in a nightgown). While her vulnerability emerges as she anxiously searches for signs of aging, her confidence shows in her light-hearted response to her own question. The movement of thoughts in the Duchess's monologue is characteristic. From a fearful sense of her own mortality, she moves to a confident reconciliation with it, and finally a confident confession of her own courage. She will exhibit the same characteristic ways of thinking and speaking at the time of death. But as she speaks, Fernando walks in. As she talks about the keys to her heart, her brother uses the keys to her bedroom (a trait pointed out in the previous scene) to gain entry (Forker 350). The lines perfectly crystallize the contrast between the two worlds: the emotional world of the lovers is juxtaposed with the raw and literal world of Ferdinand. the scenic quality of the key draws attention to the ironic contrast. However, the moment, even as it contrasts Fernando and Antonio, also implicitly compares them in their relationship with the Duchess. As Ferdinand sneaks into her bedroom, the Duchess seems to be leading the lines to him. Family ties are as inevitable as love ties. the central point of the first half of iii.ii places equal emphasis on the Duchess's strength and vulnerability. The Duchess is framed by Antonio's love and Fernando's anger, leaving her vulnerable but affirming her strength.

The dramatic encounters that frame this powerful pivotal moment display both parallels and contrasts. In the first, Antonio answers a question from Cariola about choosing between wisdom, wealth, and beauty. his joyful reply implies that judgment itself is confused in the face of love and beauty. With the case of Paris, Antonio introduces a series of mythological associations that become significant in the context of the scene. Of course, Paris, like Antonio, chose beauty, and the result was the Trojan War, which Helen's family waged in revenge. At the second meeting, Fernando points to another triumvirate, this time of love, death and reputation. his identification with the call is particularly evident in the performance when he tells the parable in direct speech.

"stay," says the call, "don't leave me; for it is my nature, once I part with a man I find, they will never find me again.” and so to you: you have given your hand to the call, and you have made it invisible: so farewell . I will never see you again.


If in the first section love and beauty are clearly chosen by the Duchess and Antonio at the expense of wisdom and wealth, here reputation deserts them, in Fernando's self-appointed image. The design is an emblematic affirmation of the Duchess' choice for beauty at the expense of reputation. however, the emblematic level is opposed to the dramatic level of meaning. In fact, Ferdinand only introduces himself as his sister's reputation; Antonio only plays Paris. formal and emblematic identifications point to the contradictions and ironies of the dramatic texture. Though in some ways the Duchess sacrificed her reputation for love, in other ways she's been absurdly punished for doing the right thing. the formal symmetry of the design not only enables a surprising shift in focus, but also invites a comparison of the meaning of clearly contradictory episodes.

At the center of the whole scene after Fernando's attack on the Duchess is a brief synopsis and anticipation of his action. Antonio and Cariola reappear; In a repeat of Fernando's attack on the Duchess, Antonio threatens Cariola with a gun and swings Fernando's dagger at an imaginary Fernando. Antonio's simultaneous exit and Bosola's entry on line 160 lend new apprehension and urgency to the earlier incident. The Duchess circles again from her lover to her enemy, a scenic image of the twist of fate. The choreography of this moment is later repeated in iii.v when Antonio leaves the stage at the same time that Bosola enters with a guard. Again a dramatic crisis is conjured up visually, the about-face of the Duchess. It ranges from saying goodbye to his family to announcing the arrival of a squad of men. Whether or not Bosola and his officers wear Vizards, the Duchess gives them an impersonal meaning when she says:

When the wheel of fortune is overloaded with princes, it moves the weight quickly.


While drawing attention to herself as a victim of fortune, she also maintains control of the stage and asks Bosola a series of questions. Her conscious allegorization of her enemies as agents of fortune also minimizes her impact on them as Ferdinand's henchmen. In both scenes, he controls the exits and entrances of the other characters, ordering them up and down the stage and standing firmly in the middle.

The second part of iii.ii, like the first, is constructed as a pair of contrasting segments with parallel features. In the first section, Antonio's "feigned crime" (iii.ii.179) is performed by the Duchess and Antonio on stage before an audience composed of Bosola and the officers; In the second section, Antonio's mock defense of Bosola is played in front of the Duchess and Cariola. in both cases the simulation is of course clear to the audience in the theater, although it is accepted by the audience on stage. The officers believe and despise the Duchess' account of Antonio, while the Duchess believes and trusts Bosola's account of Antonio. in both sequences, simulation intertwines with reality. In the Duchess's confrontation with Antonio, she rejects him and declares her love for him in a series of ambiguities. Bosola's speech about Antonio is both a subterfuge (since he is an informer) and a clear reiteration of his usual musings on the abuse of good men like himself. In either case, the onstage audience chooses the version of the "play" they are willing to hear and accept, although the backstage audience remains aware of the ambiguity. the juxtaposition of the two episodes serves to illuminate, in a narrative crisis, the contrasting perspectives that affect the work as a whole. there are those - like the officers - who are always ready to believe the worst of others, while others - like the Duchess - are always ready to believe the best. The scene is constructed to emphasize the contrast between them.

in the final section of the scene, the staging is concentric and visually reminiscent of that of the Morality Game. The Duchess stands in the center, accompanied on one side by Bosola, who, with her words of praise for Antonio, persuades her to reveal their secret marriage, and on the other by Cariola, who quietly tries to prevent her mistress from doing so. Things. Revelations The role of Cariola in this scene is not immediately apparent from the text, but emerges primarily in the performance; she cannot simply stand by and watch the Duchess reveal the secret she has been so urgently commanded to do. the duchess finally listens to bosola and ignores cariola. the scene derives its effect from its moralistic mise-en-scène; however, its meaning is much more complex. The Duchess gives in to Bosola, her demonic tempter, hastening her downfall, but the confident directness of her confession is more a sign of her virtue than her weakness. The final segment brings the scene full circle, dramatically affirming the Duchess's virtue even as her enemies gain the upper hand in the plot.

The second scene of the third act is long and action-packed. its formal design must have greatly simplified the construction of long scenes like this one. Webster constructs the scene to emphasize important contrasts as the narrative progresses. The focus is on Antonio and Bosola's hasty exits and entrances, which reveal both the Duchess's unwavering centrality and the crucial turn in her fate. The parallelism between the segments that form each half of the scene and frame its center is too deliberate to be accidental. In the first half of the scene, Antonio's playful banter is juxtaposed with Ferdinand's psychotic rage; In the second half, the Duchess' account of Antonio's "crimes" is followed by Bosola's account of his virtues, the officers' pettiness for the Duchess' trust. In both the first and second parts of the scene, Webster places the episodes side-by-side for maximum dramatic effect. Both Ferdinand's sudden anger and Bosola's sudden warmth are dramatic surprises. Both characters exploit the Duchess's vulnerability, finding her practically alone (in the first case, after Antonio and Cariola's departure; in the second, after the officers' massive departure). The two-part structure of the scene allows an important concept to be emphasized through repetition and variation. Again and again, the Duchess's love decision is questioned by various forms of hate. Indeed, Ferdinand's insane rage and Bosola's coldly divided nature build upon a whole world of mundane evil represented in the officers. However, the scene begins and ends with the Duchess' clear choice of love and trust. As the heart that binds the two together shows, the Duchess remains in control even when her fortune collapses.

not all of Webster's scenes inthe duchess of malfiare built according to this concentric plan. This scene, however, shows that Webster was a meticulous dramatic craftsman and a master of what he calls "artful scene structure" (Shirley 4). Different parts of the scene explore different aspects of Webster's main theme, contributing not only to the linearity of the plot but also to the elaboration of the playwright's vision. The analogous relationship between different segments of the scene, like that between different scenes or groups of scenes, unites Webster's "discontinuities" into a coherent but varied whole.

the same playwright who meticulously observed each scene was accused of neglect throughout the play. Webster has often been criticized for his alleged inability to put the pieces of his work together into an overall vision. The main purpose of this critique isthe duchess of malfilast act of in this chapter it is considered the second of a two-part structure which, like that ofthe white devil,allows for a significant reversal of the overall pattern. as the scene of the processthe white devil,the death scene ofthe duchess of malfiIt is a climax scenario that completes the first part of the work. Antagonists and protagonists swap places at the center of both works. In the earlier work, the central scene only hints at a vision of the universal suffering in Giovanni's Lament; in the later play this vision is realized in the death scene of the Duchess. The playwright, clearly understanding the importance of set design, applied the same formal principles to each play as a whole.

No doubtthe duchess of malfishows evidence of the "split structure" identified in many works by Shakespeare and his contemporaries.1play likeRichard II,with his investment in the characters and fortunes of richard and bolingbroke, orWinter's Tale,While in the second part Polyxene takes over Leontes' earlier role as a jealous tyrant, they are designed in two parts that mirror each other. And, as Emrys Jones notes, "most of Shakespeare's other stories and tragedies gain clarity when viewed as works conceived in two unequal movements" (81).2the full form ofthe duchess of malfiis probably the closest to that ofDorf.It has been suggested that Shakespeare's play, like Webster's, can be divided into a long first part (ending in iv.iv) and a shorter second part. in the first part, Hamlet is the avenger of his father's murder; in the second part, laertes takes on this role, while hamlet becomes the object of his revenge. Emrys Jones notes that the play's two-part structure illustrates the reversal of roles: 'The second part of the play begins with a new situation, an ironic reversal of the first. Laertes is now the wounded son whose father was killed; Hamlet is now, from this point of view, the murderer who must be put to death' (80). in the second part ofthe duchess of malfi,Evil avengers become objects of revenge. as inDorf,Shakespeare complicates our view of the hero by presenting him as a murderer in the second part, that is, insteadthe duchess of malfi,Webster changes our perspective on the villains by portraying them as victims in the final act.

the two parts ofthe duchess of malfithey are clearly defined. The play continues in one direction, culminating in the death of the Duchess and then changing direction for the final act. The Duchess is present in the first part, absent in the second part. there are distinct differences in tone and characterization between the two voices; The Aragon brothers are cruel monsters in the first part, pathetic victims in the second.3Critics have frequently noted the shift from a strong, unified world of order and values ​​in the first part to a fragmented world of disorder and chaos in the second part. However, just as important as the differences between the two parts are the parallels. in the first part, the Aragonese brothers take their "vengeance" on the Duchess for marrying below her; In the second part, Bosola exacts his revenge on the brothers for the murder of the Duchess. on both sides revenge achieves its desired goal while at the same time proving futile; Victims of revenge stick to their "crimes" and avoid simple formulations of necessity or justice. the bosola actions in particular serve to emphasize the symmetry of the two parts of the work. Before and after the Duchess's death, Bosola appears as a strangely confused figure in which obvious self-interest always masks a strong sense of loyalty and virtue. in the first part he murders the Duchess in order to appear to Fernando as a 'true servant' (iv.ii.333) and in search of his 'reward' (iv.ii.294); in the second part he turns against the Aragonese brothers who not only murdered the Duchess but also neglected his services. in the first part, bosola incriminates the duchess and hands her over to her brothers; in the second part he repeats the action by handing Julia over to the cardinal's mercy, thus becoming an unwilling accomplice in his murder. in both parts, Bosola's betrayal is emphasized by stage actions; twice he accepts a key from one of the Aragonese brothers (i.i.280; v.ii.327). In the first part, Fernando hires Bosola to spy on the Duchess; In the second part, the cardinal commissions Bosola to spy on Antonio. Bosola almost involuntarily kills the Duchess in the first part and accidentally murders Antonio in the second part. The dignified deaths of the two protagonists are followed by desperate struggles for the life of Cariola in the first part and the cardinal in the second, both of whom are eventually killed by Bosola.

The repeated actions that connect the first part to the second clearly undermine Bosola's vengeance and challenge the ethics of vengeance itself. more important, however, is the readjustment of the perspective on the villains that make such parallels clear. to a certain extent, the victims and perpetrators of revenge have simply swapped places in the last act, when in the second part bosola can be considered the self-appointed representative of the duchess. When the antagonists are put in the same position as the protagonist, victims of a relentless and driving revenge action, the audience's view of them must change. Bosola, despite his seemingly radical reformation at the end of Act IV, remains consistent in both parts of the play; Fernando and the cardinal change as the world of the play changes. The inhuman monsters of the first part of the play become desperate, self-questioning men who struggle to maintain their inhumanity through their defenses against violence or insanity, but ultimately fail. Tomlinson points out that in his speech at the beginning of v.v "the cardinal lives here in a sense in which he was not before. he speaks personally, not just with depersonalized brilliance, and is genuinely at a loss when asked about hell... so actually everyone else, including mad ferdinand in particular: "choking is a very peaceful death..." in the beautifully incorporated Jacobean horror about it, there is a darkly conspicuous note of genuine feeling' (153). the "real feeling" that the play's villains suddenly feel in the final act connects them to the Duchess at the start of the play. the symmetry of the structure of two partsthe duchess of malfiit embraces both the protagonists and the antagonists in a shared tragic vision. And in Webster's tragic vision, as in Shakespeare's, human greatness is closely related to human weakness.

Strengthening the connections between the opposing forces of his tragedy, Webster ties the two parts of the play together with his structural use of the recurring idea of ​​madness. In the first part, Webster shows that the love and hate that drives his work are rooted in the same mysterious and irrational impulses, but have different effects. Fernando's delusions of conscience connect him in the second part with the tender humanity of the Duchess in the first part.

The madness first appears prominently in the tender courtship scene between the Duchess and Antonio. In response to the Duchess' marriage proposal, Antonio says anxiously:

Ambition, madam, is the folly of a great man, kept not in chains and locked rooms, but in bright, beautiful quarters, and girded with the wild noise of chattering visitors, which drives him incurably mad


Maynard Mack has called this an “umbrella speech” (26), a speech that allows a consciousness larger than that of its speaker to hide underneath. He allows all the dramatic possibilities of madness to emerge early in the play, but avoids associating them solely with the villains. the speech anticipates the prison scenes, of course, but in its immediate context brings the idea of ​​madness to an otherwise "beautiful" and "light" love scene. Love is its own folly, Webster seems to imply; This is further emphasized by Cariola at the end of the scene when he accuses the Duchess of "terrible madness" (i.i.506). Although the Duchess acts in accordance with her desire to marry Antonio, her desire is neither logical nor rational, but "crazy" in its own way. In the picturesque version of the Duchess's story, Webster's main source, the madness of the lovers is repeatedly invoked. In one of his frequent moralizing digressions, the painter admonishes: "But if we consider the force of love's anger, that as soon as it has gripped men's minds, we see how wonderful its effects are, and with what tension and tense force that madness vanquished the wisest and strongest in the world” (195). Although Webster deviates from the painter by treating the lovers in a much more sympathetic way, he still retains clues to the madness of love. On stage, Webster decides to introduce his audience to the irrational not only through Bosola and Ferdinand, but also through the lovers themselves. During the first part of the play, other characters constantly draw attention to Antonio's erratic behavior. "You tremble" (i.i.450), the Duchess comments to him in the first scene. "It seems to me that it's very cold, and yet you're sweating: / you look like crazy" (ii.iii.19-20), bosola says to antonio afterwards. While the lovers remain innocent, the "madness" of their love rather than the "madness" of Fernando's hatred seems to drive the plot forward, making them seem less like their victims. By the end of Act Two, when Ferdinand screams that he has “gone mad” (II.v.2), the lovers have already settled the language of the play.

the set design illuminates the different but equally irrational perspectives of love and hate at the beginning of act three. At the end of III.I, Ferdinand and Bosola exchange views on the nature of love. from his sick perspective, love is "witchcraft" (iii.i.63) and "witchcraft" (iii.i.78). At the beginning of the next scene, a seemingly pointless discussion between Antonio and Cariola revolves around the pointlessness of judgments in love matters. From Antonio's perspective as a lover, love is a magical force that transforms lovers "into an olive tree, a pomegranate, a mulberry... flowers, precious stones, or outstanding stars" (iii.ii.31-32). Bosola's and Ferdinand's vision of love as a demonic force of astrological origin is contrasted with Antonio's vision of love's mysterious, mythological, transformative powers. Both perspectives, though decidedly opposed, see love as grounded in irrationality and mystery. Likewise, the virtuous love of Antonio and the Duchess and the baseless hatred of their enemies are ultimately mysterious and inexplicable. Neither of these exchanges has an obvious function in the plot, but their juxtaposition illuminates the nature of the play's central opposition and links all of the play's characters to a form of madness.

Of course, Webster distinguishes between different types of insanity in his work. Unlike the painter, who sometimes blames lovers' passions, sometimes their enemies, Webster clearly portrays lovers' "madness" as a form of reason. Their decision to marry, risky and irrational as it may be, brings them new ones Courage and a clear vision. In the first part of the play, Webster contrasts his sanity with Ferdinand's psychotic anger. however, in the second part of the play, after the death scene, Fernando plunges into real madness. While in the first part Fernando suffers from delusions fostered by his own sick 'imagination' (ii.v.40), in the second part these delusions have become images of his own actions and his horror at those actions. Just as the lovers' "madness" in the first part is a sane response to a mad world, so Ferdinand's madness in the final act is a "healthy" response that the world thinks is mad. Before her death the Duchess weeps,

Above me the sky seems molten bronze, the earth flaming brimstone, but I'm not crazy.


Her hallucinations are a fitting response to the chaos engulfing her and a testament to her sanity. After the death scene, Fernando's lycanthropy and "cruel sore eyes" (v.ii.64) are fitting acknowledgments of his own cruelty. the structural repetition of the madness in the play allows Webster to both distinguish between his opposing groups and hint at their shared experience. the divided structure of the work emphasizes the connections between the lovers and their enemies; Ferdinand's madness in the final act connects him to the Duchess and Antonio as much as he remembers their earlier outbursts of anger.4In fact, in the 1985 National Theater production, the connection between Fernando and the Duchess was visually reinforced. In the first part, the Duchess was the only character to wear white in an all-black cast, while in the final act only Fernando wore white. Her torn gown closely resembled a shabby version of the Duchess's white nightgown, further emphasizing Ferdinand's own admission that "they were twins" (iv.ii.267). "As their physical twinning suggests," notes Forker, "the two characters are both complementary and opposite" (312).

At the structural center of the play, in the death scene, the madness mask functions as a rich and complex dramatic focus for the madness throughout the play. Many critics have noted that "the masque and its characters paint a grotesque picture of the play's world, and some of the crazies fairly accurately portray some of the play's central characters" (Pearson 86). Ferdinand's raging jealousy, the cardinal's misogyny, and Bosola's decadent cynicism are clearly foreshadowed by the madman's frenzy. For example, the first speech of the second madman is reminiscent of the three male characters:

Hell is just a hothouse where the demons keep blowing up the souls of women on hollow irons and the fire never goes out.


the speech is reminiscent of the images of bosola and the cardinal about the production of glass for female sexuality as well as ferdinand's violent fantasy of having the lovers "burn in a charcoal basket" (ii.v.67). yet at the same time the speech describes the Duchess's experience in the play; his enemies are determined to destroy his "soul" by inflicting on him "the greatest torment that souls in hell feel - / in hell: that they must live and cannot die" (iv.i.70-71 ). The discourse merges the torturer's vision and the tortured's experience. The speech of the first madman is also ambiguous:

Hasn't the day of reckoning come yet? I'll bring it closer for perspective, or I'll make a jar that will set the whole world on fire in no time: I can't sleep; My pillow is stuffed with a litter of porcupines.


The mad astrologer's desire to hasten the end of the world is reminiscent of Ferdinand's impatience for the Duchess to be assassinated and the Duchess's urgent death wish. The apocalyptic imagery reflects both the Duchess' vision of the earth bathed in "flaming brimstone" and Ferdinand's frequent use of fire imagery to describe his vengeance (ii.v.24,47). The Madmen's Speeches are general enough to suggest all the main characters of the play. The song that opens the masque suggestively fuses the image of the Duchess of Ferdinand as a "screech owl" (iii.ii.89) with the Duchess's tenacity to remain "still the Duchess of Malfi" (iv.ii. 142). anticipates his composure at his death:

Like ravens, owls, bulls and bears, we will howl and scream until an annoying noise has clouded your ears and eaten your hearts. finally, when our choir needs air, our bodies are blessed, we will sing like swans to welcome death, and die in love and tranquility.


the masque breaks the distinctions between the duchess and her enemies; each is deeply affected by the other and both yearn for relief from their suffering.

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In many productions of the play, the Duchess herself becomes physically involved in the masquerade. In her 1980 review of the Royal Exchange production, Pearson wrote, "Stooped and angular, with her hair cropped close, she rides among the madmen, throwing herself into the destructive element to master it." Although the Duchess herself explains that she is "not insane" (iv.ii.26), the mask reflects and sets her deep involvement in the chaos that surrounds her. it is a distorted image of both Ferdinand's psychotic frenzy and the horror and despair of the Duchess herself. As Joan Lord comments, the masquerade is "a violent aggravation and liberation of one side of her nature (the undisciplined emotional frenzy) before her sense of." ceremonies and allows her to determine the manner of her death" (314). Throughout the fourth act, the "climax" of the play (Beckerman 42), the Duchess is inseparable from her murderers. A concentrated dramatic image that illuminates the universal chaos in which everyone is involved, The Mask of the Fools encapsulates the connections explored through repetition and juxtaposition in the play's two-part structure.

like the individual scenes examined above,the duchess of malfias a whole it is organized concentrically. all other scenes anticipate or evoke the play's "central reference point" (Beckerman 61), the long death scene at the end of Act Four, marking the end of Part One and the beginning of Part Two. The Duchess' death scene is at the center of virtually every theatrical review and critical scrutiny. ewbank writes: “It is a part of the work that leaves no critic of Webster indifferent; it was most deeply praised by Lamb and Swinburne and most disgustingly denounced by Archer, and it was less vehemently condemned or praised by later critics. its complexity has been intuited intuitively, but it is difficult to analyze satisfactorily” (“impure art” 204). The complexity of the death scene is reflected in the variety of the Duchess' stage interpretations. themalPoel's 1892 review of the production concluded that Mary Rorke inspired "some sympathy for the unfortunate Duchess" ("independent theatre"). Peggy Ashcroft's 1945 premiere of The Duchess brought praise from the sidemalis about her ability "to convey the horror of torture and to reveal the resilient spirit of the condemned woman" ("Haymarket Theatre"). The presentation of the Duchess as a defiant woman demands and complicates pathetic interpretation. Peggy Ashcroft's second version of the Duchess fifteen years later seems to have emphasized a slightly different quality. according tomal's, showed a serene transcendence about his anguish, as "the only one of his characters who sees, or thinks he sees, beyond the fog" (review, "Webster's work well handling"). Similarly, Wardle noted of the 1971 royal court production that "Judy Parfitt plays the Duchess with a steady note of quiet, masterful resignation. …in the death scene she seems unaffected by events around her” (review, “Uninhabited Nightmare”). from pathetic to rebellious; From simply stoic to cheerfully transcendent, the richness of the scene is reflected in the diversity of its possible interpretations. That these are all possible dramatic choices for an actress playing the Duchess in the death scene implies complexity in the scene itself. And while an individual actress must choose to emphasize one performance over another, it is the critic's job to to explore the richness of a text that allows for such decisions.

Ferdinand is missing during the death scene. Bosola, the morally ambivalent instrument of Ferdinand's revenge, has disguised himself as an old man who reminds the duchess of her mortality and delivers her to death. In disguise, he seems to have abandoned his dramatic role in the play to take on a purely symbolic role, like death or time itself.5as ewbank notes, bosola “transforms the mock wedding mask into something that reminds us of a dance of death” (“impure art” 215). The progressive stages of the death scene unfold as a predetermined ritual rather than a sequential series of shocks. the atmosphere is one of quiet anticipation rather than somber surprise. Bradbrook points out that “the scene isn't set in one place: it's in another dimension, so to speak; The scene has an odd stillness and stillness, a static quality and a sense of timelessness" (subjects197). in this atmosphere, even the riot of the insane that precedes the entrance of the bosola seems to be part of the ritual: the feverish uselessness of life's chaos, which must be followed by the quiet and inevitable release of death. Bosola's reminder to the Duchess that "this meat" is nothing more than "a little raw milk, a fantastic puff pastry" (iv.ii.125-26) lends the scene an air of heavy fatalism. In his speeches to her, Bosola transforms the death scene of a murderous crime against an innocent young woman into an inevitable and universal tragedy. bosola, which vividly repeats deep-rooted medieval notions ofcontempt for the worldit becomes even more powerful when taken on by the Duchess herself to preserve her dignity and master her fear. while at some points defying Bosola, at others he collaborates with him, calmly discussing the folly of the 'fashion in the grave' (iv.ii.155) and following his final example of his concept of the soul imprisoned in the body.

However, the strong atmosphere created in the death scene, of life as "a slow but irreversible process of decomposition" (Alejandro 95) with death as the inevitable end, is at odds with the dramatic situation itself. The audience's knowledge that the Duchess was a vital young woman, "more sinners than sinners," wrongfully brought to an early death, works hard to counteract the scene's fatalism. The scene draws much of its power from this vital tension. The Duchess' famous statement, "I am still the Duchess of Malfi" (iv.ii.142), is ambiguous enough. On the one hand, the Duchess bravely and rebelliously asserts her individual identity in the face of villainy and death itself. On the other hand, youth and beauty face mortality, a familiar emblem ofnullityThe Duchess' scream is at once a strong and valid assertion of self and the lost groan of every man who faces his necessary end. Alexander comments: "It is an expression of this ongoing declaration of human independence, proclaiming the unique value of a particular human existence in the face of the inevitable and eternal triumph of death. this self-affirmation is both necessary and vain” (95).

the tension between the dramatic and symbolic interpretation of the scene reaches its climax at the moment of execution. The Duchess kneels to face her death:

but stay; The gates of heaven do not have such high arches as the palaces of princes, whoever enters them must fall on his knees.


this is reminiscent of her kneeling during the courtship scene, a gesture that indicated her willing submission to her lovers. here his voluntary gesture of love and humility contrasts with the cruelty of his sentence. Her executioners, whether they are the death agents or her brothers, commit an atrocity against the Duchess. Her kneeling posture, while allowing her to maintain her dignity, silently reminds her of the love for which she is sentenced to death. Just before the Duchess kneels, the executioners may also kneel, as was customary, to ask her forgiveness. his words "I forgive you" (iv.ii.207) may well be an answer to the kneeling of the executioners. inthe white devil,Vittoria rags Ludovico:

Get your trade right; Get on your knees and ask for forgiveness.


Visually, the kneeling of the executioners is a cruel parody of Antonio's earlier prostration to receive the Duchess's wedding ring. By mimicking these movements of mutual affection, the death scene becomes a grotesque recreation of the courtship scene. Instead of suggesting that the "Duchess's need for love is the force that dooms her" (Pearson 61), the echoes of the courtship scene simply amplify the brutality of the death scene. the Duchess's kneeling is strongly ambiguous. She is both a humble Christian who silently faces her inevitable fate and a controlling and assertive person who remains the rebellious victim of a terrible injustice. Kneeling in itself is an aggressive gesture, but it's also a humble one, forcing the executioners to bend uncomfortably to tighten the noose around their necks.6Visually, the moment is a significant emblem of the work's overall action: in "bowing down" in an act of love and humility before marrying her submissive, the Duchess has indeed exposed the humiliation of those around her. the duchess herself brings the underlying tension of the scene to the surface. In seemingly humbly acknowledging the inevitable justice of death, he actually draws attention to the injustice of death's servants. "Real calm becomes an outward expression of both protest against injustice and tragic acceptance of the inevitable," notes Forker (326). at the moment of death she refutes and conspires with the symbolic dimension of the scene. his last defense is to complete the interpretation imposed on him by shouting: "Come, violent death, / serve the mandrake that I may sleep!" (iv.ii.234-35). That way he can ignore his illegitimate human tormentors and muster up the courage to die. But his last and bitter words to Bosola once again emphasize the cruel injustice of the dramatic situation:

Go and tell my brothers that when I lie down they can eat in silence.


The Duchess is an accomplished actress in the death scene. She gains dramatic control over her assassins and maintains her dignity by conspiring with Death, who ultimately controls even her brothers. By supporting the symbolic dimension of the scene, the Duchess avoids becoming a pitiful victim like a pram. at the same time, however, their behavior reveals the scene's inherent contradictions between the assassins' pose as impersonal heralds of death and their brutal and murderous approach. The highly formal and ritualistic structure of the death scene allows the Duchess to be both mistress and victim of the occasion, controlling a situation over which she has no control. the richness and complexity of the scene are illuminated by the tendency of different actresses to exploit its different aspects; The Duchess is simultaneously resilient and pathetic, defiant and humble as she approaches her death. and this complexity arises from the "impurity" of Webster's art, from the interplay of allegory and narrative, convention and realism. Newbank notes that "in this scene he maintains tension between the two, drawing strength from both sides, the kind of strength that suggests that Webster's art is more 'impure' in the centers of meaning in his works; that his special ability, not only as a dramatic poet but also as a poetic dramatist, lay in his ability to exploit the impurity of his art" ("impure art" 220).

The formal complexity or "impurity" of the death scene has a number of important consequences for the work as a whole. First, because the scene's symbolic dimension complicates the audience's reaction to the Duchess's immediate situation as her brothers' innocent victim, its poignancy and melodrama are toned down. The scene suggests that the play will go beyond a mere catastrophe, the destruction of a good character by bad guys, and offer a broader vision. in the death scene itself, the piece oscillates between melodrama and fatalism, injustice and inevitability, but does not engage in either. Because the tone and setting of the death scene are at odds with each other, each tends to neutralize the unique impact of the other while enriching and intensifying the meaning of the scene. Second, because the death scene also distances the viewer from the villains - the brothers are absent, Bosola is in disguise - their crimes are mitigated. Throughout the third act, the brothers distance themselves through commentary (iii.iii) and muting (iii.iv), while Bosola becomes increasingly depersonalized.7As a result, the villains' humanity in the final act is more believable because it doesn't directly contradict their outright villainess. The distance to the Duchess and her enemies that results from the ceremonial death scene eases the transition from the first part of the play to the second. Finally, at the structural center of the play, Webster consciously creates a powerful image of the inescapable universality of death, superimposed on the Duchess' individual fate, preparing us for the collective tragedy of Act Five. Bosola's dirge, for example, goes beyond the immediate situation to anticipate the universal experience of mortality:

What don't fools do for free? sin his conception, his crying of birth; his life a general fog of error, his death a terrible storm of terror.


Both the brave virtue of the duchess and the moral strife of her enemies oppose this nihilistic vision of a life rendered meaningless by death. The death scene goes beyond the personal catastrophe of the Duchess's destruction at the hands of her brothers, suggesting in tone and language a general struggle for meaning in the face of inevitable death that encompasses all the characters in the play.

the scene of the processthe white deviland the death scenethe duchess of malfiboth achieve the "rich splendor that makes the center of a Shakespearean play an overwhelming dramatic experience" (Beckerman 45). Both scenes draw together different strands of meaning, powerfully synthesizing them and transforming them into a resonant dramatic experience. the death scene ofthe duchess of malfiit suggests that the death and chaos that seem to separate the various groups actually unites them in some way. the two-part structure of the play, with its main role reversal reinforced by repetition, confirms this view. the death scene not only marks the dramatic and symbolic center of the work, but also the change of direction from the first to the second part. By the end of Act Four, "we have reached a point of partial fulfillment and calm (a tentative ending), but the situation abounds with untapped potential (a tentative beginning)" (Emrys Jones 73). inthe white devil,The same point is reached at the end of the third act, as in many of Shakespeare's plays. In each of Webster's great tragedies, the great change in tone and character at the end of the first part is marked by a change in the role of the tool villain. like flamingo insidethe white devil,Bosola drops his satirical pose and changes his perspective on the main plot. As the characters most closely related to the audience, Flamineo and Bosola's adjusted take on the play, in turn, has a significant impact on audience reaction.

Webster uses the repeated stage action in the death scene to illustrate the change in direction of the play while emphasizing the connections between the various characters. The death scene begins with the Duchess and Cariola alone on the stage. The Duchess is visibly distraught and in deep pain. from Cariola's request, "Please dry your eyes" (iv.ii.14), it appears that the Duchess is crying. describes his suffering in the form of an apocalyptic vision:

Above me the sky seems molten bronze, the earth flaming brimstone, but I'm not crazy.


his pain comes from his double vision; he can simultaneously see the perspective of the insanity imposed on him and the perspective of his own sanity. The long scene ends with another pair of figures alone on the stage. This time, Bosola crouched over the Duchess's body, commemorating Cariola trying to attend to her needs and calling for help. but in her final monologue, Bosola is reminiscent of the Duchess herself. While the Duchess wept at the beginning of the scene, here she weeps bosola.

those tears, I'm quite sure, never grew in my mother's milk.


Like the Duchess, Bosola suffers deeply from the split perspective she sees, this time between innocence and guilt.

O holy innocence sweetly sleeping on tortoise feathers, while a guilty conscience is a black slab where all our good and bad deeds are written, a perspective hell shows us!


The "hell" seen by Bosola and the "flaming brimstone" seen by the Duchess are aspects of the same vision seen from opposite angles. the Duchess sees a possible hell of madness even if she remains sane and virtuous in her misery; Bosola's vision of hell arises from his simultaneous awareness of the possibility of innocence and goodness. In the middle of the same scene, Ferdinand suddenly sees a vision of reality superimposed on his own madness;8Seeing his sister's corpse, he suddenly realizes that she "died young" and his eyes "blind" (iv.ii.264), beginning with tears. the tears that duchess, ferdinand and bosola shed during the scene unite them. The scene design allows victims and killers to share a common human vision, deepening the play's meaning in the tragedy. moreover, the change from the duchess to the bosola as the moral center of the plot anticipates the play's general change of direction for the last act.

Bosola's moral renewal at the end of Act IV depends largely on his viewing of the play as pure melodrama, the duchess as "holy innocence" executed by a "cruel tyrant" (iv.ii.372). her voice rings out with the certainty and purpose of this simplified vision at the end of the death scene:

Come, I'll get you out of here: and carry out your last will; That is, to abandon your body to the reverent disposition of some good women: lest the cruel tyrant deny me. then I will send a message to Milan where I will somehow quickly enforce the value of my discouragement.


however, his confident tone is undermined, both by his clumsy actions as he drags the Duchess's body off the stage, and by his own more complex vision of Hell, where deeds of good and evil seem to mingle in a desperately useless struggle. this basic tension at the end of the first part is repeated at the end of the piece.9At the end of the final act, Bosola provides a summary of the play's plot and his own role in it:

revenge for the Duchess of Malfi murdered by the Th'aragonian brothers; of Antonio dead by that hand; for the lustful Juliet who was poisoned by this man; and finally for me, who was above all an actor.


However, Bosola's self-righteous tone is undermined both by the debacle that surrounds him on stage and his implied dual role as perpetrator and object of his own vengeance.10A few lines later he turns away from this seeming moral certainty to exclaim in desperation:

We are like dead walls or vaulted tombs destroyed and making no echo: farewell to you.

(Verse 97-98)

Bosola's closing speeches oscillate between stoic aphorisms and a profound vision of futility, raising doubts about the efficacy of his own actions. the underlying tension in bosola, which emerges at the end of both parts, is at the heart of the work itself. on the one hand, as bosola's nice summary,the duchess of malfiIt tracks the actions intentionally imposed on some characters by others in a clean linear chain of events. on the other hand, it presents all characters as victims, trapped in a tragic universe of "good deeds and bad deeds" (iv.ii.358). This tragic vision is articulated not primarily through linear narrative but through the web of repeated themes and actions that find their most intense expression in the structural center of the work.

A comparison of the general structures of Webster's great tragedies illuminates his use of similar formal strategies to achieve different ends in the two plays. inthe white devil,brachiano and francisco are conceived as analogues in order to clearly distinguish them from each other; inthe duchess of malfi,The villains' position as objects of revenge mirrors that of the Duchess, and they all find themselves as victims confronting their fear and humanity. In the earlier work, Webster's tragic vision focuses primarily on the protagonists, while in the later work, both the protagonists and antagonists share a similar view of human suffering. Thus, while the repetition is obviously central to the two-part structure of both works, it mainly serves to provide contrastthe white devil,and concurrency inthe duchess of malfiIn both works, the goals achieved through repetition are also fulfilled in the central emblem. inthe white devilthe contrast between antagonists and protagonists, conveyed by the reflection of the first half in the second, is summed up in the famous trial scene. inthe duchess of malfi,The affinities between heroes and villains suggested by the play's two-part structure are concentrated in the climax death scene of Act Four. and in the dramatic center of each play, Webster emphasizes the complexity of his play's world: the Duchess, in her death scene, is both victor and victim; his own death is cruel and inevitable. Brachiano and Vittoria are also portrayed in the trial scene as innocent and guilty, mired in a similar and morally complex world.


  1. the term comes from beckerman (43), but see also emrys jones 66-88 and rose 20-21.

  2. Emrys Jones also points out (85) that Elizabethan and Jacobean playwrights extended, but did not invent, the two-part structure evident in many moral plays.

  3. a pause after the first part may have facilitated this big change. see Emrys Jones 66-88.

  4. Of course, many commentators emphasize the differences between the Duchess and her enemies. For example, John Selzer comments: “Where the Duchess died with quiet dignity and virtue, Fernando acts and howls like an animal; while ferdinand was hoping to drive the duchess insane, he really is going insane” (95).

  5. Death and time were linked in conventional iconography, and both were generally represented by an old man. see Panofsky's chapter "The Time of the Father" (69-93). see also ewbank, "impure art" 214-15 and forker 339.

  6. I thank Professor A. Underground. leggatt for this suggestion.

  7. Bosola may already be in disguise when he comes to meet the Duchess in iii.v. See John Russell Brownduchess103n.

  8. For a detailed discussion of this and other aspects of Webster's "perspectival" technique, see Newbank, "Webster's Realism".

  9. Emrys Jones calls this kind of repetition in Shakespeare's plays "structural rhymes": "The two parts of the play have similar endings" (77).

  10. Whigham comments similarly on Bosola, who "finally and concisely presents himself as the agent, the vicarious agent of all victims, not least as himself, both as murderer and as murdered." ... the supposed revenge restorer has defiled the stage, but the body count, while wasteful, is fruitless” (181).

the methodology for this chapter was primarily suggested to me by roseShakespeare-Design,although those of emrys jonesBühnenform in Shakespeare,the deerthe structure of Shakespearean scenes,y BeckermannShakespeare on the globeThey were very helpful. For an overview of the critics' work on spatial form in Classical and Renaissance poetry, see Rose's first chapter, Design Contexts.

cited works

books and articles

Alexander, Nigel. "Intelligence insidethe duchess of malfiMorris 95-112.

Beckmann, Bernhard.Shakespeare on the Globe, 1599-1609.NewYork: Macmillan, 1962.

Bradbrook, Muriel Clara.John Webster: Citizen and Playwright.London: Weidenfeld, 1980.

———.Themes and Conventions of Elizabethan Tragedy.Cambridge: Cambridge oben, 1957.

Brown, John Russell. Introduction.the duchess of malfiby John Webster. John Russell brown edition. London: Methuen, 1964.

ewbank, inga-stina [oak leaf]. "The 'Impure Art' of John Webster".English language review9 (1958): 235-67. rpt. en cazador 202-21.

——— “Webster's realism; or 'a clever piece worked in perspective.'” Morris 159-78.

Gabel, Charles R.Skulls Under the Skin: The Performance of John Webster.Carbondale: From Illinois Up, 1986.

HirschJames E.The Structure of Shakespearean Scenes.New Haven: Yale Up, 1981.

Jones, EmrysSet design in Shakespeare.Oxford: Clarendon, 1971.

Herr John M. „the duchess of malfi: the spirit of 'greatness' and 'woman'".English Literary Studies, 1500-190016 (1976): 305-17.

Macke, Maynard. "Jacobean Shakespeare: some observations on the construction of tragedy".Jacobean Theater.Edited by John Russell Brown and Bernard Harris. Stratford-upon-Avon Studies 1. London: Edward Arnold, 1965. 11-41.

Morris, Brian, Hrsg.Juan Webster.London: Ernst Benn, 1970.

Painter, William.the pleasure palacerpt. and John Russell Brown, Hrsg.,the duchess of malfi175-209.

panofsky, erwin.Iconology Studies: Humanistic Themes in Renaissance Art.Nueva York: Harper and Row, 1972.

Pearson, Jaqueline.Tragedy and Tragicomedy in the Works of John Webster.Manchester: Manchester Up, 1980.

pink, brandShakespeare-Design.Cambridge, MA: Harvard Up, 1972.

Selzer, John L. “Merit and Graduation at Webster'sDuchess of MalfiRevival of English Literature11.1 (1981).

Shirley, Frances, Hrsg.the case of devil John Webster. Lincoln : University of Nebraska S , 1972 .

Tomlinson, Thomas Brian.a study of Elizabethan and Jacobean tragedy.Cambridge: Cambridge oben, 1964.

Whigham, Frank. "Sexual and Social Mobility inthe duchess of malfiPMLA100 (1985): 167-82.

theater reviews

"Heumarkt Theater". Rev. Haymarket Theatre, London, 18 April 1945. Director. George Rylandsmal19. April 1945.

"Free Theater". rev. Independent Theater Society, Opera Comique, London, 21 Oct. 1892. Addresses. Wilhelm Poelmal22. Oct. 1892.

Pearson, Jacqueline. "man bites man". Rev. Royal Exchange, Manchester, September 16th. 1980. Address. Adrian Noble.literary supplement times26. September 1980: 1064.

Wardle, Irving. "an uninhabited nightmare". Rev. Royal Court, London, January 18. 1971. Address. Peter Gillmal19 of. 1971.

"Webster's Game Well Handled". Rev. Shakespeare Memorial Theater Company, Aldwych, London, 15 Dec. 1960. Address. Donald McwhinniemalDecember 16, 1960.

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Source: callaghan, dympna. "a monstrous desire." inWomen and Gender in Renaissance Tragedy: A Study inKing Lear, Othello, the Duchess of Malfi,jThe White Devil, pp. 140-4 Atlantic Highlands, New Jersey: Humanities Press International, 1989.

[In the following essay, Callaghan argues that female sexual desire, and perhaps even femininity, is always portrayed as monstrous in Renaissance tragedies. alongside the duchess, callaghan pronounces desdemonaothello,Cordelia outRey Lear,and Victoria de Webstersthe white devil.]

Desire is inscribed at all levels—social, economic, political, sexual—as the motivation for change, upheaval, disruption, and most importantly, tragic female transgression. it is a force for disorder in relation to conceptual and social systems. More importantly, defining the category of woman in terms of desire is a Renaissance concern, and yet, paradoxically, it ultimately threatens to abrogate the categories of gender difference, since, as we shall see, that is precisely the point at which become differential markers to themselves. problematic.

The insatiable female sexual desire has been postulated as the most conspicuous sign of sex difference, treated as both a disease and a monstrous anomaly. A contemporary medical text suggests a remarkable cure for this particularly feminine disease:

we must conclude that when they are young they have a spirit of deceit, and they feel frequent tickles within themselves, for they are their hot and pure seed, which irritates them and inflames them to adoration; nor is this craving appeased and mitigated, but by causing the ejaculation, as the doctor suggests theadvice on the example of the widow, who was afflicted with intolerable symptoms, until the abundance of the semen was diminished by the hand of the skillful midwife. ...1

The hand of an experienced midwife becomes the tool to divert craving from its otherwise destructive course. Such advice is part of the medical discourse that defines female sexuality, much of which is based on a hybrid of the "macho tinkerer" theory derived from Aristotle (and reflected in the main source ofthe duchess of malfi,William Painterpleasure palace,1567),2who assumed that women are destined by nature, but that nature strives for perfection in each and every instance of procreation and therefore strives to produce masculine and galenistic beliefs in the feminine seed.3Women were defined as physically inferior and medically unique.4such 'mapping down'. That is, drawing ideological boundaries constitutes a form of containment that demarcates the category of woman in terms of matrix, fertility, fragility, etc. in a remarkable fusion of ideology and physiology.

Like the medical discourse of the time, Othello's diagnosis of Desdemona is conditioned by preconceived expectations of female pleasure and can be seen as serving a similar ideological function:

hot, hot and humid. This thy hand requires a hijacking of liberty: fasting and prayer, much punishment, pious practice, for here is a young and sweaty devil who habitually rebels. It's a good hand, Frank.

(othello,iii. IV. 39-44)

In the simple act of taking Desdemona's hand, a whole knowledge of the physical symptoms of physiological and moral disposition is used. The cold and wet juices were believed to dominate the female sex, but the heat and humidity were strongly associated with horniness. the healing that othello recommends for this supposed physical ailment is moral. Desdemona's hand is "open" and therefore open to Othello, but also open to everyone. Also, Othello seems to think he can easily read the symptoms since he already knows their cause. the anatomy of a woman thus creates a semiology (both linguistic and pathological) of the feminine.

More importantly, this passage cannot be dismissed as mere evidence of how jealousy damaged the balance of Othello's mind. This scene is reminiscent of an earlier one in which Desdemona reduced an eloquent Othello to breathy phrases about the death of "young affections," expressing her explicit sexual desire, a desire to accompany him to Cyprus to consummate their marriage, "the rites by which I love him” (i. iii. 257). This wish could well be read as a demonstration of all the "vengeance" expected of a young woman. Such a seemingly insatiable female sexual appetite seriously challenges Desdemona's characterization as a virtuous woman. Similarly, the Duchess' hasty departure to her bedside with Antonio could be seen as typical of a grinning widow displaying the symptom of 'high blood'. Female characters in Renaissance tragedies rarely identify with sexual passivity.

remarkable, inthe white devil,Unlike the other tragedies considered here, there is no discourse that resists the construction of female desire as a monstrosity. In doing so, however, he does not legitimize female desire, but rather presents it in terms that betray a certain sexual curiosity. Desire, particularly female sexual initiative, is shown as a comical aspect of deviance in the play's racist discourse:

I will
I thought sir you were stealing from my bed.
will you find me cute for this light
I also dreamed of you: for me I thought
i saw you naked
I will
shit sir like i told you
I thought you were lying next to me.
so I dreamed it;
and so you don't catch a cold, I covered you up
with that Irish cape.
I will
I really dreamed
you were a bit bold with me; ...

(V. III. 227-34)

The black maid's sexual desire is as clear as the color of her skin. Karen Newman demonstrated this brilliantlyothelloFemininity is not constructed as the antithesis of Blackness, but aligned with it, because both categories are culturally aligned with sexual monstrosity.5but inthe white devilBlack and femininity not only come together in Zanche, but also in the way it reflects Victoria. The function of the zanche is to embody a lust that is not mediated by racial or class privilege. The iconic meaning of the juxtaposition of the black maiden and the white mistress is to posit blackness as a monstrous feature of femininity. As the title of the work suggests, femininity can act as an antonym for blackness, an alternative figure for the monstrosity it evokes. Similarly, the Zanche, who is racially labeled as a devil in the play (demons have traditionally been portrayed as black), functions as the embodiment of female desire, unleashed in the play's world to contain the tragedy.

In fact, allusions to demand and moderation are fundamentalthe white devilBecause it is the untamed sexual desire that leads to Vittoria's imprisonment and finally makes her run away with Bracciano. The wish/restraint motif appears early in the play as Flamineo delivers victory to Bracciano:

Come sister, the darkness hides your blush, women are like cursed dogs, courtesy keeps them tied all day, but they are set free at midnight, then they do more good or more harm...

(ii. 198-201)

likewise, inthe duchess of malfi,Bosola posits that restraint must always be opposed to female desire:

This reluctance (like Great Danes going wild on a leash) makes her too passionate about the pleasures that are being denied her.

(iv. i. 12-15)

Instead of defiantly asserting her sexuality, Victoria actually confesses that this was her downfall: "Oh, my greatest sin was in my blood" (v. vi. 240).

Female sexual initiative is seen as a kind of "natural" deviation, at once feared and expected, errant and typical, and synonymous with the desire to control men. Thus, female political and sexual power are fully interchangeable, female sexual initiative is thus read as a political threat, and female sovereignty is treated as sexual dominance. Female sexual initiative, like female dominance, is considered grotesque: "It's outrageous that the head is where the feet should be." ...'6social and anatomical confusions are presented here as a monstrous inversion because sexual or social power in the hands of woman directly threatens the phallic order and thus the process of production and reproduction of the boundaries that are the content of gender differentiation. This confusion arises from a logical contradiction in patriarchal thinking, which constructs sexual differences only to use those differences as evidence of the deviant nature of femininity. Therefore, the enigma continues, femininity is monstrous because it deviates from the male norm.

precisely the most undeniable features of gender difference are interpreted as highly abnormal, particularly female generativity, the logical consequence of female desire, and the more gender-specific biological function. Pregnancy in particular becomes evidence of immense desire and, as Peter Stallybrass points out, was punished as a criminal deviation:

“inappropriate elements” were concepts applied to real women, portraying them as sinners and criminals to be purified or exterminated. The pious mother opposes the witch who is nursing a satanic familiar. the pelican, which pecks its breast to feed its young with its own blood, thinks the woman who kills her child is demonic.

Stallybrass further points to the large number of executions for the once rare crime of infanticide.7Also, much of the medical discourse has been devoted to the uterus, an object of mystery and fear, a migratory organ causing hysteria, another exclusively female affliction. the author ofa gynecologistsays: '...the uterus [ie the uterus] is the cause of all these diseases that happen to women.' The moon and imagination cause the uterus to move around the body, causing hysteria and irrationality.8there is an interesting alignment of the notion of bodily inferiority with the idea of ​​monstrosity, with deficiency and excess becoming aspects of each other.

bosola alludes to how a woman's belly swells like glass:

There was a young waitress who had a tremendous desire to see the conservatory. ...
and it was only to know what a strange instrument it was to inflate a vessel like a woman's womb.

(ii. ii. 6-10 ff.)

It is not the pregnancy itself that is considered outrageous here, but the female curiosity about the male sex organ. this allusion is repeated later in the scene of the madmen:

Hell is just a hothouse where the demons keep blowing up the souls of women on hollow irons and the fire never goes out.

(iv. ii. 77-9)

the devils are here responsible for the male part of procreation in a shift that is a common feature of misogynistic slurs. For example himdetonatorIt says: "All witchcraft springs from the lust of the flesh, which is insatiable in women".9in defining women as monsters whose big bellies mark them as social andconceptual(in both senses of the word) excess, the succubus concept comes to the rescue. The burden of desire is usually placed on women as they are seen as lusty and sexually incontinent.

Bosola's description of the pregnant Duchess expresses disgust at the mere thought of pregnancy:

I observe that our Duchess is ill some days, she vomits, her stomach boils, the wings of her eyelids look very blue, she faints on the cheek and becomes fat on the side; and she's wearing (in contrast to our Italian fashion) a loose-fitting dress, that's something!

(ii. i. 64-8)

White, blue, puking and wearing a vintage dress, the pregnant Duchess has become an eyesore. Not only does Bosola consider the duchess grotesque in pregnancy, the fetus she carries is apparently just as subhuman: "The young Springal, who cuts a caper in the belly" (ii. i. 151) is at least a precocious fetus . Eleven. Monstrosity becomes the category by which to define the very nature of man. the pregnant woman is implicitly set against the norm man and only later redeemed as a good mother in order to sentimentalize the death of the duchess.

Evil can be objectified as the peculiarly feminine monstrosity of pregnancy. eg Lagos: "begotten: hell and night / I must bring this monstrous birth to the light of day" (i. iii. 403-4).10Interestingly, while arguing that women are no less perfect creatures than men, Luther condemned those who thought differently as "monsters and children of monsters."11however, he defends the woman, alluding to the idea of ​​the monstrous mother.

Similarly, Othello cries, "O monstrous, monstrous" (iii. iii. 427), while Desdemona becomes "a cistern for filthy toads / for a knot and witness" (iv. ii. 61-2). When there is a natural process in a woman that is so seemingly unnatural as Othello thinks she is his whore/wife, it is of the most disgusting kind that nature can devise. The twisted and reproductive toads will be the only offspring of Othello's union with Desdemona. she has become the depraved object of his desire instead of the fantasized place of full fulfilment:

where I have kept my heart, where I must either live or not live; the source from which my stream flows or dries up: let it be thrown away from there!

(iv. ii. 57-60)

As the repository of Othello's desire and seed, Desdemona takes responsibility for causing him spiritual dryness and physical impotence. Therefore, she cannot "feed" the life of what she believes to be Desdemona's rancid womb. She killed every aspect of her reproductive potential.

Lear's curse on Goneril is that he will be barren, but if he is ever to have a child he will be a monster:

Hear, nature, hear, dear goddess, hear! If you were about to make this creature fertile, stop your plan. Bring barrenness into her womb, dry up the organs of growth, and of her cherished body a baby shall never be born, to honor her! if it must sprout, from the spleen create her son so that it may live and be her frustrated and denatured torment.

(i. iv. 275-83)

This speech is interesting because it brings up the idea of ​​the good mother, to which Goneril's abolition of womanhood can be compared. but even this positive concept of motherhood, to which infertility is compared, is qualified by the word teem. contrasts with the use of "fertile" just four lines earlier. Once Goneril becomes a monster (at least throughout this passage), she can no longer get pregnant or be fertile, she can only "overflow". This word is interesting because it means not only to give birth and be fertile, but also to empty, to drain, or to pour out. any reproduction in Goneril would be excretion, emission of waste: a monstrous birth.

Pregnant or potentially pregnant women are often defined as monstrous mothers who own the rotten and stinking womb/grave and bring forth death rather than life. Defined primarily by their insatiable desires, which are closely linked to their reproductive capacity, women are seen as idiots and insane, incapable of reason and deprived of their legal and financial autonomy and responsibilities. moreover, those without reason completely withdraw from the human sphere. such people, according to thomas wright: "... are guided by an inner imagination that follows nothing but what pleases their senses, just like wild animals".12but even if woman is posited as the "most servile" of animals, the analogy, carried to completion, renders human copulation bestiality.

The construction of sexual difference is also the production of female monstrosity. thus the category of woman in tragedy threatens to explode again and again.


  1. quoted by Hilda Smith, "Gynecology and Ideology in Seventeenth-Century England," in Bernice Carroll (ed.)Women's Liberation History: Theoretical and Critical Perspectives.(Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1976), p. 104.

  2. painter Wilhelm,Lustschloss,quoted in John Russell Brown (ed.)the duchess of malfi(Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1977), p. Sixty-five.

  3. vera ian maclean,The concept of women in the Renaissance: A study of the fate of scholasticism and medical science in European intellectual life.pgs. 31-8; und Smith, S. 103.

  4. Herrero, 104.

  5. Karen Newman, "And Wash the White Ethiopian": Femininity and the Monstrous inothello', in Jean E. howard and marion f. O'Connor (editors)Shakespeare Reproduced: The Text in History and Ideology(New York: Methuen, 1987), S. 142-6

  6. Juan Robinson,weeksiv, quoted in George, p. 279.

  7. Peter Stallybrass, „Patriarchal Territories: The Enclosed Body“, in Margaret W. Ferguson, Maureen Quilligan und Nancy Vickers (Hrsg.)Rewriting the Renaissance: Discourses of Sexual Difference in Early Modern Europe.Page. 131

  8. Schmied, S. 100.

  9. Kramer and Spengler, repr., j. o'faolain and l. Martin (ed.),not in the image of God(London: Temple Smith, 1973), S. 208-9.

  10. see Elizabeth bags,Shakespeare's pregnancy picture(London: Macmillan; New York: St. Martin's Press, 1980) on Iago's impregnation of Othello, pp. 68-73.

  11. quoted by maclean, p. 9.

  12. Quote from Michael Macdonald,mystical madness(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981), pág. 81.

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Source: Behling, Laura L. "'Shocking our procedures': the angst of alternative sexualities inthe white deviljthe duchess of malfiEnglish language notes33, No. 4 (June 1996): 24-43.

[In this essay, Behling examines how Webster's work merges the crossing of gender boundaries with transgressive sexuality. the masculinity of his heroines in their political actions, he notes, renders any sexual activity or desire centered on them seem unnatural.]

Historians and literary critics studying the popular and courtly rhetoric of the Jacobean period conclude that, with the exception of anti-theatrical literature, English Renaissance culture did not display a "morbid fear of homosexuality".1They do recognize, however, that Renaissance society was deeply concerned with sexual and gender roles, representation and desire, and political authority. When the rules of Renaissance theater required men to play female roles on stage, and medical treatises failed to define two separate and unique sexes, the fear of crossing the boundaries of sex and gender suggests that homosexuality might not "morbid" was feared, frightening to say the least in a society searching for its political and sexual identity.

from the renaissance pieces by john webster,the white devil(1612) jthe duchess of malfi(1613) both capture this fear of alternative sexualities.2inthe white devil,Vittoria defends her adulterous acts by claiming “my modesty / and femininity are delicate; but still / So entangled in a cursed charge / That every defense of violence like Perseus / Must embody manly virtue” (iv, ii, 136-40). A year later, in 1613, Webster recreates the anguish of Vittoria's male-female self in his uncomfortably ambiguous tragedy.the duchess of malfi

Of course we don't know eitherthe white devilinthe duchess of malfiends happily. The bloody violence that begins with the murder of Camillo and Isabella prepares the deaths of Brachiano, Vittoria and Flamineo. Then the bloodshed continues as the Duchess of Malfi is murdered along with Antonio, her children and her brother Ferdinand. In the end we have only what faithful Delio soberly states: "a great ruin" of which only one tries to "make noble use". Delio puts the Duchess' young son in hopes of sorting out the chaos. however, the Duchess does not justify such an act. Rather, we are left with the confusing notion of matrilineally empowered political power through a son astrologically destined to die young, and an open ambiguity about what that end means.

The whole work is indeed problematic, especially becausethe duchess of malfifollow exactly after thatthe white devilWith female characters politically and sexually male behaving, incestuous relationships, corrupt men of God, cold-blooded murders, and the blurring of fact and fiction, the ambiguities of the Duchess's matrilineal authority appear as a logically illogical conclusion from two extremes in complex and chaotic games. However, what causes the most anxious moments in Webster's performance art are the challenges to sexual authority and the confusion of traditional gender and gender relations, and thus the very foundations of political power.


and though some of them seem at first sight to evoke illicit love and its bad practices, both old and young, by being well-read and well-considered, can learn how to avoid the ruin, fall, inconvenience, and displeasure of this lustful and lustful desire avoids will bring to his suitors and pursuers. All of these can provide good examples of the best to follow and the worst to avoid.

painter Wilhelm,the pleasure palace3

The appearance of Mary Tudor, and later her half-sister Elizabeth, on the English throne made the question of women's sovereignty widespread in early modern political theory. according to constance jordan, “the literature on woman rule presents two main lines of argument: the conservative position holds that women were created by god to be inferior and therefore have no authority over men”; the more liberal position posits "that women are capable of behaving in a masculine manner and thereby governing men".4Arrangements were made for Mary and Elizabeth I that resulted in “political androgyny”, transforming the political arena into a special world where the reigning queen can only act as men have done before. politically she is a man."5

After the long and fruitless reign of the single Isabel I, the fear of authority and male identity grew even greater. James I's succession to the English throne could not have been more confusing, especially as his accession has not been without controversy and concern. This incarnation of a threatened royal lineage and the socially and politically confused reign of James I provide the haunting background forthe white deviljthe duchess of malfi,both speak directly to the anxieties of sexual relationships, particularly alternative sexualities.

Implicit in this anxiety about expressed sexuality is the particular problem of homosexuality. The court appearances of the 'favourites' Robert Carr and later George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham could not have been more disturbing or troublesome; Homosexuality becomes indecent only when it interferes with other dangerous or antisocial behavior.6Not only did some of James' subjects find the public displays distasteful, many were deeply concerned about the power these favorites wielded at court. William Drummond sharply criticizes Buckingham for precisely this reason: "A ganemed / quhoose houric breath has the power to wield / his maiestie as he will."7The very act of sodomy is not as threatening as the disruption to social order it causes.8

In this male homosocial structure, female sexuality is both present and absent as a center of patrilineal power.9as is evident in the paradoxical reproduction of the line. Reproduction and the resulting patriarchal lineage dictate that the lineage cannot and must be crossed (by introducing the female lineage) to keep the lineage pure: reproduction is encouraged and discouraged; Women are a necessary evil. When reality violates the prescription's seemingly isolated and sealed principles, fear develops and sexual confusion ensues. In textual depictions of sex characteristics, Vittoria and the Duchess are sexually powerful women steeped in political, i.e. male, authority, and Brachiano and Ferdinand are passionately jealous men. they express the longing for alternative sexualities, more precisely for homosexuality in the 17th century.

Brachiano and Ferdinand exhibit much of the behavior that was found so disruptive in the Renaissance. According to Stephen Organ:

female lust disqualifies men for male activities. ...women are dangerous to men because sexual passion for women softens men: This is a time when sexuality itself is misogynistic, as love for women threatens the integrity of dangerously acquired male identity. The fear of effeminateness is at the heart of all discussions about what constitutes a "real man."10

Brachiano's "unnatural" passion for Vittoria and Ferdinand's incestuous desire for the Duchess, in addition to his relationship with the cuckold, place them squarely in the realm of alternative sexualities, leading them both to the same fate as women.

the relationships between man and woman thus become paradoxical structures in Webster's works. On the one hand, power is passed down patrilineally, and sexual authority, however transcended, is male-based. but the male homosocial ties are broken, and in a peculiar way: it diverts from the male-female-male exchange to a reconfiguration of the males and females who make up the competition. the interruption emanates from either a woman with a male figure or a man with a female figure, changing not only the object of desire but also the desired subject. women's adoption of masculine behavior and men's subjugation break the homosocial ties of the male order. and here arises an intriguing distinction between heterosexual and 'heterogeneous' and homosexual and 'homogeneous'. the assumption that heterosexuality implies "heterogeneous" and homosexuality implies "homogeneous" is too simplistic. rather, as evidenced in boththe white deviljthe duchess of malfi,Heterosexual and homosexual relationships can be between two people of the same sex, or the relationship can be between two people who are anti-gender, i.e. they cross the sexes (i.e. the man behaves feminine and vice versa).

so there is the odd case that only male sex figures are involved in economic-sexual exchange. the object of exchange is no longer a woman but a male woman. Traditional licensing structures are bound to collapse as the 'trade' in women has now, by very explicit reference, become a 'political economy' of homogeneity and an inference of homosexuality. This dual source of fear can be seen on one level as the fear of male women, political women questioning traditional patriarchal power. but the deepest torment lies in the practice of homosexuality, especially when the object of a man's desire is portrayed as male. Vittoria and Duchess, carefully drawn by Webster, embody an implicit male homosexuality, and their violent deaths signal judgment for Webster, and perhaps early 17th-century English society, on such 'unnatural' behavior and alternative sexualities.


If the woman begets the man, she must teach him masculinity. much luck. You know, many glorious women famous for male virtue were vicious, only a happier silence fell over them. she has no flaws like someone who has the art of hiding them.

the white devil,5.6.243-48

the white deviloffers a foretaste of the homosocial and homosexual bonds displayed withinthe duchess of malfiIn particular, Vittoria foreshadows the duchess's male political authority, and thus serves as the progenitor of the duchess as the embodiment of homosexual angst.11She is portrayed in "traditional relationships" - as wife, adulteress, lover, and then wife again - but her strength, the courage she displays under duress, does not come from relationships," explains Gayle Greene. "Rather, her heroism represents the polar opposite of the Renaissance ideal of woman: disobedient, contravening convention, sexual, subversive, she displays assertion rather than submissiveness of herself."12

The economic role of women in relations between men is immediately established in the opening lines ofthe white devil,with the reference to happiness as a "beautiful whore" (1.1.4). Not only luck, the Roman goddess of fortune, is implied in this reference, but also the economic provision of material, goods, wealth and profit is explicitly mentioned. As the conversation between Count Lodovico and his friends Antonelli and Gasparo continues, the idea of ​​chance takes a different turn when Lodovico comments that Brachiano is lucky enough to “escape from that exile, there is Paulo Giordano Orsini, / the Duke of Brachiano, now living in Rome, / seeking near Pandarisme / to prostitute the honor of Victoria Corombona” (1.1.38-42). Two remarkable connections are made in these short lines. The first is that Vittoria, the subject of Brachiano's pimping, is compared to Whore Fortune. Second, the implicit and explicit commodification that prostitution entails subjects it to the trade in male culture.

We learn that Camillo, Vittoria's husband, and Brachiano, her lover, are actors in the culture in which Vittoria is being exchanged. Interestingly, the terms of the relationship are not sexually equal. Camillo is not only a "jealous husband" but "so incapable of pleasing a woman that his whole back shrivels up into his pants like a Dutch jerkin" (1.2.31-2). Complete impotence is suggested when Flamineo interrogates Camillo about his sexual relations with his wife. Camillo assures Flamineo that "my journey / is farther north, in a much colder climate, / I don't remember well, I protest / the last time I slept with her" (1.2.50-53). This confession not only indicates that he no longer has and cannot have sexual relations with his wife, but also suggests that he is a cuckold, a fact we find out later.

Maus notes that the fear of sexual betrayal pervades English Renaissance drama and "can reflect in a particularly revealing way the instabilities and tensions of a patriarchal social order".13Especially the repeated and blatant references to impotence and infidelity are very significant. Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick writesbetween menthat "cuckolding" is by definition a sexual act performed by another man on a man.14Although infidelity is not a genuine homosexual act, male attachment behavior reinforces the social bonds of masculinity as transmitted through the objectified woman.fifteenThe threat of infidelity infuses homosocial culture with sexuality and establishes a male homosexual culture that evolves from a male homosocial culture.

During the course of the play, Vittoria's impotent husband, Camillo, is killed so that she can marry Duke Brachiano. However, the punishment for the murders of Isabella, wife of Camillo and Brachiano, falls squarely on Vittoria, who is tried for murder and adultery. Her most serious crimes, however, are the willful male sexual disruption of her own patrilineal owner [the murder of her husband] and the falsification of the Brachian lineage. This breach of parentage and its cause - that is, the Victoria's choice for sexual intercourse rather than sterile marriage or widowhood - is the agonizing disruption necessitated by the process and its necessary violent death. "Webster deliberately problematized Vittoria's guilt, forcing us to judge her in relation to the other characters," suggests Laura Bromley. “What it means to be a woman is a central theme in the work, highlighted by the extreme examples of Isabella and Zamele, the outrage of Flamineo on the subject, the more subtle claims of Brachiano, Francisco and Monticelso, and the counterstatements of victory .”sixteen

I would like to suggest that the central theme inthe white devilit is something more than initially "what it means to be a woman" or, as Woodbridge suggests, an exploration of "female sexuality".17the differences between women are not based on gender, but rather on gender levels, expressed through sexuality. Vittoria, in particular, "combines male and female characteristics in a way that blatantly violates the required distinctions between the sexes".18So the problem is expanding on Bromley's question and asking:What does it mean to be a male gender woman?and to specify more,How does this gendered masculine woman threaten patriarchal culture?19

In her active sexuality, Vittoria blatantly and aggressively transcends the female boundaries set by society. Their behavior mimics that of the male order, refusing to be submissive or passive. She has actually played the male role in intercourse and gets her Flemish brother's attention for her brave actions. "What a damn delusion is a woman's will / Nothing can break it?" then, in an important, if not comic, flamineo makes a comparison alongside brachiano: "women are caught as one takes tortoises, / she must lie on her back" (4.2.152-54). This comparison had existed since antiquity, but that of Vincenzo CartariPictures(1571) emphasizes the danger of sexual relations for the female turtle and applies the story to the dangers females face in their sexual relations with males.

and when i read about the nature of this animal in pliny (and also in elianus) i find that the ancient sculptors gave a beautiful and sacred admonition to women by placing the tortoise under the feet of venus. because the tortoise knows the danger to which it is exposed when it meets the male; She has to turn on her stomach, belly up, and the male goes to her after the completion of the sexual act and leaves her there. It cannot stand upright on its own and falls prey to other animals, especially the eagle. For this reason, she refrains from the sexual act with the utmost abstinence and, fleeing from the man, puts her health above lust. but then she has to agree anyway, after being affected by an herb that makes her lust so utterly that she fears nothing afterward. likewise, women must remember the danger to which they are exposed if they lose their chastity; hence they must flee from libidinal desires unless compelled by the debts of marriage to secure posterity.20

Flamineo's stark comparison becomes surprisingly accurate as the play comes to its bloody end. Vittoria would have done better (at least in Cartari's phrase) if she had suppressed her sexual desires as much as a tortoise flees from a lustful male. Instead, Vittoria initiates, or at least willingly participates in, her sexual relationship with Brachiano, achieving the predicted fate that female turtles meet when their backs are turned. "I know many glorious women famous / for male virtue, they are malicious" (5.6.243-44), declares Flamineo while characterizing Vittoria's fatal error. We are told that Vittoria “displayed no masculine virtues, but insisted on them, demanding their recognition. Whatever her vices, if she had remained silent, humble rather than assertive, she might have escaped," concludes Bromley.21

More than her refusal to play the female role is Vittoria's usurpation of the male role, particularly in sexual relationships.22Her assumption of male sexual behavior in a patriarchal culture where male identity and ancestry were severely tested and attacked was too hard to bear even in a fictional space. that Victoria's greatest sin was in my blood” (5.6.240) is appropriate to establish its place in erotic exchange. "Blood" is the guarantee of patriarchy, the transmission and continuation of lineage, and ultimately the transmission of power. That blood was his greatest sin suggests that his guilt lies in the usurpation of male identity and with it the power to continue or break bloodlines. the sin is that victoria had blood, metaphorically male authority and blood identification, i.e. male identity.

Vittoria's last words seem quite ironic in this reading, in which she deals with homosexuality. shortly before death he advises sadly: "Blessed are those who have never seen the judgment / nor have known great men than my report" (5.6.261-62). The ambiguous pronoun "she" invites confusion as to who or what gender it is referring to: male or female, or perhaps both. When this ambiguity is viewed with the alternative, biblical meaning of "to know," the lament becomes oddly suggestive. Regardless of whether Vittoria is portrayed as male or female, her vague commentary suggests that neither women nor men should "know" the great men of the court as they do, but should learn from them only through their deeds. This appears to be a warning against heterosexuality and homosexuality based on the possibility of political catastrophe.

When sexual relationships violate and subsume traditional male homosocial bonds, it is clear that destruction of the confusion itself and the source of the confusion must take place in order to restore proper gender roles and sexual relationships. Vittoria's inability to escape her sexual desires and confine her to a marriage-appropriate female role commands her death. Not only did he transcend his gender, but he actively confused male homosociality and introduced the threat of homosexuality into court culture.


Wish me good speed for I am going into a desert where I shall find no path or friendly way to be my guide.

Duchess of Malfi,1.2.264-67

The "wilderness" of sexual depravity is taken very seriouslythe duchess of malfiThe main plot of the play, as Boklund put it succinctly, "is based on the consequences of willful disregard for laws protecting sexual decency".23At the end of Webster's 1613 play, the duchess and duke were murdered, indicating that the play had great fears for their characters. Jankowski suggests that it is the "dual position of wife and ruler" that makes the Duchess "a restless and menacing figure"; she was both his natural and his political body. "Webster's Duchess of Malfi establishes a system of rules in which he disregards the potential of his body, either as a means of gaining power or as a means by which he may lose power."24However, there is more to the fear the Duchess is causing. Jankowski regards them as embodying the natural body and the political body and claims that they remain two separate spheres. More intriguing, however, is the overlap of the Duchess' two bodies when her natural female body takes on the male political body, "that is to say, the monarch has a fully functional second political body".25When this combination occurs, she becomes very similar to Vittoria, a male female in a male homosocial society. but what is the effect of depicting intercourse as a relationship between all male characters? The answer, to use the Duchess' own terminology, is a "desert" of gender and sexual interchange that hasn't been crossed.

The presence of this desert immediately makes us suspicious of the society of work and thus of traditional expectations. Antonio begins Act I by describing the French court as a "blessed government" which he admires. This ideal court is built on homosocial political ties between men and is governed by a "very caring council"; who dares voluntarily / inform him about the corruption of the time” (1.1.17-18). However, the court of Amalfi, to which Antonio returns, is in turmoil even before the Duchess marries her butler.

the ruling family, Ferdinand and his brother the cardinal, “are like plum trees that grow crooked over ponds; they are rich and full of fruit, but only crows, cakes and caterpillars feed on them” (1.1.48-50). Ferdinand is sexually obsessed and incestuous; The cardinal broke his vow of chastity and is still with Juliet.26This open display of sexual passion makes her effeminate. sexual energy and aggressiveness pervade the court, as does the obsequiousness of servants like bosola. and patriarchal descent, we see, is the rule of succession that offers "places at court... like beds in the hospital, where this man's head lies at the feet of another man, and so on and below" (1.1.63 -65) .

The sexual games that take place between the men of the court suggest that their combined male potency is more important than their rank, an important leveling of social authority that occurs early in the game. When Ferdinand first enters the courtyard, he asks his servants, certainly with a wink, "who has taken the ring more often" (1.2.6), referring to sexual intercourse and the act of penetration. When Antonio is declared the victor, Fernando commands "Give him the jewel," one of the myriad references to jewels denoting the female genitalia.27play between men is framed as sexual renunciation to prove masculinity, not combat or social competition to prove social rank. this leveling of male figures rejects the hierarchy of social positions and makes erotic exchange solely dependent on sexuality. as a male ruler, the Duchess can enter this erotic competition far more deeply than in her capacity as a woman.

The identification of the Duchess as a political figure evokes a male authority that is seen as more important than her female character. Her political position, like Elizabeth's, is portrayed as male. With the Duchess portrayed as a political equal, i.e. male, her place in the homosocial relationship between Fernando and Antonio and Fernando and male homosocial society in general becomes as dangerous as the position of her predecessor Vittoria. Christy Desmet writes:

inthe duchess of malfi,potential paradoxes—the ruling woman, the widowed bride, and the princely mother—dissolve into incoherence. The Duchess doesn't end up with many identities, but none. ...ferdinand destroys the sister, whose marriage threatens the integrity of his identity as an aristocrat ...reducing the Duchess to her brother's fantasies and her husband's ambition does not, however, disfigure her character, as the work is read from the perspective of the Women's dispute underlines thisA patriarchal culture tries to define the female ruler from existence.28

Desmet's recognition of "potential paradoxes" - the "female ruler" in the Renaissance - is crucial to understanding the implicit homosexuality of this ruler. What I want to argue is that the "girly" part of the equation is not what causes anxiety. rather, already established male power relations are forced into the possibility of another ruler, who must necessarily be male because of the authority conferred by the title. In other words, society is not trying to eliminate afemaleruler, but any ruler who threatens order, regardless of biological sex. The danger emanates from anyone, male or female, who holds the masculine gender through power and who threatens patriarchy through sexuality and unnatural disruption of lineage.

First of all, the Duchess' sexuality is ambiguous. physically she is a woman who is described with constant images of jewellery. The focus is on his genitals in particular, his sexuality in general. She is portrayed as a "lusty widow" with a knowledge of sex and what is a man that threatens her brothers. For her, the sexual experience is valuable: "Diamonds are the most valuable thing", comments the Duchess, "which have passed through the hands of most jewelers" (1.2.207). As Greene puts it, "It's not the duchess' chastity that's at stake. In fact, she is guilty of what her brothers' intoxicating imagination accuses her of: sexuality, procreation.”29but the phallic sword images associated with the duchess make this definition difficult. Ferdinand says to the cardinal (2.5): “It says: a condemned sister; she is loose on the handles; I became a notorious prostitute.” “Release the grips” is immodest or promiscuous, but the metaphor used to label such sexual promiscuity, “grip,” alludes to the hilt of a sword or dagger. imagining the Duchess to have both that phallic sword and the qualities of a "prostitute," a term used to describe women, further complicates her sexual identity.

Ferdinand's behavior towards his sister is disturbing, not only because of his desire to use the Duchess as a pledge of marriage in affairs of state, but also because of his ambiguous feelings towards her. he wants to rape his sister by letting her "darkest deeds, no, your most secret thoughts, /... come out" (1.2.222-23). The dual meaning of "private" as secret and as private parts or genitals is certainly ingrained in Ferdinand's sinister prophecy. His desire to deepen his sexual behavior reaches a climax when he reveals "his father's dagger" (something passed down patrilineally from father to son, man to man politically and sexually) and, in the same dialogue, states that "women like the part that, like the lamprey, / never has a T-bone” (1.2.242-43). Ferdinand's undaunted interest in sex, while perhaps indicative of male libido, emphasizes that passion, the very trait Renaissance scholars feared would soften men.

This desire then not only portrays him as incestuous, but also portrays him as a effeminate man, the same term used to describe homosexual men. Ferdinand's extreme interest in his sister's sexuality has less to do with political ambitions than with a fear of losing (or having already lost) his own male identity. In other words, Fernando is afraid they will cheat on him. "The fear of losing control of women's chastity, a very valuable asset that guaranteed the legitimacy of heirs and particularly valuable to fathers as disposable property," says Orgel, "is a corollary of a patriarchal structure."30

Ferdinand's role as duke, that is, patriarch of the state, further accentuates his own insecurity about impotence and demonstrates his lack of control over his affections. That this impotence - political, economic and sexual - comes at the hands of another man threatens his masculine and masculine identity even more. He is, of course, duped both sexually and financially by Antonio when Antonio steals the duchess from him, the duke's method of securing economic or political generosity. but the duke is also threatened by the duchess, whom he deems capable of invalidating his power, or subsuming his power and restoring the line. Though perhaps paranoid, the duke would no doubt have perceived the duchess as capable of breaking his authority: her political identity was bound to be perceived by him and the cardinal as genuinely male.

In a curious moment, Ferdinand reacts to his sister's pregnancy with a strange comparison: "I seem to see her laughing - / excellent hyena! – speak to me a little quickly,/or my imagination will lead me/to see her in the shameful deed of sin” (2.5.38-41). His reference to the hyena is revealing, as is the connection between the tortoise and Vittoriathe white devilAccording to tradition, the laughing hyena was considered a hermaphrodite due to the special appearance of the genitals. Although this idea was initially discredited by Aristotle, it appears in medieval bestiaries and Renaissance natural history works such as B. in Edward Topsell's popular book.History of the four-legged animals(1607). Lois Bueler comments: "The hyena's sexual ambivalence, mutability, and parthenogenic ability probably explain the two qualities primarily attributed to the animal: its capacity for dissimulation and deception, and its magical powers."31

Ferdinand's connection between the pregnant duchess, a seemingly magical state since she is said to be unmarried, and a hyena, who in myth can be either male or female, implies at least two conclusions: first, Fernando's imaginative, even fantastical story about the signs of pregnancy his sister. further decline in effeminacy. Maclean writes that "imagination is believed to be stronger in women because cold and wet objects undergo metamorphosis...[a form of this] is found in mental inventiveness."32Second, the Duchess appears to have conceived (since her husband is publicly unknown), an act that would require both male and female reproductive organs. but Fernando's curiosity is overcome by his fear. The Duchess's rather intangible political authority takes on the much more physical characteristics of manhood, leaving little doubt that she has joined (or, like a hyena, magically transformed into) the ranks of manhood.

In addition, the rules of the game have changed. Previously, Ferdinand and his male subjects could joke about sexual conquest because the focus of the verbal and physical combat was an objectified woman. The mere behavior in this scene with Ferdinand is now pure paranoia due to the realization that the objectified female in the traditional exchange has been replaced by a male figure of the Duchess. Fernando and the cardinal's paranoia is caused by the possibility of male homosexuality and the fear of having been betrayed.

However, there is another reading of this restatement of traditional male competition that leads to the same conclusion. if the phrase remains two men sexually competing for the object of their affections, a woman; and when the object of his affection is masculinized, then the man desires a masculine object. Of course, this reading presupposes that a male figure can be an object and not just a subject, as previously suggested. But Ferdinand's emphasis on eye examination in dealing with the Duchess maintains this scheme of a male gaze fixed on another male figure. Maus agrees with a general reading of English playwrights who "differ from their contemporaries ... in the extraordinary emphasis they lay on the jealous husband's desire for a specifically visual confirmation of his suspicions".33In other words, a male character lusts after another male character, thus creating homosexual attraction. So Ferdinand's desire for the Duchess is a homosexual desire, since it has been implied that the Duchess is both politically and physically male.

Throughout the play, the Duchess assumes this masculine role, whether she takes it on purpose because "I think this world is a dull theatre, / Because I am doing my part in it against my will" (2.1.82-83) or whether she believe him when he says "Why couldn't I get married? / I did not go in to create / a new world or a new custom” (3.2.107-08). its intent is nowhere near as important as the disruption it causes in the court order on men's identity. Jankowski gives an insight into the severity of the Duchess's isolation: "The essence of Renaissance dynastic marriage seemed to objectify almost exclusively for women. it became an item of commerce, sealing a deal of greater or lesser economic importance in passing from father to husband. Since her body was seen as an item of commerce belonging to the father or husband, the products of her body, her children, were also seen as items of commerce to be used to cement future business deals between her [husband] and other families. ”34When the Duchess becomes a subjective authority, then she becomes like the two male merchants who have traditionally benefited from her commodification. As Greene succinctly states, "While [the Duchess] is tortured and murdered, she displays a heroism and nobility imaginatively combined with diamond light. his magnificent assertions: "For I know / am I doomed to live or to die, / like a prince I can do both" (3.2.70-71); and "I am still the Duchess of Malfi" (4.2.142) - implying a masculine power like that of Vittoria and a notion of individuality that is autonomous rather than relational."35

Her death is thus inevitable as she challenged the Renaissance ideal of the feminine and disrupted the patriarchal trade in women by becoming both subject and object of the male gaze by emerging as a source of male homosexual angst. Fernando offers the Duchess a dagger to commit suicide. At the beginning of the play, after warning the Duchess not to marry, Fernando gives her some advice: "You are my sister – / That was my father's point: see?" the repetition of the "Poinard" and the symbolic gesture of offering or conferring the patrilineal phallus to the duchess complete his masculine sexuality. but Ferdinand del Poinard's offer emasculates him even more. Although the "tipping" would be used to remove the threat of sexual disruption, sacrificing a man's own manhood would be an act of self-castration. Furthermore, Ferdinand's offering of the phallus to the male duchess already depicted suggests a hint of homosexuality. That the homosexual offer is inextricably linked to death - if the Duchess accepts Fernando's "Faust", she commits not only incest but same-sex sexuality - suggests a charge of the forbidden act. There is nothing left but to die for Fernando and the Duchess since both have violated the acceptable sexual order. Ferdinand proposes this disturbing idea to the Cardinal while they are planning the Duchess's death, but both are troubled by guilt: "I could kill her now, / on you or on myself, because I believe / that it is a sin on us." does heaven avenge / for them” (2.5.63-65).

At the end of the play, Delio believes he is restoring order when he places the Duchess' infant son on the throne after the bloodshed. Critics have noted the ambiguity this leaves, an ambiguity complicated by his astrologically determined early death. Order is not restored because the transfer of power was matriarchal. but there is an additional complication. perhaps the ending is the final sign in the Duchess' claim as male. That is, their descendants become the authority in a world where authority is derived patrilineally, so their authority takes the form of patriarchy.36Not only was the Duchess the subject of a totally unnatural kind of lust (incest morphed into homosexuality), but she also preserved her masculinity to the end, passing her body from a male figure to a son just as lineage would. traditional and patriarchal. . in her death she is not only the twin of a (male) ferdinand, but also releases all the remaining femininity: “i would like to postpone my last guilt as a woman / you wouldn't be bored” (1.1.215).

the tragedy ofthe white deviljthe duchess of malfiIt is that the patrilineal social order is broken and male women and female men rule the courts. the complexities of gender and sexuality, objects and subjects of desire and their necessary relation to political authoritythe white deviljthe duchess of malfiinthe white devil,the male homosocial order is allowed to return after being transcended. but the Amalfi court has no such promise. Despite the deaths of the Duchess and Fernando, the responsibility for continuing to reign rests with his son, the physical embodiment of the alternative sexuality that not only dominated this work but also permeated Webster's earlier stage set and the Jacobean era.


  1. Stephen Orgel, "Nobody is perfect: Or why has the English scene confused children with women?"South Atlantic Quarterly88.1 (Winter 1989): 18.

  2. Juan Webster,The Duchess of Malfi, the Norton Anthology of English Literature1, 5th Edition (New York: Norton, 1986) andthe white devil,Edition F. I Lucas,The Complete Works of John Webster.(London: Chatto and Windus, 1927). all other references tothe duchess of malfijthe white devilare quoted in brackets in the text.

  3. of the painterpleasure palaceis widely recognized as one of the sources ofthe duchess of malfi,along with the sensational French and Italian fonts.

  4. For a full discussion of the major authors and their arguments for women's sovereignty in the 16th century, see Constance Jordan's The Rule of Women in British Political Thought.quarterly revival40.3 (fall 1987): 421-51, especially 426ff.

  5. constance jordan, "representative of political androgyny",The English Renaissance in Print: Balancing the CanonHrsg. Anna m. haselkorn und betty s. travitsky, (amherst: u of massachusetts p, 1990) 157-58.

  6. James' letters to Carr are particularly indicative of the feelings he had towards his loved ones: Written "from the infinite pain of a deeply wounded heart", James urges Carr to redeem his favor with "my mere love and not... out of fear " to seek ... I told him two or three times so that you take me by the heart and not by the nose ... God is my judge, my love was infinite for you; and the only strength of my affection for you has compelled me to carry these things within you and to tame my passions to the best of my ability. let me therefore be received with all my heart, but tempered with humility.” Letter 159 as found in g. p. v. Akrigg,Letters from James VI and I(berkeley: u de california p, 1984).

  7. William Drummon,the poetic works of william drummond of hawthornden.edit me my Kastner, (Edinburgh: William Blackwood and Sons, 1913) 57.

  8. Alan Bray, inHomosexuality in Renaissance England(London: the gay men's press, 1982), further distinguishes that "bestiality is less a series of forbidden acts than the practice of heretics, spies, traitors and Catholics by those who threaten social stability". This list of "threats" may have special meaning for the Cardinal's treatment inthe duchess of malfiWebster's story of the Duchess of Amalfi's wedding stays true to the Italian setting, thus introducing the 'disturbance' or 'threat' of Catholicism into English drama, just as Catholicism was a perceived threat to English society.

  9. Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick offers similar explanations in her enormously influential study of 19th-century British literature and the homosocial relationships that exist between the men in these novels. she posits that social power is transferred from man to man. Women function as necessary objects of exchange between men, but have no real power of their own. the real bond, then, is between the two men who "barter" the woman as a commodity: "[M]acho macho love, like Greek love, is firmly anchored in a structure of institutionalized social relations conducted by women : marriage, name, family, fidelity to parents and offspring”. Furthermore, in this male homosocial order, there is a constant threat of homosexuality due to the fear that occurs between male attachment and male desire. According to Sedgwick, the consequence of this “double bind” is “firstly, the acute susceptibility to manipulation through fear of one’s own ‘homosexuality’ … and secondly, a potential reservoir of violence from self-ignorance, which constitutes this regime constitutively. accomplish." for Sedgwick formulations seeAmong Men: English Literature and Male Homosocial Desires(New York: Cornell Up, 1985), insbesondere 35ff und "The Beast in the Closet",Sex, Politics and Science in the 19th Century Novel(The English Language Institute, 1987): 148-86, insbesondere 152.

  10. organ 18

  11. Even before Vittoria is recognized as a breach in the patriarchal order, Webster attempts to consolidate the patriarchal delegation of authority by authorizing his text. In the preface, addressed to the reader, Webster humiliates his own talents by simply placing his play in the company of "other works worthy of men, especially the full and haughty style of Maister Chapman: the laborious and voluminous works of Maister Johnson: The Fixings." not less worthy of the two worthy excellent maister beamont and maister fletcher: and finally (without confusing the surname) the correct, cheerful and profuse industry of M. Shakespeare, M. Decker & M. Heywood and wish, he could read by his light.Webster traces his lineage and brotherhood to other great male writers, strengthening himself and his game with a man-to-man language bond much like Spenser doesthe fairy queenHe called on the English literary "father" Chaucer to bless the last productive work of the patriline. Before the play's action even begins, Vittoria, the self-empowering woman, opposes the pre-established traditional order of society.

  12. gayle greene, "women before trial in shakespeare and webster: 'the power of [their] sex'"Subjects: A liberal arts magazine36 (1982): 15.

  13. Katherine Maus, "Horns of a Dilemma: Jealousy, Gender, and Audiences in English Renaissance Drama"elh54 (Herbst 1987): 561.

  14. Seggwick,between men49.

  15. Sedgwick further explains (inbetween men) that the infidelity band differs from at least some social conformations of homosexuality because it has a necessarily hierarchical structure, with an "active" participant clearly rising above the "passive". What I want to take away from Sedgwick's argument is the necessarily sexual aspect of infidelity and the male-to-male orientation of that sexual activity. I think that's wherethe white devilserves as a prototype of homosexual relations between men, realizing a year before what will be fully expressedthe duchess of malfi

  16. Laura Bromley, "The Rhetoric of Female Identity inthe white devil,”eds. Dorothea Kehler and Susan BakerIn Another Land: Feminist Perspectives on Renaissance Drama.(Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow, 1991) 51.

  17. cute wooden bridge,Women and the English Renaissance: Literature and the Nature of Women, 1540-1620.(urbana: u of illinois p, 1984) 259.

  18. d. C. shot,Webster: The white devil(London: Edward Arnold, 1971) 14.

  19. Constance Jordan points out that "the distinction and relationship between gender and gender was already evident in ancient philosophical literature and in Renaissance epic (Sidney'sarcadia,special). The masculine woman tended to affirm patriarchal values, and it was only when feminists began to view the values ​​of female qualities in a positive light that the value of woman was established.” see Constancy Jordan,Renaissance Feminism: Literary Texts and Political Models(Ithaca, New York: Cornell Up, 1990), insbesondere 134-247.

  20. John Mulryan, The Tortoise and the Lady by Vincenzo CartariPicturesand John Websterthe white devil,Notes and Inquiries38.1 (March 1991): 78-9.

  21. Bromley 68.

  22. Vittoria masterfully takes on the authoritarian act of language, especially in her judgement. Greene writes, "At a time when such sympathetic educators as Bruni and Vives discouraged women from learning rhetoric (rhetoric was a means of power in public), Vittoria triumphs over her judges... by her mastery of language." (36) .

  23. boklund shooter,The Duchess of Malfi: Sources, Themes, CharactersCambridge: Harvard Up, 1962) 78.

  24. Theodora A. Jankowski, "Defining / Confining the Duchess: Negotiating the Female Body in the Work of John Webster."the duchess of malfi,philological studies87.2 (Spring 1990): 222.

  25. Constance Jordan, "Women's Government in British Political Thought",quarterly revivalxl.3 (Autumn 1987): 428.

  26. The Cardinal is a sexually intriguing figure. Because of his suit, the Cardinal (like all men in a similar position) remains in the childishly asexual realm of "no pants". Up until the age of seven, boys and girls wore the same type of clothing, long tunics. The children's "uncorking" was a significant milestone in their lives and required a solemn ceremony. The girls, of course, had no such ceremony and remained decked out. The cardinals' clothing and its resemblance to the women's clothing is then a further indication of their ambiguous sexuality.

  27. It is significant that Ferdinand and Antonio play the verbal game. The woman who acts as the object of male wit (who provides the "ring") is the same woman who acts as the object in her life: the Duchess. This competition also increases Ferdinand's sexual desire for his sister.

  28. Christy Desmet, "Neither servant, nor widow, nor wife: rhetoric of the women's controversy inmeasure for measurejthe duchess of malfiEdited by Dorothea Kehler and Susan BakerIn Another Land: Feminist Perspectives on Renaissance Theater(Metuchan, NJ: Scarecrow, 1991) 85-6 (emphasis added).

  29. green 36

  30. organ 18

  31. laws e. Bueler, "the excellent Hiena of Webster"Philological Quarter59.1 (Winter 1980): 108.

  32. ian maclean,The image of women in the Renaissance(Cambridge: Cambridge Up, 1980) 42.

  33. Maus 546.

  34. Jankowski 228.

  35. green 17

  36. Coincidentally, the establishment of the Duchess's son on the bloody throne is eerily similar to James' own accession to the throne by his mother Mary, Queen of Scots, when there were no direct heirs.

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Source: Bartels, Emily C. "Submission Strategies: Desdemona, the Duchess and the Affirmation of Desire".English literary studies36, Nr. 3 (1996): 417-33.

[In the following essay, Bartels suggests that Shakespeare and Webster give their female characters real voices by making their language acceptable through a cloak of submission or conformity. Bartels contrasts Desdemona's apparent gentleness with the Duchess's assertiveness, arguing that the characters share the on-stage depiction of the possibility of female self-affirmation.]

chaste, mute, ashamed, and obedient: these are the watchwords in early modern feminist discussions of women: the dictates of an anxious patriarchal network intent on regulating the inevitably rebellious female voices and bodies; the evidence that women who are constantly haunted by sermons, marriage treatises, conductor books, community rituals, and laws adopting these notions cannot have had any real revival.1Renaissance women seem to have known, too. Why does Queen Elizabeth, conspicuously the most powerful woman in England from the mid-16th to early 17th centuries, deliver "a speech of apparent contempt" in which she alternately renounces her femininity and acknowledges her weaknesses?2Why does "Jane Ira" (probably a pseudonym for an English lady) begin her proto-feminist "Protection for Women" (1589) with a letter to "the ladies of England" "longing for pardon" to express herself? "ruthless"?3why aemilia lanyer imagines her bold poetic defense of women,Hail God, King of the Jews(1611) who criticizes the "ability to swear" which "some women" display "unwisely"?4So why do even the most outspoken early modern women repeat terms that would prevent women from "inhabiting their own subjectivity"?5

The simple — and now automatic — answer is, of course, containment, enforced not only by the new historians whose preoccupation with power has marginalized the issue of women, but also by feminists themselves. The necessary project, long ignored, but uncovering longstanding oppression of women has almost compelled us, when we focus on women, to focus on their constituency. Couple this with a tradition of representation in which rebellious, outspoken, or covetous women routinely end up married, mute, or dead, and there seems to be no escape, even for those subjects who show remarkable autonomy before leaving. However, women like Lanyer and Angry (literally) made names for themselves. and if we continue to interpret their acts of conformity as signs of limitation, we place serious limits on even their agency, subjectivity, and voice.

Part of the problem is our reluctance to consider early modern women—who, after all, had no place on the stage—as actresses. Recent work has begun to uncover the multiplicity and conflicts within the established positions of those in power and those in power, but we still tend to take women's voices, whether represented or real, at face value.6Men can play all roles, shape states, society, self and even femininity.7Since self-creation is a public-sphere activity in this era, we don't expect women (other than the Queen) to do it, at least not with the same self-awareness, manipulation, and control. they fill roles instead of building them. In general, we only recognize the most extraordinary or "ungovernable" characters as exceptions, characters likeaccording to your taste's Rosalind (1599-1600), or Thomas Middleton and Thomas Dekker's "Roaring Girl" (1608-10?), who invented strategic, egotistical, if not self-affirming fiction, albeit through male voices and bodies, and sometimes through men. draw.8Still, we allow fictional characters more freedom than "real" messy women, and we favor punishments over "crimes" that sometimes show impressive autonomy.9in any case, these stories predestine us to see female action only in and as resistance, limited (whether contained or not) by the terms in question.

indeed, when these or other women play by the rules, toward obedience, chastity, shame, and silence, we routinely assume they are aloof or reserved, despite stories to the contrary.10When aggressively outspoken women like Jane Ira apologize for their recklessness, we've read their gestures as a sign that they "accepted silence as a feminine ideal" or, at best, felt "forced" to comply.11Less consistently aggressive characters perform even worse. Although Desdemona has the audacity to flee with a Moor and follow him to Cyprus, she makes us lose faith in her audacity because she is "such a good wife" (V.II.234).12she becomes "the perfect wife" who "remains perfectly submissive to the end" and whose "I myself consist in being no self, not even a body, but an obedient, disembodied silence".13

Wives like Desdemona are particularly susceptible to this kind of critical confinement, perhaps because they were among the most (if not the most) regulated of early modern women. However, as historians have shown, they held considerable power in their homes across all classes.14For example, consider the case of Margaret Ferneseede, once a prostitute and pimp who appears to have "forbidden" her husband "'ownership and dominion'" of her (legally his) home, who lived wealthy (probably with her mistress) alone, and who openly poked fun at him after her husband's death, saying she didn't expect to "hear from him so well".fifteenMargaret was eventually found guilty of her husband's murder, in large part because she showed him such "little respect" while alive and such "unmindful sadness" at his death (p. 355). As her case suggests, wives lacked not power but authority, terms that Constance Jordan has usefully separated.sixteenat home, wives could take responsibility, make decisions, and act accordingly. but in the world at large that power gave them no authority, no means of legitimizing their abilities or plans outside of those consistent with a patriarchal scheme. With power, not authority, Margaret Ferneseede was surely doomed.

According to Jordan, contemporary defenses by women (mostly written by men) offered woman only two strategies to affirm her worth: either she could"affirmthe value of her duties as her husband's subordinate," or she might "Rejectthe causes for which he was assigned his role and discover others that give him greater leeway.17the price in either case is self-sacrifice: either the woman remains fully submissive (although this increases the value of her submissive part), or she risks being tricked (as scolding or worse) by decisions which, if legal, she would have made can only theoretically exist.

however, there is a middle term that offers the security of the first option with the radicality of the second and turns women into protagonists: speaking through established positions instead of against them and allowing self-expression in self-expression. oppressive roles. Under the cloak of male authority, women could change their terms and sanction their moves without direct opposition. they could be good wivesjwilling subjects, obedientjconfident, silentjopen. inJulius Caesar(1599), Portia fails to win her husband's trust by appealing to "the right and virtue of her place" (ii.i.269) as a wife and trying to give that place "larger latitude". but when she recasts herself as submissive when kneeling before Brutus, she "acknowledges" that she is an implicitly inferior "woman" (ii.i.292), and gives herself value in relation to men as noble " Father”-wife and “husband” (ii.i.297) – gets what he wants, Brutus' promise to reveal to him “the secrets of [his] heart” (ii.i.306).

Portia's role and desires are subservient when the action returns to its hyper-masculine realms, but in another part of the stage where only men have had the opportunity to enact forms of self-expression, the women's ability to act and build themselves is revealed Central theme. More importantly, what is held there as a key tool for radical self-expression is the attitude of obedience. I want to see two examples here, John Webster'sthe duchess of malfiund william shakespeareothello,whose female protagonists seem to be at opposite ends of the behavioral spectrum: one (the Duchess) is a stubborn and defiant actress, the other (desdemona) is a humble and smug victim. However, the stories they tell are similar. for in each, the gestures of submission paradoxically allow the expression of desire, showing female figures inhabiting their subjectivities, which can both appear and be, and consequently both be and appear.

theDuchess of Malfiis primarily the story of the resistance of a stubborn widow who actively opposes the wishes of her brothers and does not allow herself to be restricted by (male) authority. while her brothers Ferdinand and the Cardinal "did not want her to marry again" (i.i.265), she immediately went about it, declaring: "If all my royal family stood / in the way of this marriage, / I would mean her." make low degrees" (i.i.348-50).18When she marries (soon after), not only does she marry in secret, she also marries outside of class and chooses Antonio Bologna to be her house butler. Before we know it, she's also fathered multiple children, provocative signs to her siblings (who have little room to talk) of uncontrolled sexuality. Her actions set her apart as a woman willing and eager to fight to prevent anyone (even her new husband who is already her subordinate) from taking over her body and desires.19she has reason to assert that authority. She is, after all, an aristocratic widow with rights to a duchy and autonomy so legitimate that her brothers must use clandestine means to contain her.20What is at stake in the play, however, is not simply the question (or issue) of a widow's unique rights, independence, and power, and how they may or may not be restricted by male authority. It's also about the perspective of female self-creation and the kind of voice and agency that comes with it. although partiallythe duchess of malfiIt dramatizes what men can do to women, essentially what women can do to men.

The fact that the Duchess acts according to her will is not surprising given her first statements. However, what is puzzling and revealing (especially since she appears to have married both to demonstrate her autonomy and to satisfy herself) is that she does so through submission. On the one hand, she asks the "old women" to report that she "winked and chose a husband" (i.i.355-6). On the other hand, he keeps his move towards marriage and sexuality a secret. when the "deadly air" (iii.i.56) of a "scandalous report" (iii.i.47) gets really close to her, her honor and her brothers, she protests her innocence. She suspects Fernando, denies the truth and assures him that she will only marry "for [his] honour" (iii.i.44). She pretends to be deeply disturbed by the rumors "touching her honor" (iii.i.48) and powerless to intervene, leaving the remedy in her hands. Only later, when he overhears her talking about her secret sex life (thinks Antonio), does she confess her marriage. In doing so, however, she strategically conceals her husband's identity and his troubled social position, and minimizes the impact of all her secrecy by insisting, "I did not go to / create any new world or custom" ( iii.ii.111-2).

To some extent, the Duchess's "innocence" attitude (iii.i.55) is a matter of survival, imposed by family and society trying to keep the widow a secret. at the end of the play, when his secret is revealed, his time to live is over. The most important thing, however, is that this is not a simple cooptation, a forced renunciation of his wishes. Instead, their supposed conformity marks a movementinWill and desire, which gives him considerable influence to do what he wants, to have his pie and eat it too in a society that would no longer have pie and beer.21

Her achievements are truly extraordinary, at least for a female character on the early modern stage, and the play reinforces her importance by underscoring the pressure that surrounds her. At the end of Act II, the Duchess's reputation is under siege and her life is threatened. Ferdinand, an early modern werewolf, slanders her as a "notorious whore" and is willing to "cleanse" her "infected blood" (ii.iv.26) and, even to the cardinal's horror, "cut her to pieces". . (ii.iv.31). By the beginning of Act III, her shame has extended to the "common mob" who, according to Antonio, "say directly / she is a whore" (iii.i.25-6). but meanwhile, for a leap of two sons and several years, this "excellent / pedigree feeder" (iii.i.5-6) ​​lives and breeds heirs in the wild. and her brethren, the representatives of church and state, have not said a word, at least none to stop them. To some extent, the play fills this gap in time and action, unprecedented in Jacobean tragedy, by having the characters talk about the passage of time and about children. Yet it remains so irritating that critics have questioned the text's authority and consistency. but whatever its textual origin, the break dramatically underscores the Duchess's unprecedented freedom to highlight the remarkable, if invisible, freedom that comes with visible docility. Secretly autonomous, she openly submits to the restraints of her brothers; openly submissive, she appears both intact and untouchable. under patriarchal authority he can do as he pleases.

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In the end, of course, the Duchess is captured, imprisoned, tormented by lunatics, and turned into "a box full of wormseed" (iv.ii.124) by the murderous hands of Bosola, Fernando's right-hand man. Significantly, however, she no longer acquiesces when her submission becomes a reality, a matter of strength rather than choice. when there is nothing left to gain by submission, he asserts his will head on, making clear the uncompromising, uncompromising nature of his voice. So long as there is hope of liberation, while Fernando (as Bosola claims) seeks reconciliation, the Duchess displays "a conduct so noble / That it gives majesty to adversity" (iv.i.5-6) ​​and begs her brother's forgiveness , still (if Bosola is right) "passionately [ing] / usurping those joys of which he has deprived himself" (iv.i.14-5). but once Fernando himself surrenders his innocence and betrays his unabashed aggression, so does she. When he brings her the hand of (pretending) Antonio and denounces their children as "bastards" (iv.i.36), she lashes out at him for denying the legitimacy of their marriage and "violating a sacrament of the Church." (iv.i.39) and again appeals to a patriarchal authority to authorize himself, but this time openly against him. then "she narrates this world as a boring theater" where she "plays a role...against [her] will" (iv.i.83-4) and then refuses to play it. then she resists Bosola's efforts to subjugate and destroy her, and then declares herself "still Duchess of Malfi" (iv.ii.142).

In locating this momentous moment of self-assertion in the midst of his imprisonment and just before his death, Webster may underscore the emptiness of such expression at a time that, some have argued, is just beginning to accept interiority.22but perhaps she is also dramatizing what she has always shown: the possibility of self-assertion in the constituency. even if the self in question is not yet fully internalized, articulated, or defined, the Duchess' claim is neither empty nor defeatist. because she has the last word.23After his death, his voice echoes from the grave, calling out warnings to Antonio that (if not a Jacobean tragedy) could save his life. And at the end of the play we hear that one of her and Antonio's sons will inherit the duchy, more importantly, by "his mother's right" (vv. 113). youes"Duchess of Malfi still".

Significantly, the Duchess based her "right" on a position of wife rather than widow, ruler rather than rebel; by marriage and not widowhood, who acted according to her wishes. If marriage appears in Elizabethan drama as a means of power, it is primarily as a means of male power: a means for men to protect, manipulate, appropriate, act and (male) society from hyperactive and overly sexual women otherwise dominate. Women. still inthe duchess of malfiand the works that emerge in the surrounding decades, even as the debate about women is in full swing, seriously challenge the illusion (probably always an illusion) that marriage can contain women.24actually in MiddletonWomen, beware of women(ca. 1620) Isabella (who was betrothed to the foolish ward in order to have an incestuous affair with her uncle) celebrates marriage as “the only veil which wit can invent / to keep our [illegal] deeds from the intrusion of the to hide sin. eyes” (ii.i.237-8), a veil for their use, protection and pleasure.25

In the cases of Isabella and the Duchess of Malfi, female characters who let us in on their secrets and fight from the start, it is easier to see the fulfillment of the strategy than in these cases. But what about wives or wives-to-be who don't talk to us? Who is less transgressive at the beginning and less assertive at the end? What about "such a good wife" as Desdemona?

Although Desdemona seems much less of a gamer than the Duchess of Malfi, in some ways she is more, so much so that she continues to elude our critical understanding. Desdemona actually gives us two selves to choose from: one, a fully sexual "woman capable of 'absolute violence'" (i.iii.249); and the other, "'a maiden, never bold'" (i.iii.94), as peter stallybrass has argued.26The former escapes her father's "guard" (ii.70) to flee with a Moor and insists on accompanying her husband to Cyprus, a military post in the play and the location of the "very lascivious" Venus and women in the classic and Other. Contemporary reports: a dangerous place for a new woman on both counts.27This first self, too, when undressing, warns that "lodovico is a correct man" (iv.iii.35). the second, the aforementioned 'perfect wife' and 'obedient disembodied silence', appears mainly in the second half of the play and remains passive while her husband destroys her reputation and life. She then takes responsibility for the act and clears her name.

When Hamlet, the prince of gamblers, drifts in and out of madness, sloth and love, we easily entertain the possibility that he really knows, "seems", that he is a man of many masks (if not all masks and no interior) . ). When Desdemona the Good Wife presents two seemingly irreconcilable sides, we tend to treat them as a dramatic or characterological break, something that prevents rather than enables her emergence as a subject. In attempting to solve the problem of these dueling characters, critics either argued for one at the expense of the other or located a gap in the characterization, a moment (in the middle of act iii) where type adesdemona becomes type b.28or they have shifted the conflict into the culture: Desdemona becomes the site of ideological production and supports the normative "sex/race system" even when she "deviates" from its "norms" or unintentionally threatens it simply by being sexually and sexual is feminine.29As clever as many of these readings are, what they hide is the possibility that Shakespeare is creating a Desdemona who, like her more rebellious male or female counterparts, portrays different personalities.

It's clear from the start that Desdemona is an actor, just as adept as Iago, Othello's second wife, at manipulating the system from within. When Othello tries to exonerate himself of the accusations of having cast a spell on Desdemona, he includes her in his Exotic narrative, portraying her as a surrogate adventuress hungry to escape from her "disastrous opportunities" (i.iii.134). hear, and frustrated by "affairs from the house." ". “ (i.iii.147). On the contrary, and to her best advantage, when Desdemona testifies herself, she emphasizes her conventionality and camouflages her unprecedented marital decisions in social and family precedent. With due respect to her "noble father" (i.iii.180), she acknowledges that she is "bound" to him "for life and education" (i.iii.182), that he is "the lord of duty" is (i.iii..iii.184), and that she is "hitherto [his] daughter" (i.iii.185). then he insists that their marriage fulfill their “duty” to pass from father to husband as daughters must do and as their mother did to “prefer [brabantio] to their father” (i.iii.187). Significantly, in siding with his mother, he strategically overlooks two factors that make his own marriage radically different and socially taboo: that it eloped and that it eloped with a Moor. she further diverts attention from the incriminating details of her case, blaming society for assigning women an impossible "shared duty" (i.iii.181) to both fathers and husbands. in their hands, acts of childish disobedience and miscegenation (brilliantly) become not only acceptable behavior, but expected behavior. brabantio, protesting these acts, has no choice but to surrender and step up, which is what he is actually doing.

When Desdemona asks the duke's permission to go to Cyprus instead of staying with Brabantio as he suggests, she presents her plan as the best for her father, whom she would otherwise keep "in impatient thoughts / in his eyes". . (i.iii.242-3) and then humbly asks for help for his "simple ones" (i.iii.246). Not surprisingly, a scene later she is in Cyprus, welcoming her 'dear Othello' to the coast (ii.i.182).30

In these cases, Desdemona's interventions do not appreciably disrupt the political system, since her desires (to be in Cyprus as Othello's wife) do not change what the Venetian court wants (to have Othello there, wife or no wife). On the home front, however, critics have argued, his desires extend beyond those of Othello, who is determined to prevent Cupid's "lightly winged toys" from blunting his "speculative and officiating [instruments]" ( i.iii. 268, 270) and housewives to make "a frying pan with [their] helmet" (i.iii.272). Accommodating these desires, while intended to enhance rather than undermine her marital relationships, works against the conditions of those relationships. In these cases, the stakes in his submission staging are higher. because that way you not only get what you want; She also challenges the system that makes what she wants taboo.31

Desdemona's most brazen expression of her desires comes as she mediates through Cassius, under the patriarchally sanctioned authority of her voice.32They (and Shakespeare) make it clear from the start that while Cassio has the agenda, it is about his will and his right to express it. By agreeing to intervene, you promise (in less than thirty lines):

Rest assured, good Cassio, that I will do everything in my power for you.


Do not doubt it, Cassio, but I want you and my lord to be friends again as they were.


Do not hesitate ... I give you a place guarantee. I assure you if I make a vow of friendship I will keep it to the last article.


and she does what she does in a way that enhances her self-expression and desire at the expense of male authority.

Her performance explodes and collapses the two male fantasies that most define the first modern wives: denial, that of the shrew, and the other, the ideal of the submissive submissive. Lest we believe the stereotypes and think that Desdemona is really clever, she announces that she will play the harpy, that she will "speak [othello] without patience" (iii.iii.23), "she will impose everything what she does / with what the costume de cassio” (iii.iii.25-6), make his bed “a school” and “his pension a disgrace” (iii.iii.24) and verbally attack him at every step on until he embraces the lieutenant again. Faithful and alert, she does so, chasing Othello to meet Cassius "soon", "dinner tonight", "dinner tomorrow", "tomorrow night", etc. (iii. iii.56-60). Othello reacts as if she were really a harpy, transgressing the bounds of female speech. although he insists "I will not deny you anything" (iii.iii.76), his assent serves to cut her off In response Desdemona overcomes her own delusional submission and describes her directness as part of her duty as a wife and not a ls subversive for him, as a gesture that neither threatens his position nor advances hers. "Why, that's not a blessing," she tells him:

It's as if he's begging you to put on your gloves, or eat nutritious foods, or stay warm, or begging you to do something special for yourself.


When Othello misses the point, again saying "I will not refuse you anything" (iii.iii.83) and asking to be left "but a little for me" (iii.iii.85), Desdemona repeats the submission of her Pose. "I will deny you?" he asks, echoing Othello's own denial of denial, and replies with a firm "No" (iii.iii.86). then he assures her: “I know how your fantasies teach you; / whatever you are, I am obedient” (iii.iii.88-9), presenting an assertive “I am” boldly consistent with obedience.

By confusing the positions of the good wife and the shrew, Desdemona indirectly challenges the acceptance of their differences imposed in marriage manuals, sermons, church courts, misogynistic pamphlets, and the like. Her performance highlights what this discourse masks: that being a shrew means following the rules, obediently disobedient, fulfilling a role created by (male) authorities who needed shrews to contain them by they criminalized women. Speech. Conversely, Desdemona also places frankness within the framework of a woman's proper behavior, insisting that speaking out against her husband (and his refusal to see Cassio) "brings him a particular advantage".

While Othello uses connivance to repress, Desdemona uses it to assert herself and sanction the expression of her own desires.33After declaring that what he seeks is "no blessing", he warns Othello that one day he may seek one:

If I have a suit pretending to touch your true love, it will be full of poise and heavy weight, afraid to be granted.


although here he only promises to make "terrifying" and "difficult" personal demands in the future (particularly a "when" and not an "if"), he claims the right to do so now in order to be a desirable subject, too command . the love of othello and "mean". Unsurprisingly, Othello attempts to scale down their exchange or immediately after (rather than before) begins to pick up on Iago's incriminating evidence that Desdemona was a fake. For Desdemona's message comes through loud and clear; his "mind has a meaning" decidedly his.34

What do we do then in the second half of the play, when Desdemona seems to fall into fatal passivity at a dangerous pace, the woman capable of "open violence" being subsumed by the "bold maiden"? ? who staged? What about the space that Desdemona and Shakespeare opened up for their voice? We still see signs that Desdemona will hold out under the guise of obedience. For example, when Othello hits her publicly, she protests that she "doesn't deserve it" (iv.i.241) and then withdraws, as Lodovico points out, like an "obedient lady" (iv.i.248). . ). later, in the face of Othello's suspicions, she declares that she is "honest" (iv.ii.65), while addressing her "will" and "pleasure" (iv.ii.24-5). Like the Duchess of Malfi, she also appeals to heaven - in the fact that she is a Christian and "shall be saved" (iv.ii.86) - to support her position, using male authority to defend that of to deny Othello. In general, however, Desdemona's interactions with her husband in the final acts of the play show her becoming quieter and more submissive, with her desires being kept more and more in check. Though she promises to mediate more for Cassio, she refuses to speak for herself, admitting that in her case, "Whatever I can do, I will; and I want more than I dare alone" (iii.iv.130-1). presenting herself as “a girl to be scolded” (iv.ii.114) who cannot negotiate for herself, who “cannot tell” how she is (iv.ii.111) or whether it is “that name ' or not, whore whom Othello has called her (iv.ii.118), iago enlists her to help her 'recover my lord' (iv.ii.149).

but what has changed in her, as in the Duchess, is not the contempt but the circumstances that surround her, circumstances that compel her not to give up her voice but to redirect it. Once Othello decides that she is a whore, her gestures of obedience lose their meaning and power to protect her speech. Of course, Desdemona does not know the whole story, so does not know what moves Othello's "strange unrest" (iii.iv.133). Even after he repeatedly accuses her of being wrong, she continues to ask, "What's the matter?" (v.ii.47). but she is aware that she has a husband she "had never seen before" (iii.iv.100), one whose erratic answers give her no readable text to play with. and two other things are clear: directness can hurt her and obedience will not help her. Confronted with Othello's distraction, Desdemona feels that her "advocacy is now out of step" (iii.iv.123) and admits for the first time that she "remained in the void of [Othello's] disgust/for [her] freedom is of expression" (iii.iv.128-9). She twice conjures up the possibility that she might be "capricious" by telling Emilia at one point to "curse me very much" (iii.iv.150 ) for "accusing [Othello's] cruelty to my soul" (iii.iv.152) ) and in another "curse" her if she was ever unfaithful (iv.iii.78) as if she now understood that speaking is dangerous. Othello also makes it very clear to him that submission is not an antidote. After Ludovico has vowed her obedience, Othello taunts her sharply and replies (to Ludovico):

Oh you wish I would shoot it Sir, she can twist and turn; and yet go on and come back again; and she can cry, sir, cry; and she is obedient, as you say, obedient; very obedient. – continue in your tears. – about it, sir – oh well-painted passion! –


Obedience, just as he has secured her self-assertion, leaves her and she is now defenseless, fading in her tears like a "passion well painted".

More importantly, while Desdemona is less willing to assert her desires in Othello's presence, she continues to define herself as a desiring subject and gives the terms in which she means this. While, to the feminists' horror, she appears to defend Othello at his expense to the end (and even afterward), she actually exonerates herself and implicates him. She presents herself as a faithful wife who is willing to sacrifice herself for love. but in his tale of self-sacrifice is registered what we had desperately hoped for: a testament to his faithfulness and to Othello's failings. she swears before emilia and jago: "cruelty can do much, / and her [othello's] cruelty can destroy my life, / but never stain my love" (iv.ii.159-61). She uses the story of their love to question his "unkindness". As she prepares for what will (as she also expects) be her deathbed, she recounts the tragedy of the barbarity of her mother's maiden, thereby putting herself in the context of other women who have suffered or died at the hands of their lovers. Recent interest in racial issues has mainstreamed the seemingly rambling story for its evocation of Africa. Significant as this context is in a play about a Moor, that this barbarian is a woman, and a woman wronged in love, I think is even more significant, at least as far as the portrayal of Desdemona is concerned. For Barbary's story and song provide a crucial model for Desdemona's own self-formation and a crucial key to our interpretation of her.35

The story itself is simple: Barbary "was in love" with someone who "proved he was crazy / and left her"; As a result she died singing "a willow song," "an ancient thing" that "expressed her wealth" (iv.iii.27-9). this song (which Desdemona certainly cannot get out of her head and therefore sings) tells of a woman, "i", who "sat [sighing] by a plane tree" (iv.iii.40) and wept to a lover, declaring: "'Let no one blame him, his contempt I agree'" (iv.iii.52). however, his endorsement seems more strategic than sincere. Reaching this last line, Desdemona realizes that "that is not what follows" (iv.iii.53) and inserts what should have preceded, explaining the speaker's approval, the possibility that she is libeling herself will:

I called my love false love; but then what did he say? sing willow, willow, willow; if I court more women, you will sleep with more men.—


By refusing to blame her lover, the speaker (followed by Barbary) avoids blaming herself. for as the male voice threatens in the ballad, her accusations against him will only lead to his accusations against her: if she accuses him of courting more women, he will accuse her of "oversleeping" more men. it is true that in loyally "approving" his contempt she seems subdued by her husband. but in exposing the circumstances of his submission he also exposes the falsehood and emptiness of his position.

and so it is with desdemona. When direct attempts to change the system promise only recriminations, it resorts to detours and tells its story instead of acting. Despite being forced to play defense rather than offense at the end, she keeps acting to create a submissive counter-narrative that challenges and changes the order of things. in the last act, when she speaks after death, she breaks the code of silence expected of both the dead and women, not only declaring her death "without guilt" (v.ii.122) and herself " oh wrong, wrong murdered" d" (v.ii.117), but he also enigmatically insists that "no one; myself” (v.ii.124) killed them. Her "no one" suggestively references the song of the willow, the speaker's instruction that "no one" should blame her lover, and reiterates the loyalty that the speaker defined for Barbary and Desdemona. Though critics routinely hear "nobody" for "me," turning it into "obedient, disembodied silence," Desdemona has voice and body here. Given the dramatic context surrounding her claim and her characterization throughout, the real puzzle here is that we take her answer, literally the outright lie, at face value, her performance as passivity.

In fact, the audience listens to her on stage. and her dying voice destabilizes the master story she has defamed, putting incriminating words in Othello's mouth. Ironically, in order to prove she's a liar (which, to him, is a whore) and usurp the right to the truth, Othello confesses to the crime and insists that "it was me who killed her." (v.ii.130 ). ) to undo itself to undo them. Her voice also authorizes Emilia's rebellion against Iago. It is only after Desdemona has spoken that Emilia questions her husband's honesty, vows "never to come home" (v.ii.197) and dies testifying against him. Significantly, since Emilia "speaks as liberally as the North" (v.ii.220) before she too dies at the hands of her husband, she again invokes the song of the willow and, as she says, "dies [s] in the music ' (v.ii.248) as his mistress - music which is the nourishment not only of love but of feminine affirmation.

Desdemona, Emilia, Barbary, and the ballad's unnamed speaker submit and die, but not before speaking through a narration written by men that would otherwise obscure their voices. each tells its own story, registering desires unfit for women through attitudes of obedience that are. When they sing "willow" under a plane tree, they turn "nobody" into "me". There are reasons that make Othello scream bitch and Ferdinand scream wolf, reasons that warn us against assuming conventional attitudes in general, and conventional female attitudes in particular, as authentic and unposed. Shakespeare, Webster, Jane Angry and Aemilia Lanyer may have different reasons for enacting female compliance. but however their performances encourage, transform, resist, or otherwise respond to the possibility of such a performance, together they demonstrate an outstanding cultural awareness that all the world was indeed a stage, and their actors male and female.36


  1. The main essay is Joan Kelly-Gadol, "Did Women Have a Renaissance?", inmake themselves visible: Women in the European history,Eds. Renate Bridenthal and Claudia Koonz (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1977), pp. 137-64. Other big studios are: Constance Jordan,Renaissance Feminism: Literary Texts and Political Models(Ithaka: Cornell Univ. Press, 1990); cute wooden bridge,Women and the English Renaissance: Literature and the Nature of Women, 1540-1620(Urban: University of Illinois Press, 1984); The introductory material on Katherine Usher Henderson and Barbara F. Mcmanus,Half Mankind: Contexts and Texts of the Women's Controversy in England, 1540-1640(Urban: University of Illinois Press, 1985), pp. 3-130; and Susanne W. peel,Chaste, Quiet, and Obedient: English Books for Women, 1475-1640(St. Marino ca: Huntington Library, 1982), pp. 1-1 1-1 see also Gail Kern Paster,The Shamed Body: The Drama and Disciplines of Shame in Early Modern England(ithaca: Cornell Univ. Press, 1993).

  2. Barbara Hodgdon, "The Creation of Virgins and Mothers: Sexual Signs, Substitute Scenes, and Dual Presences inAll's well that ends well,pq66, 1 (Winter 1987): 47-71, 66. For a full discussion of Elizabeth's self-portrayal see Mary Thomas Crane, "'Video et Taceo': Elizabeth I and the Rhetoric of Council",sel28, 1 (Winter 1988): 1-15, and John M. König, "Queen Elizabeth I: Portrayals of the Virgin Queen",Rent43, 1 (Spring 1990): 30-74.

  3. „Jane Wrath, Her Protection for Women“ (London, 1589), in Henderson und McManus, S. 172-88, 173.

  4. from aemelia lanyer's letter "to the virtuous reader" prologueHail God, King of the Jews(London, 1611). see also Helm, pp. 98-9.

  5. Maureen Quiligan, "Gender Staging: William Shakespeare and Elizabeth Cary", inSexuality and Gender in Early Modern Europe: Institutions, Texts, Images,James Grantham Turner Edition (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1993), p. 208. Quilligan diskutiert Gayle Rubins wichtigen Essay „Trafficking in Women: Notes on the ‚Political Economy‘ of Sex“, intowards an anthropology of women,Adapted by Rayna R. Reiter (New York: Monthly Magazine, 1975), pp. 156-210.

  6. see for exampleThe question of difference: A materialist-feminist critique of Shakespeare,edited by Valerie Wayne (Ithaca: Cornell Univ. Press, 1991).

  7. ironically, the interesting study by karen newmanThe fashion of womanhood and the drama of the English Renaissance(Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1991) focuses primarily on the ways in which men "shape femininity."

  8. rebellious women also accomplished notable things in the street literature of the time. For a helpful review see Joy Wiltenburg,Messy women and girl power in early modern street literature in England and Germany(Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 1992).

  9. See Margaret Ferneseede's case discussed below.

  10. A notable exception is Michael C. Schönfeldt's fascinating essay on "Gender and Behavior inparadise lost,in Turner, pp. 310-38. Schönfeldt sees in Eva's "witty expression of blind obedience" not "the intellectual and ontological inferiority she supposedly declares" but an "impressive verbal fluency" (p. 325). "Milton's gestures of submission," he argues, "are indisputable statements, both static and dynamic, of one's place in a hierarchy and the necessary condition for promotion" andlost paradise"uses the constraints of polite literature to create a space, albeit limited and sporadically inhabited, for the conception of active female virtue" (p. 336).

  11. Henderson and McManus, p. 54.

  12. All Shakespeare quotes are fromShakespeare-Flussufer,Auflage Gramm. Blakemore Evans (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1974).

  13. Michael D. Bristol, "Charivari and the Comedy of Submission inothello," intrue rites and garbled rites: ritual and anti-ritual in shakespeare and his time,edited by Linda Woodbridge and Edward Berry (Urbana: Univ. of Illinois Press, 1992), p. 101-1 75-97, 92; Quiligan, p. 229.

  14. Two central studios are Susan D. Amussen, "Sex, Family, and Social Order, 1560-1725", inOrder and disorder in early modern England,edited by Anthony Fletcher and John Stevenson (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1985), p. 196-217; and Keith Wrightson,English Society, 1580-1680(New Brunswick: Rutgers Univ. Press, 1982), insb. p. 89-104.

  15. "The Charge and Burning of Margaret Ferneseede" (1608), in Henderson and MacManus, pp. 351-9, 358, 354. References to later pages appear in the text.

  16. Jordan, S. 3-5.

  17. Jordan, p. 13

  18. all quotations from the work are fromenglish renaissance drama ii: the stuart period,Edition Russell A. Fraser and Norman Rabkin (New York: MacMillan, 1976).

  19. compare catherine belsey,The Theme of Tragedy: Identity and Difference in Renaissance Theater.(London: Methuen, 1985), pp. 206-7, who reads marriage as an expression of romantic love.

  20. Watch Lisa Jardine see how the Duchess' widowhood affects her place (Still harping on daughters: women and drama in Shakespeare's age[1983; rpt. New York: Columbia University. Press, 1989], pp. 78-93).

  21. compare Jardine, who sees the Duchess as an evident "strong woman" who "needs to be taught her faults systematically" (pp. 68-102, 98).

  22. see, for example, Belsey, pp. 35-4

  23. compare Kathleen Mcluskie,Playwright there Renaissance(Atlantic Highlands NJ: Humanities Press, 1989), p. 145, arguing that the Duchess will be defeated by the power of her brothers. see also Mcluskie, "Drama and sexual policy: the case of Webster's duchess", inTheater and Sexual Politics(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985), Pages. 77-91.

  24. Given the importance of this challenge, I would argue against the notion that "misogyny is on the rise in late Elizabethan and early Jacobean drama generally," as most recently in Steven Mullaney, "Mourning and Misogyny:Hamlet of Avengers Tragedyand the last advance of Isabel I, 1600-1607",square45, 2 (Sommer 1994): 139-62, 144.

  25. Thomas Middleton,women, beware of women,inJacobean and Caroline tragedies,Ausgabe Robert G. Lawrence (London: J. M. Dent, 1974).

  26. Peter Stallybrass, „Patriarchal Territories: The Enclosed Body“, inRewriting the Renaissance: Discourses of Sexual Difference in Early Modern Europe.Edition Margarete W. Ferguson, Maureen Quiligan, and Nancy Vickers (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1986), p. 123-42,

  27. Information on Cyprus is from James F. Gaines and Josephine A. Roberts, “The Geography of Love in Seventeenth-Century Women's Literature,” in Turner, p. 292

  28. see Bristol, Quiligan and Stallybrass, "patriarchal territories". For an excellent alternative, see also Michael Neill, "Improper Beds: Race, Adultery, and the Horrible," inothello,square40, 4 (Winter 1989): 383-412.

  29. Karen Newman, "'and wash the ethiopian in white': femininity and the monstrous inothello," inShakespeare reproduces: the text in history and ideology,Edition Jeans F. Howard and Marion F. O'Connor (New York: Methuen, 1987), p. 142-62, 153; see also stephen greenblatt,Self-design of the Renaissance: from more to Shakespeare(Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1980), S. 222-5

  30. see also ii.i., where Desdemona notes her role play, her plan to "deceive the thing [that is] by appearing otherwise" (ii.i.122-3).

  31. For a powerful essay on the discourses surrounding Desdemona, see Valerie Wayne, "Historical Difference: Misogyny andothello," inthe question of the differenceWayne-Edition, S. 153-7

  32. I sketched the beginnings of this argument in Making More of the Wasteland: Aaron, Othello, and the Renaissance Reshaping of Race.square41, 4 (Winter 1990): 433-54, bes. 452-4.

  33. related is the example of kate inTaming of the Shrewwhich, if Quiligan is right, "seems to grant Kate the exercise of her own biologically gendered sexual desire at the moment of her most freely chosen obedience" (p. 223).

  34. the Maltese Jew,iv.iv.106, de christopher marlowe,complete pieces,Ausgabe j. b. of Foot (London: Penguin Books, 1969).

  35. compare Stalybrass, who argues that Barbary as a "unique" but doubly resonant "signifier" "slips between the masculine and the feminine" ("Crossdressing and the 'Underbody': Speculating on the Child Actor", inerotic politics: Desire in the Renaissance scene,Susan Zimmerman Edition [New York: Routledge, 1992], S. 64-83, 73).

  36. I presented versions of this paper at the American Shakespearean Association Convention, Kansas City, April 1992, and at the Columbia Shakespeare Seminar, Columbia University, October 1992, and am grateful to the participants at both, particularly Rob Watson, Maurice Charney, and Jean Howard, as well as the reader ofsel.Finally, a very special thanks to Jim Siemon whose comments and encouragement were vital.

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Source: Kerwin, William. "'Doctors are like kings': medical policy andthe duchess of malfiRevival of English Literature28, Nr. 1 (1998): 95-117.

[In this paper, Kerwin addresses the medical problem ofthe duchess of malfiin its historical context to illuminate Webster's critique of authority in general and monarchical authority in particular. Based on a comprehensive study of contemporary medical sources, Kerwin compares the medical "performances" of Ferdinand the Cardinal and Bosola to Jacobin medical discourse.]

in the fourth act vthe duchess of malfi,As the Duchess struggles to maintain her sanity, her brother Fernando produces the Mask of a Madman, a procession of eight characters representing misguided forms of desire. One of them sings:

like ravens, owls, bulls and bears we will scream and scream until the annoying noise has fogged your ears and eaten your hearts.(1)

Whether Webster's art follows this "caustic" aesthetic or whether it offers a spiritual alternative to such desolation seems to be the focus of debatethe duchess of malfiIn interpreting this scene, critics have often praised the mask, finding it central to various interpretations of the play. Subway. C. Bradbrook quotes approvingly Charles Lamb's judgment that this scene "is not of this world", and continues: "Madness itself was regarded as diabolical possession, and the madman's 'comic' mask prefigures Ferdinand's later folly".2Other critics have emphasized that Webster participates in the vital genre of the Jacobean masquerade, that anti-masquerade that foreshadows the Duchess' murder.3But while this scene certainly has spiritual overtones, structural elements of mask tradition, and formal analogies in the text, I would like to read it and the work as a whole from a different perspective. The Mask of the Fools is presented as what appears to be a healing ritual, one of several parts of the play in which a nightmarish medicine appears in theatrical form. the play's medical theater shows how the claims of an ancient and disinterested tradition can obscure fundamental interests; Here the mask is associated not only with the dark forms of nature: "ravens, owls, bulls and bears", but also with the Malfi court, the "common source" (1.1.14) which poisoned itself. Webster's work can help us understand how medical power is legitimized: the pose of timelessness, much like some late 20th-century claims of scientific objectivity, masks the connections between medicine and society. Webster's accounts of medicine point to the configuration of theatrical, political, and medical discourses in early modern culture and to the flimsy demonstration of power on which "professions" often depend. I find the label "medicine satire" unsatisfactory because it implies a separation of medicine into an independent cultural area; Webster's work undermines this very act of specialization, aligning physicians with the most shaky sources of Jacobean authority.

the duchess of malfiit has an explicitly medical background, not only in its characters and language, but also in the historical context of Jacobean medical policy. The medical theater of the play, the presentation of healing as a performance, repeatedly combines the authority of educated doctors with the weakened legitimacy of the court.4By connecting the problems of doctors and kings, Webster reflected historical parallels in his own city very directly. The many challenges to their authority which the London physicians faced were inseparable from, though certainly not identical with, the challenges of their culture to the king and bishop. The times were as divided in medicine as in political and ecclesiastical government, and the various competing definitions of the good doctor in the first half of the 17th century were shaped not only by the emergence of a scientific worldview but also by narrative politics. and religious orthodoxy or revolution. The traditional elements of the medical school were involved in defending a monopoly, and that defense was based on ritualistic displays of power. The theater debate linked medical discourse to broader debates about acting, as physicians, like other rulers, responded to increasing fluidity at social boundaries by accusing rivals of seditious independence. but the privilege of being a specialist could not be based on traditional authority alone: ​​Galenic medicine, both in its technical knowledge and in its organizational structures, was unable to meet the needs of a country with new problems and social arrangements. Most healers were not physicians and did not aspire to "professional" status, and physicians' attempts to create such status implied a radical centralization of power and thereby a re-enactment of their own role. the doctors themselves had to rely on the staging, although the category of the scene became for them a means of distinguishing the true healers from those who only act.

This essay analyzes the discussions of medical power for their connections with other narratives of Jacobean authority. It first examines the medical discourse on physician legitimacy and highlights how discussions of a healer's performance incorporate other Jacobean struggles between traditional and innovative authorities. Then read how John Webster includes medical benefits in his critique of a "sick" monarchythe duchess of malfiLinking political injustice to a particular form of medical professionalism, Webster challenges the viewer or reader to consider the connections between the rituals of medicine and aristocratic mismanagement. the connection between bad medicine and bad government is explicitly made by the playwright, but I contend that this parallelism was also part of the conflicting definitions of the medical officer of the time. For different people, what defined the doctor was his noble and specialized wisdom or his oppressive regime of mismanagement. Webster's work makes sense within this debate by taking the anti-professional position by showing an autocratic medicine trying in vain to perpetuate an outdated ideology that relies on rituals that are ultimately not medical at all. for Webster's work, and for the period as a whole, the histories of politics, literature, and medicine are mutually constitutive, as rulers, actors, and physicians shape one another.

Tudor-Stuart medicine's attention to acting was part of a cultural phenomenon in which theatricality was being redefined and decentered. Masks, as Stephen Orgel has convincingly shown, clearly served social functions; They rarely fell into Bradbrook's realm of being "out of this world." Orgel argues that the masquerades of the Caroline court reinforce official visions of power: 'The masquerade represents the triumph of an aristocratic community; at the center is the belief in hierarchy and the belief in the power of idealization.5butthe duchess of malfiuses medical masks for very different purposes: they expose the cruelty of medical and political authority. In his discussion of the staging of Shakespeare's exorcism, Stephen Greenblatt has argued that theater can 'empty' a ritual that held power elsewhere; Webster's work also recreates rituals with the effect of associating illegitimate healing not with unlicensed "coasters" but with the most respected practitioners, physicians.6the craft that claimed to be above the theater by virtue of its expertise is responsible in this work for sharing the same self-produced role of a stifling nobility. By focusing on the connections between the power of physicians and the importance of this work, I hope to show that Webster not only ridicules medical claims of professional objectivity, but more importantly shows how these claims depend on a particular political culture, power struggles, to curb new claims to authority. His attacks on official medicine are best seen not as a universal satire on physician arrogance, but as a thoughtful reflection on Stuart society; The importance of medicine in this work can only be discovered if we consider it as a social form. Webster's treatment of medicine was active in a critique of Stuart autocracy, both medical and monarchical.


Physicians have always acted, and Jacobean physicians had an ancient tradition to draw on. The medieval doctor often appeared in front of an audience at a public consultation. Although some have envisioned the dominance of patient-centered, prehospital "primary medicine," physicians of the era were rarely alone with their patients; Visits were usually made in the presence of large numbers of friends or relatives.7Traditionally, doctors tried to impress their patients with their sophisticated jargon, down to the purposeful high-level jargon: the medieval textabout medical careAttributed to Arnau de Villanova, suggests that an uncertain diagnostician should use the phrasethe filling in the stomach(i.e. "obstruction in the liver") "and specifically use the wordhustlebecause they don't understand what it means, and it helps a lot when a term isn't understood by people."8While the use of technical jargon may sound similar to today's practices, the ways in which physicians were hired and paid in the late medieval and early modern periods were very different from ours and helped shape the dynamics of the performance. These contractual procedures involved trials and negotiations and made doctors dependent on patients and their families. Doctors often received only a fraction of their fees until a cure was achieved; If the therapy was unsuccessful, they received little wages. In addition, patients put doctors to the test, often playing each other off before deciding which one is more effective and hiring them. In this "buyer's market," the power of a doctor was radically different from that of his 20th-century counterpart, for whom visiting a patient usually means accepting the superior doctor's knowledge. The consultation required persuasion and an audience that went beyond the patient. demanded a performance.

but by the late 16th century, in public debates about correct medical conduct, physicians in England characterized such consultations as the antithesis of action, contrasting the illegitimate staging of "saves" and "sarlatans" with "real physicians." '" Meeting professional standards. a significant increase in medical competence led to a less flexible attitude of the physicians. They based their authority on Latin texts, particularly Galen, and claimed that the doctor was free from rhetorical displays because of his professional identity. attempting to create a professional sense depended on specialization, although most medical services were provided by part-time healers.9it has been claimed over and over again that the doctor is the only legitimate healer because he doesn'tnoLaw.

The Jacobin crisis in medicine was the culmination of longstanding challenges to physicians' authority, reflected in legal traditions and exacerbated by changes in England's social fabric. English sixteenth-century medical laws were notable for their inconsistency: while the 1517 Act establishing the College of Physicians gave it regulatory powers, an act of 1542-1543, sometimes referred to as the Charlatans' Charter, pushed in the opposite direction, by defending the rights of doctors Doctors. untrained individual practitioners.10This letter expressed a populist health ethos:

henceforth to any person subject to the King who has knowledge and experience of the nature of herbs, roots and waters, or their use by speculation or practice, be lawful in any part of the Kingdom of England, or within any other kingdom of the King to practice, use, and treat any external ulcer, incompetence, wound, apostemas, swelling, or external disease of any herb or herbs, ointments, baths, pultes, and packs, in accordance with his cunning, experience, and knowledge.. .without trial, hassle, penalty or loss of his property.11

With the founding of the college and the protection of folk medicine, centralization and decentralization took place at the same time. Both of these narratives—the growth in the number of naturopaths and the increasing attempts by physicians to enforce a legal monopoly—perpetuated for the next hundred years. For most of the sixteenth century and well into the seventeenth, the college attempted to establish jurisdiction over the medical profession, expending much of its energies, often unsuccessfully, to monopoly and violations of its strict London laws follow. Rules against practitioners who were not physicians.12After James I's accession to the throne, prosecutions accelerated, with 435 people being indicted between 1601 and 1640 (p. 5). william harvey was university censor in 1613-1614 before his famous research propelled him to the forefront of english medical science. During his tenure, college meetings were held almost weekly on the prosecution of unlicensed doctors, surgeons, pharmacists, quacks, or other empiricists; The university spent much of its time maintaining an elite medical profession.

Yet despite prosecution, the crown often protected unlicensed "field scientists" and people continued to employ them. A series of social unrests led to what Bylebyl called "the crisis of medicine in Jacobean England" (p. 4). The two main demographic changes were the growth of London, which reached a population of 200,000 in 1600, and the persistence of the plague, ever present but occasionally devastating. The years 1603 and 1625 were particularly disastrous, with a total of 80,000 deaths in London alone in the two years combined (p. 2). the plague was only the most serious cause of the change; Other causes included the persistence of syphilis - the 'new disease' about which there was no galenic discussion - and the public health problems in London caused by rapid urbanisation. That this was a crisis of "medicine" and not just "health" is demonstrated by the medical school's failure to garner genuine and public support.

there were additional incentives for the public to ignore the university's self-proclaimed monopoly. unlicensed practitioners were willing to use a wide range of therapies, from the traditional (herbs, astronomy, magic spells) to the more advanced (chemical medicine). Medical texts in English became increasingly available to the public, and this availability encouraged the practice of self-diagnosis and treatment. The growing public independence of orthodox physicians was analogous to the Protestant rebellion against ecclesiastical authority and the post-Gutenberg explosion of individual literacy. Challenges to ancient textual authority were expressed in all areas of culture, and in medicine the ancient traditions of Galenic theory and its text-based practice were not only fulfilled by Paracelsus ("the Luther of medicine") and Vesalius (whose anatomy helped). bringing about great changes in physiology and anatomy) but by an indigenous wave of opposition to the accepted medical epistemology. Popular medical culture encouraged people to treat themselves, their family members, or their neighbors without having to deal with ancient texts that provided the theory of a particular galenic therapy.13

and the rebellion was not only because of economic competition; Natural philosophers criticized the medical establishment for an epistemology that left little room for new ideas. Francis Bacon criticized conventional medicine for relying on a medical canon that supposedly contained complete knowledge: “Medicine is a science that explains more than it elaborates, and yet more elaborated than advanced; The work was more in circles than progression in my opinion. I find many iterations but few additions.”14his desire for 'addition' rather than 'repetition' and his disdain for what had been 'professed' rather than 'worked' are representative of a broader dissatisfaction with the way older medieval models of medicine failed to meet the requirements to be fair. the urbanized world of post-Reform Jacobean London. the construction of medical knowledge in conventional medicine only permitted the discovery of new facts or therapies within narrow limits. the "new" remedies were presented as rediscovered remedies; The premise was that the combination of humankind's physical degeneration and the loss or corruption of classical texts had obscured previously discovered knowledge from the western world. the medical historian chiara crisciani discusses this "problematic attitude towards the 'new' and the progressive increase in knowledge".fifteenAccording to Hippocrates, “the history of medicine seems to come to an end. …Hippocrates concludes the series of author-discoverers; Galen begins with that of the author-commentators” (p. 125). the new knowledge was presented as a clarifying commentary on the previous knowledge so that authority could be corrected without ever being radically challenged. The result was a divided agency, with one investigator maintaining a strong dependency. Chrisciani calls this a "conscious ambivalence in which respect is intertwined with interpretative power" and in which "change is perceived as within a closed system" (pp. 126, 130). By the late 16th century, the still influential epistemology of medieval science prevented physicians from deriving new authority from their medical knowledge, because innovation was viewed as treason or heresy.

It is perhaps not surprising then that physicians used the metaphor of theater in attacking their competitors, since fictional role-play represented an alternative mode of cognition to traditional medicine and also to scholastic philosophy and hereditary politics. Franco Moretti discusses the power of theater to demystify political power through its representation; Instead of working to secure the consent of the dominant social structures, Elizabethan and Jacobean drama worked to undermine "the values ​​of absolute monarchy" (p. 27). The tragedy helped prepare the public for regicide by "desecrating" royalty. In medicine, too, tragedy can act as a challenger to absolutism and was therefore particularly dangerous for doctors.

In a 1602 London pamphlet there are two persistent articulations of physicians' attacks on the theatricality of their innovative competitors: a translation of a treatise by the German physician Johann Oberndorff, translated into English asthe anatomy of true physiology and false falsification. where both are graphically described and exposed in the right and east colors.the translator is "f. h.", Francis Herring, Fellow of the College of Physicians, who responded to his translation with a paper of his own of almost the same length entitled "A Discovery of Certain Stratagems, to which our English Empiricians have been observed to be much opposition, and many Paint to clean his poor patients' purses.”

Oberndorff explicitly contrasts the consultative practices of the healer and the physician as two types of performances, representing a false theater and a true theater. the false healer, "like adiogenesÖRuder,who wants to be alone and singular”, shies away from the mutual approval of his diagnosis. but the true healer is the obedient actor who “does not refuse to join the learned schisms when they visit their patients and confer together on the healing of diseases, but carefully observes these learned colloquia and councils and carefully rehearses them in the memory : he also gradually puts his own hand to work, and in the face of difficulties and dangers he is not ashamed to follow the advice and instructions of skillful and practiced physiologists” (p. 3). Like a player learning his text, a doctor takes on his role, which for Oberndorff is internalized academic learning. the true physician is "polished and adorned with chains of Pallas gold: I mean fully endowed, with those arts and tongues which are most required and necessary in a position" (p. 1). The ethics of this highly acclaimed doctor's office are based on community identity: the good doctor brings his own hand "little by little" to a group consensus. It is also based on "those scholarly colloquia and consultations," to the point of memorizing them. Oberndorff continues his definition of the doctor's role by praising "the true philosopher or phisition (for both make one in our time)" (sign. c1). Equating scholar and physician conveys physicians' belief that the classical tradition combines specialized training with a stabilizing eloquence.

when oberndorff and his herring publishing house look at their competition, they define it using two criteria that gradually merge: learning disabilities and social instability. The first stated source of evil for criminals is that they have no university education; Hering says that their degrees are "not acquired in schools, but imposed by the common people" (Sig. a3v), and Oberndorff continues: "[t]here are such that they cannot bear to endeavor or to travel to study: they refuse incomparablyLokScholarly commentaries, like boring and frivolous speeches, have found their wayparacelsusVolcanic tent, a shorter and shorter way to the forest” (p. 4). They find legitimacy in popular elections rather than university or union tests, and infuriate physicians because their claim to practice has no official endorsement. but more than their ignorance, the independence of their rivals worries the doctors. They are not professionals because they do more than cure. Oberndorff writes that the mountain banks

For the most part, they are the pathetic and filthy scum and refuse of the people who, after escaping their jobs and jobs, live in a corner learning to make a living by killing people. and if we remove the entrails in which these masquerades march, and bring them to light which they (like owls) cannot endure, they will look like fugitive Jews, murderers and robbers of Christians, clumsy monks who have escaped their monasteries , simoniac and perjuring razors, employed Sir John Latines, thrasonian and uneducated chemists, changelings and miserly outcasts, ruthless and trivial drug addicts and apothecaries, sun-shy nightbirds and corner vines, dull vulgar and vulgar mechanics, stage actors, jugglers, peddlers, chattering barbers, filthy greasers, nosy lifeguards, vulgar shape-shifters and conceited cavemen, boastful soldiers, ruined march[n]ts, lazy clowns, one-eyed or lame fencers, toothless old gossips, gossips and nurses, long-tongued midwives, sin sharks, dog leeches and the like, and ground dung.

(S. 2-3)

Oberndorff and Herring reserve a worse group of criminals, the deliberately malicious "wizards, witches and poisoners" for even stronger criticism. but the spirited catalog of the Untested quoted here offers a furious tour of the Elizabethan underworld (Hering has been loosely translated: 'caveliers' and 'scapenhaie' indicate a distinctly English landscape). Beneath the attractive surface lie irreligion, laziness, and violence; Abandoned men, refugees from commerce and the army, connect with the theological nightmares of Catholicism and Judaism or with the dangers of female neglect. All of the doctors' competitors make the list: surgeons, barbers, shopkeepers, apothecaries, alchemists, and healers. The actors are part of the appeal, the "stage actors" in the indictment, but more importantly, they are Oberndorff's metaphor for the whole problem, as all criminals are referred to as "disguised maskers."

Herring blames the disruption of the new social mobility for the rise of these impostors: "It cannot be lamented enough that the oldest, most dignified, and most honorable profession of medicine, which in former times was a university of more learned, more serious, and deep, it is now become a common heart, vessel, and sanctuary of the improvised, the ruined, and the swindlers" (p. 24). Oberndorff wants his competitors to "hold back in their shops and camps" and finally addresses these cheeky upstarts head-on: "Know thyself ...dwell in them and do not break your rank" (p. 21). Unreliable performance appears to be caused by new social arrangements, the "common interior" of the market.

Oberndorff's attacks are part of a culture-wide attack on theater that has been linked to fears and changes in economic, religious, and gender practices. Jean-Christopher Agnew has outlined a connection between market culture and theatrical culture and the rise of the market from 1550 to 1650 - the so-called 'long 16 itself in theatrical metaphors. it points to "a newly discovered protean social world in which conventional markers of social and individual identity have become mobile and manipulable reference points".sixteenAgnew sees the era as one of “peculiar change” (p. 9) and argues that the image of life as a stage takes on a new set of meanings, less religiously didactic and more socially reflective: “the deeper resonance between commercialism and theatricality changed the old Stoic and Christian metaphor oftheaters of the worldfrom a simple and supernatural statement of human vanity to a secular and complex commentary on the world of commodities” (p. 12). Of course, many historians and literary critics discussed the idea of ​​theater at the time; Agnew's distinction lies in his projection of this idea onto the market.17I argue that the societal consequences of a more self-aware theater culture reach into medical practice and take on a particular form there. Physicians charging wrongdoing often did so with reference to mixed social fluidity and theatrics, accusing their rivals of being cheap gamblers.

Oberndorff demonstrates a medical version of antitheatrics by describing the improper form of deliberation, not the colloquia of scholars but the independence of the individual:

and according to the various inclinations and moods of men, he puts aside the demeanor and earnestness of a phisition, and dresses himself in the person of a toady and an appendage, to conform to all and please the world, to prosper better than his Profession: he does not refuse servitude or hard labor, however abominable, to win the favor of his good masters and mistresses, and to enter these great lord or rich ladies' books one as pharmacist, another as cook, another as a servant: another as a servant instead of Mother Midnight, and sometimes content with carrying the pee, humbles himself to all subservient and submissive occupations. moreover, with your permission, he sometimes (which is the most undignified and unseemly of all others) plays the jester and the buffoon, and from time to time (which is the worst) the pimp and the pandoro.

(S. 11)

the language of action here serves to define illegitimacy, as playing a role is equated with dishonesty, in direct contrast to the trustworthy role of a medical "profession". Historically, naturopaths of the time often combined specialized medical work with other work,18and this versatility is despised here by Oberndorff. Pharmacist, cook, servant, midwife ("Midnight Mother"), urinal carrier, jester and pimp, like the common man of Jacques inaccording to your taste,Unlike the supposedly singular doctor, Oberndorff's charlatan plays seven roles on his stage.

Part of the actor's power resides in his looks, and Oberndorff attacks Mountebanks for her gestural control and her violation of the lavish decor:

but so that nothing is missing... he tries at his door, in gesture and clothing, to resemble the one on the rightAesculapius: but in such a way that he is like a monkey dressed in purple, with lots of toys and ornaments, that he can attract competition and the admiration of men with flashy, extravagant, coarse clothes, his big gold chain and glittering rings on every finger , and easier to pronounce, his car full of leases.

Well, just like this stage, bravery does not require a small price: it also greatly promotes our great ones in many beautiful and cunning changes and tricks to win.

(S. 14)

Just as the Elizabethan actor might play officials of state portraying churchmen or nobles in a way that might question their authority, an Elizabethan commoner might play a doctor and threaten the continuance of his practice.19Herring's tract presents rival practitioners as illegitimate actors, hunters of medical frauds, whom he must debunk. he recounts the work of two particular con men: "Thus these two veterans or Couzing Copsemates act their parts as if they were on a stage, eluding and seducing common men and women, utterly ignorant of these picturesque tricks" (p. 32). . After they managed to sell their products, "each of them boasted that they had done their best" (p. 33). Again and again Oberndorff and Herring dismiss their medical competitors as actors, in contrast to the "real doctor" who "does not wear two faces under one hood, but heart and tongue, his words and actions are right and go". Hand in hand". ” (p. 7). Although the learned physicians made their own staging in their offices, they created a public image that was supposedly devoid of such rhetorical implications. More than the lack of enlightenment, the role play draws the attack of the Doctors on themselves: The professional defines himself against the protein.

The birth of the medic was clearly difficult. Before the more flexible epistemology developed in the scientific revolution, physicians relied on an apparently closed, inherited system of knowledge and attempted to maintain prescribed authority. Harold Cook traced the reinvention of the College of Physicians in the second half of the 17th century, after William Harvey's students developed an idea of ​​knowledge as produced by experiment rather than transmitted from antiquity. Cook writes: "They promoted a new kind of 'scientific' medical education, which incidentally retained their place at the top of the medical hierarchy as learned men, something which the medical college could now do only as a learned society, not as a learned society, a Regulatory authority."20but in Jacobean England this transformation was just beginning. The physicians' claim to absolute authority was based on inherited privilege and permitted no role other than that of leadership.


John Webster's most famous tragedy blurs the lines between political and medical performances as medicinethe duchess of malfiit provides ritual and language for maintaining a tyrannical regime. The nobles and the two doctors in the play, a mad doctor in act 4 and a weird one in act 5, all seek to rule or heal by hierarchical mandate. Far from being a mere farce, the Doctors' scenes exhibit a dynamic interwoven with the play's dominant politics, making the Doctors part of what Jonathon Dollimore calls "the legitimacy of the power structure" and "the imperatives of the... ideologies of order”. .21- Mirror ineffective medics in the game and help create the Evil Nobility command structure. Cardinal, Fernando and Bosola all adopt the doctor's language, particularly in their treatment of the Duchess. Webster places medical practice in the context of a corrupt autocracy and makes them interdependent.

The doctors in the play and the medicinal acts of the rulers often take the Jacobean dramatic form more associated with the celebration of power, the masquerade. Clearly the most successful healing therapy in the play is reported by a servant:

a great physician, when the Pope was stricken with deep melancholy, introduced him to various kinds of madmen, whose wild subject matter, full of variety and hilarity, made him laugh, and so the imposthum was broken.


The servant announces that Fernando wants "the same cure" (43) for his sister, in the form of the Mask of the Mad Eight. But while the cure may have worked in Rome, it's much less effective in Malfi, where Ferdinand replaces the "great doctor" as director of the healing show. nowhere in this piece does anyone create a successful performance; the good doctor is as absent as the virtuous prince.

Fernando's masquerade includes a doctor "who has gone insane out of jealousy".22the characterization of this doctor refers both to the actions of cardinal, ferdinand and bosola and to the market interests of the jacoban doctors from london. In a fusion of categories typical of Webster's poetic style, the doctor's delusions combine a multitude of contradictions: psychological, spiritual, and social. His fears initially combine control of his wife with control of his profession: "Will my pharmacist outdo me because I'm a cuckold? I have heard of his mischief: he makes alum from his wife's urine and sells it to the Puritans, who have a sore throat from exertion” (4.2.82-85). The fear of the pharmacist (in England, after a long struggle with the doctors, the pharmacists successfully won their own company in 1617) combines medical and sexual rivalry and makes the doctor a figure of double impotence.23then he changes psychological direction and boasts of his powers: his ability to "make every woman here call me a mad doctor" (ll. 98-99), and his mystical remedies: "I have the nails forty times cut them off from the devil." in raven's eggs, and with them he cured fever" (ll. 106-09). Sexual and spiritual control fantasies he follows and surpasses his supposedly highest medical triumph: "All you college boys can throw your caps at me, I've made an expensive soap kettle: it was my masterpiece" (ll. 112-14). The technical significance of the remedy is that diarrhea was an occupational hazard for soap makers24; The healing is another sign that a man is obsessed with his ability to control things: his business, his wife, and his bowel movements. Like Ferdinand, the mad doctor has a passionate need to resolve body-related fears. inthe Elizabethan stage doctor as a dramatic convention,Philip Kolin points to the technical importance of the "masterpiece", but sees a touch of ridiculousness in it: "The mad doctor and Ferdinand try out incredibly grotesque remedies. When the mad doctor discovers the absurdity of his medicine, he boasts of a cure whose madness lies in its contradictory nature. Equally contradictory is Fernando's use of insanity as a cure for his sister's lust” (p. 171). but a cure for diarrhea is not inherently contradictory. The mad doctor's defining characteristic, and his resemblance to Fernando, is his fear of control and liberation, and his confusing of the sources of that fear. these fears can be read as something more than "contradictory," "absurd," or "crazy"; They draw their power from a network of extratextual analogues in medical culture, in the university's attempts to constrain non-professional innovation. The mad doctor longs for his colleagues to applaud his achievement and solve a technical problem with new insights. however, such a desire was too independent for a physician to fulfill within the prevailing conventions of his profession. Historical echoes from the scene suggest that the London medical market is entering a new phase and doctors need to find a new role.

The male characters share rhetorical similarities to this mad doctor and to the announcers from the medical school, while also emphasizing the contradictions in their social roles. The control freak's monomania corresponds to the way Cardinal and Ferdinand and their agent Bosola react to the Duchess' push for independence, as well as to the Jacobin doctors' fears of the dangers of other and uncontrollable medical actors. It is a middle ground that blends the historical struggles with the formal patterns of the play's structured imagery as expressed by its ruling troika. The three characters together are an amalgamation of not only a ruling elite, but also the medical profession and a theater company.

The Cardinal's roleplay often involves faking an illness or healing himself, but acting is both his tool and his downfall. as a producer in the background of real estate financing, he proves his medical know-how as a poison poisoner and diagnostician. his area of ​​expertise is the diagnosis of diseased internal organs, a topic that he also uses in courtship. Julia remembers: "You told me of a pitiful wound in the heart, / and of a diseased liver, when you wooed me for the first time, / and talked like one in medicine" (2.4.37-39). always a diagnostician, in his moralizing condemnation of his sister he is also "like someone in medicine" when he traces what he perceives as evil back to being rooted in his heart: "so far on the left side!" (2.5.33). After poisoning Julia, he creates an alibi based on his reputation as a doctor: “I will say that he died of the plague; 'will cause the least investigation after his death' (5.2.321-22). But this duplicity of a doctor dies in the end in the private scenario he publicly claims after Fernando's insanity, when he orders his servants to ignore the calls they hear from his rooms:

It may be to test your promise when he's asleep I'll let off steam and fake some of his crazy tricks and scream for help and pretend I'm in danger.


Borrowing the word “fake” used twice by the cardinal himself, one of his supporters says “Fooh your fake” (5/5/20) when he hears the man scream. the cardinal's theater fails him; Rather than consciously playing his brother's "crazy pranks," the cardinal is now becoming more like the masquerade maniacs, daring and screaming "their bits" of real terror. manipulation of the theater has proved impossible.

Similarly, his art destroys Fernando, the trio's surgeon and director, who torments his sister in an art of medical theater that destroys both his patient/audience and practitioner/host. his imagination turns less to diagnoses than to therapies, and these tend to be violently laxative. Similar to the Mad Doctor in The Masquerade, Ferdinand strives for total control. sometimes he treats others, sometimes himself: he wants to "erase this anger" he feels inside (2.5.13), and he advises his sister:

Use desperate medicine: we must not use balm now, but fire, the stinging sucker, for that is the means of flushing out infected blood, blood like yours!


the severing of uneasy ties between him, his twin sister, and his family as a whole reveals an identification with those he hates, both his sister and the doctor in the final act.25Fernando's attempts to control his sister in order to order his own life are portrayed in medical terms, and part of his treatment for her involves enacting healing masks of the kind supposedly effective for the Pope. Act 4 contains three Fernandino masks for the Duchess: the kiss of the dead hand, the wax figures of Antonio and the couple's children, and the aforementioned madman's mask. But the theological justification given to these healings - "brings them to despair" (4.1.116) - does not take into account Fernando's physical obsession: "Damn it! this body of yours / whilemithe blood flowed pure within you, it was worth more / than that which you wished to comfort, called soul” (121-23, emphasis mine). it covers self-interest with salvation rhetoric; Like many skins, Ferdinand's is rewarding at heart. Ferdinand imagines even more pomp: "masks of common courtesans" and "pimps and ruffians" serving their food (124, 125). its aim is a perverse theatre: "it is full of art" and it considers counterfeiting "to be true substantial bodies" (111, 115). Fernando's dramaturgy strives simultaneously for blood transfusion, in the purification of the Duchess's blood, and exorcism, in the reform of an imagined physical humiliation presented as a sin.

Bosola is the actor of the troupe, dressing up and making set speeches, alternating insider and outsider roles. Though masked, gravedigger, and figure of the passage of time, his professional diversity extends to galley slave, soldier, stablehand, and executioner. theatrically he's both an avenger and a vice, and he has the fluctuations in representational qualities often found in such characters: he can be both the most powerful and the most versatile.26Like The Cardinal and Duke Ferdinand, Bosola's healing roles are emphatic attempts to manipulate through theatrical illusions. The most violent professions are combined with extensive medical skills. As a diagnostic doctor, Bosola gives the Duchess medication to test her pregnancy. like a theologian he puts on the mantle of a spiritual healer ("evil deeds must be healed by death" [5.4.45]); and like a surgeon he asks for bleeding:

the doctors who apply leeches to any severe swelling cut off their tails to make the blood flow through them faster; don't give me a door when I'm going to shed blood, lest he give me a bigger one when I go to the gallows.


for bosola, playing the role of a doctor is always violent. He was perhaps the most attractive of the three men to a romanticized variety of critics because of his ability to temporarily distance himself from prevailing ideology and its attendant effects, and eventually to kill the cardinal. it performs the function of a railing often associated with both satirists and surgeons.27but the self-awareness he gains about the regime's violence and authoritarianism does not help him to avoid these evils, since his independence is never lasting.

Bosola repeats Oberndorff and Herring's claims of being entirely untheatrical, and claims similar rhetoric-free status:

I will imitate glorious things no more than wicked ones: I will be my own example.- go on, go on and see how through silence you represent what you wear.


but constantly imitates things, "magnificent"j"Base." As he dies, he confesses to being "above all an actor" (5/5/82) and calls his murder of Antonio "a mistake I have seen many times/in a play" (95-96). his rhetoric of role-playing independence, like that of the medical school (whose staging also wants to be his "own role model"), is in complete contradiction to his actions. In fact, the three conspirators operate in a more semiotically complex medical theater than the model proposed by the university. All three men succeed or fail in their ability to take on new roles and improvise without rising above the roleplay through power or inherited knowledge.

Bosola's ultimate alliance with the power centers he occasionally attacks is evident in his dealings with women. delivers the play's most medically focused depiction of misogyny in his satirical attack on the "old woman" in Act 2. This particular professional example is just one example of the ruling regime's supposed raison d'être: control over the feminine, an impulse perhaps most clearly expressed in the story of the deeds of the dying Fernando play: “My sister! Oh! my sister! therein lies the cause” (5.5.71). Jacobean physicians expended much energy rooting out healers as rivals and deriding them as charlatans or witches.28The old woman first appears in Act 2 Scene 1 and is attacked by Bosola because of her makeup and home supplies store. his catalog of abuse triggers one of the longest discourses in the work, moving from prose to verse about the monstrosity of women's face painting and sick humanity (35-71). The same midwife returns later in the scene, immediately after the Bosola himself has used on the Duchess a form of folk medicine similar to that used by female healers; he muses, "No doubt about it, but her nervousness and gluttony over eating the apricots is evident." Signs of education” (2.2.1-3). but despite (or perhaps because of) his resemblance to this supposedly feminine profession, in his second appearance on stage he sharply questions midwifery; in his words he has to "mention your weaknesses" (14), in hers "You still abuse women!" (11-12). More like a doctor, Bosola discredits her as a witch. Critics took his speech more as a Webster satire on the medical profession, but I think they were too quick to generalize medicine and reconcile Bosola's views with Webster's. For example, Kolin writes: "In the character of this slouching matron, Webster offers us one of the play's most poignant ironies. it is thatmackerelFigure that looks like one of the witches of hell, welcoming future generations into life with her hands still fresh from the stench of her hateful closet. Malfi's offspring are contaminated when they come out of the womb” (p. 167). but Kolin has assumed that Bosola's characterization is accurate; there's no textual evidence that the midwife's closet is any hell or more unsanitary than a doctor's bag. it would be possible to depict this scene as part of the play's long attack on women. Such staging would be consistent with both internal and external patterns: the play's theme of controlling women and Jacobean physicians' attempts to control other physicians.

The appearance in Act 5 of a real doctor attempting to cure the insane Ferdinand is set in the context of all the medical scenes that preceded it: it is the latest in a series of gruesome staged therapies in which the executor is masked and sits down against a resistant patient. Although surprisingly funny, the doctor reflects historical realities in many ways and embodies the play's satire on medical professionalism. combines treatment of the body - with its Hippocratic rhetoric about control of the "air" (5.2.3) - and of the mind with its therapeutic mask. He diagnoses in Ferdinand a rare form of melancholy known as lycanthropy, which he defines for his listeners. While he believes Ferdinand is cured, he fears a relapse, and his method of healing becomes much more than a sham due to its resemblance to both other parts of the play and actual professional discussions. will use violence

When he's fit again, I'll be closer to working with him than Paracelsus ever dreamed: if I may, I'll beat him insane.


There are no new authorities here, only tradition and brute force. When Ferdinand arrives at the crime scene, still chattering wildly and attacking his own shadow, the doctor steps in to "heal". he asks directly, "Are you mad sir, are you out of your princely mind?" (55-56). Since he is largely ignored, he decides to "do crazy tricks with him" (61).

By beginning this performance, the doctor draws even closer to the earlier actions of the nobleman he is now treating. Fernando himself draws the parallel: “Hide me from him; Physicians are like kings / do not contradict each other” (67-68). the doctor mistakenly believes his patient fears him and undresses to act; in the fourth version of the work it is said that he "removes the four layers one after the other" (braun, p. 144). To this ceremonial unveiling and the concomitant loss of status, Ferdinand responds with the threat of more radical nudity: there, in the barber's room” (77-80).29Although the doctor's suggested therapy of pouring urinals of rosewater on his patient is a less violent form of treatment than most of the other images in the work, its ineffectiveness and deliberate intimidation are reminiscent of much that happened before.

This scene is an early modern doctor's nightmare: he is physically assaulted while trying to get patients to obey him. the reversed nature of things is not a contradiction but an example; Medical chaos is another form of moral disruption to traditional authorities. Webster paints a portrait of the medical profession, and it is an unflattering picture both of them and of the nobles who adopt their rhetoric. the play is a parody of medicine; it should certainly not be read as an attempt at "realism" in medical presentation. its medical plot is not a universal medical hoax but appropriate for a specific moment, a historically situated medical satire that presents a history of professional medicine at a time of concern about its supposed independence and regulatory authority, and the legitimacy of medicine. monarchical absolutism. Parallel to the official medical discourse, the work envisions a doctor's identity as a reflection of noble efforts at self-expression and self-protection.the duchess of malfiit is a work of protest, condemning the way in which the professional doctor, like the noble, combines theatrics and authority; Both Webster's doctors and bullies attempt to impose absolute control, but create utter chaos.

Of course, the attempt to read the drama historically is the great change in interpretation of our time. In her reading of the play, Catherine Belsey locates its central theme as a tension between two modes of theatrical semiotics: "the duchess of malfi,I would like to suggest that it is a balanced work, both formally and historically, between the emblematic tradition of the medieval scene and the increased commitment to the realism of the theater after the Restoration.30In her attempts to examine the tension between two sources of meaning, traceable to the structural elements of "realism" and "formality" (p. 117), Belsey's shift in emphasis opens the door to the inclusion of historical shifts. my reinterpretation of the meaning of the medical elements of the work emphasizes the depiction of local discontent; in his concern for the theatrical in the Jacobean medical world,the duchess of malfiparticipates in portraying the cultural struggle often attributed to the urban comedy genre. Local political issues are central to the play's medical depictions: attempts at healing are presented as attempts at domination, sharing in a particularly authoritarian way the more extreme demands for monopoly put forward by James I and the College of Physicians. .

theater onethe duchess of malfiit becomes a scene of oppression, where the reversal of roles introduces tragedy and where the pose of timelessness is often used to justify convention. But appealing for a better world is certainly not always part of corruption, as the Duchess' touching case has suggested to countless readers. after ferdinand discovered that the duchess is married, she replies: “why couldn't i get married? Perhaps she created a new world, for the role of the remarried widow is too independent for her brother to accept. In showing him the "sad spectacle" of her dead family, the Duchess abandons attempts at secular independence and sets the language of life up-as-a-game in a spiritual context: "I think this world is a boring theater / Because I let them play along 'against my will' (4.1.84-85).The Duchess suggests to the world that only the good is spiritual, like the final lines of the play, uttered by delio: "The integrity of life is fame's best friend, / Which nobly crowns the end beyond death' (Webster's italics). but while the play hints at a better world "beyond death," it also shows how the villains use the rhetoric of antiquity to further their corruption. Professional medicine provides language for his tyranny, and Webster's continued use of it shows that appeals to transhistorical power are very seldom as benevolent as in Delios and the Duchess' Farewell to Integrity. The language of professional medicine provides other, more mundane, more powerful claims to timelessness, and by fusing these with the language of the play's nobles, Webster links the absurdity of the play's medical failures to the Malfi rulers. I think that's why there is medicine; As the goofy doctor in the fifth act, he acts like a royal shadow. Webster blurs the lines between medical and political representation, creating in the drama's game world a greater focus on the forms and rituals required of both medics and nobles.


  1. 4.2.65-68. all citations from the work are fromthe duchess of malfi,John Russell Brown Edition (London, 1964).

  2. "Renaissance contexts forthe duchess of malfi," inModern critical interpretations: "The Duchess of Malfi" by John Webster,Harold Bloom Edition (New York, 1987), S. 44.

  3. see Brown's Introduction, p. xxxvi, and inga-stina ekeblad, "the 'impure art' of john webster",English language reviewns , 9 (1958), 253-67. ekeblad refers to other works with similar anti-masks and the folk tradition ofCharivarior Wedding Night Mask (261).

  4. "Integrity Issues" inthe duchess of malfiThey usually relate to the play's title character and poignant closing lines (discussed later), but also encourage misinterpretations of the play's medical characters by overemphasizing the degree of consensus within Jacobean medical culture. Critics have often emphasized the dominance of medicine in Webster's work, but have seldom gone beyond "internalist" history, be it medical or literary. (Internalist and externalist histories of medicine refer to an emphasis on science as a separate discipline and on science as a product of non-scientific social forces, respectively.) See macleod yearsley,Doctors of Elizabethan Drama(Londres, 1933); Herbert Silvette,The doctor on the stage(Knoxville, 1967); Maurice Hunt, „Webster and Jacobean Medicine: The Case ofthe duchess of malfi,essays in the literature16.1 (Spring 1989), 33-49; and Caroline Di Miceli, "Sickness and Physics in Some Middleton and Webster Plays,"Elizabethan notebooks26 (1984 Oct) :41-78. Robert Simpson StudioShakespeare and medicine(Edinburgh, 1959) refers to Webster as the numerical equivalent of Shakespeare in his medical imagery, withthe white deviljthe duchess of malfieach contains "about 25 important medical references" (p. 33).

    medically oriented readers have traced medicine in the texts, but do not insist on the appeal to medicine as a category of practice and theory. Literary critics have largely been concerned with associating medicine with form; By far the best work is the impressive 1975 by Philip Kolinthe elizabethan scene doctor as a dramatic convention(Salzburg, 1975). Kolin is based on the work of Madelaine Doran,Art Endeavors: A Study of Form in Elizabethan Drama(Madson, 1954). Absent from critical discourse was the attention to medicine itself as a societally polyvalent subject and metaphor, a historical reality in flux, malleable and part of the changes of the era, and also a force that helps shape medicine.

  5. Stephan organ,The Illusion of Power: Political Theater in the English Renaissance(Berkeley, 1975), p. 40

  6. Stephen Greenblatt,Shakespearean Negotiations(Oxford, 1987). Theater's power to destabilize authority by staging it elsewhere has received considerable attention recently. See also "The Great Eclipse: The Tragic Form as a Desecration of Sovereignty" by Franco Moretti, intaken signs for miracles(London, 1983).

  7. I am referring to Norman Jewson's influential division of medical history into three periods: family, hospital, and laboratory medicine. "The Disappearance of the Patient from Medical Cosmology, 1770-1810",sociology(1976), 225-44. In many cases, medieval physicians may not even have seen their patients. Urinalysis could be performed without a visit, although the practice came under increasing attack in the late 16th century. Like Foucault, Jewson believes that the rise of clinical medicine is reducing the patient's centrality in the diagnostic process. For details on historical doctor-patient relationships, see Nancy Siraisi,Medicine of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance(Chicago, 1990); Spelling, "Medical Practice in Early Modern England: Trade or Profession", inthe professions in early modern england,Wilfrid Prest edition (London 1987), pp. 90-128; Miguel McVaugh,Medicine Before the Plague: Practitioners and Their Patients in the Crown of Aragon 1285-1345(Cambridge, Ing., 1993).

  8. quoted and translated by mcvaugh, p. 139.

  9. see him. bull pureThe development of medicine as a profession.(New York, 1966) locates the time when physicians became more professional in the 16th century. margaret pelling sounds very different when she points out the part-time status of most quacks in the "doctor's office". Pelling argues that professionalization was the norm only for physicians, and that most healers defined themselves as multitaskers.

  10. Margaret Pelling, "Appearance and Reality: Barber-Surgeons, the Body, and Disease," p. 96, intolondon 1500-1700: the founding of the metropolis,issue one. I Beier and Roger Finlay, (London: Longman, 1986).

  11. quoted in the entry of 1543 thestatutes in general,vol. II, 1763, p. 337.

  12. charles webster draws an overall conclusion: “the task that the university set itself was enormous and ultimately almost exciting. Between 1600 and 1640 the college's official records are troubled by endless disputes with sister medical organizations and with the various classes of unorganized physicians whom the college calls illiterate "empiricists". earlier disputes.” “William Harvey and the Crisis of Medicine in Jacobean England,” p. 4; inWilliam Harvey and His Time: The Professional and Social Contexts of Circulation's Discovery,Edition of Jerome J. Whatever (Baltimore, 1978), pp. 1-27.

  13. Siehe Paul Slack, „Healthy Mirrors and Poor Men’s Treasures: The Usages of the Vernacular Medical Literature of Tudor England“. inHealth, Medicine and Mortality in the Sixteenth Century,Edition by Charles Webster (Cambridge, England, 1979).

  14. quoted by k. Charlton, "The Professions of Sixteenth-Century England,"University of Birmingham Historical Magazine,12.1 (1969), 29.

  15. Chiara Chisciani, "History, Novelty and Advances in Conventional Medicine",Osiris6 (1990), 118.

  16. Jean-Christophe Anew,Worlds Apart: Market and Theater in Anglo-American Thought, 1550-1750,(Cambridge, Eng., 1986), p. 7. The term "long 16th century" comes from Immanuel Wallerstein.

  17. Exemplary treatments of this subject from a more traditional literary perspective are Jonas Barish,anti-theatrical prejudices(Berkeley, 1981); and margot heinemannPuritanism and the Theater: Thomas Middleton and the Oppositional Drama Among the Early Stuarts(Cambridge, Eng., 1980). For a discussion of the ways in which theatricality, both as a value-laden image and as a form of representation, helped shape the discourse of "loner" theological writers, see Ritchie D. Kendall,The Drama of Contradiction: The Radical Poetics of Nonconformity, 1380-1590(Hood Hill, 1986).

  18. see Pelling, "Medical Practice", pp. 93 ff. She calls definitions of medical practice that exclude "combined guilds" such as barbers and pharmacists "a trivial and unrealistically narrow notion of legitimate medical practice" (p. 100). He continues: “Medicine was practiced very often, either simultaneously or in alternation with other professions, for example blacksmiths. it was likely that both the clergy and the nobility were engaged in medicine.”

  19. greenblat discusses the example of bishop's robes and other transgressive role-playing games inShakespearean Negotiations.

  20. the decline of the old medical regime in Stuart London(Ithaca, 1986), p. 109.

  21. tragedy radical(Chicago, 1986), p. 27, 58.

  22. I follow Kolin (pp. 168-70) in matching lines to the speakers in this scene.

  23. Douglas Breaster has argued that much of the Jacobean imagery of infidelity is rooted in changes in market exchanges.drama and market in the age of shakespeare(Cambridge, Eng., 1992). This scene from Webster's play provides a medical example of Bruster's thesis.

  24. Bruster, S. 122.

  25. he says to his brother the cardinal: "I could kill her now, / on you or on myself, because I believe / that there is a sin in us that heaven avenges / on her" (2.5.63-66) . This admission of his imaginative merging with his sister prompts his brother to ask, "Are you completely insane?"

  26. For the versatility of the vice figure, see Robert Weimann,Shakespeare and the Popular Tradition in the Theater: Studies in the Social Dimension of Dramatic Form and Function(Baltimore, 1978). Bosola shares this privileged stage power with another satirical stage doctor, Alcon in Samuel Daniel'sQueen Arcadia,inthree renaissance pastorals: tasso, guarini, daniel,Adaptation of the story by Elizabeth Donno (Binghamton, 1992).

  27. see. C. Randolph, "The Medical Concept in English Renaissance Satirical Theory"philological studies38.2 (April 1941), 125-57.

  28. An introduction to this subject can be found in "Practicing Physicians" by Margaret Pelling and Charles Webster. inHealth, Medicine and Mortality in the Sixteenth Century,Edition by Charles Webster (Cambridge, England, 1979).

  29. Interestingly, Kolin (p. 171 ff.) interprets Ferdinand's attack on the doctor as an attack on himself, since he recognizes himself in the doctor's behavior and language, "because his special treatment [of the doctor] grotesquely sums up the essence of medicine for Play perverted” (p. 174). Kolin points out that just prior to this scene, Ferdinand had attacked his own shadow, reinforcing the parallels to his attack on the Doctor. I would like to add that the doctor's interrogation is similar to that of the cardinal's brother in a previous scene (2,5,63-66), so Fernando's attack is also a postponed attack on his brother.

  30. "Emblem and Antithesis inthe duchess of malfi,renaissance theater11 (1980), 115. This essay emphasizes the psychological as opposed to the emblematic; I emphasize the social.

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Source: Brown, John Russell. Restoration techniques: the case ofthe duchess of malfi" inShakespeare Illuminations: Essays in Honor of Marvin Rosenberg,Edited by Jay L. Halio and Hugh Richmond, pp. 317-35. Newark: Delaware University Press, 1998.

[In the essay that follows, Brown discusses two modern performances of Webster's play and highlights the role of actors' and directors' performances in making difficult scenes in the play theatrically work. Brown suggests that modern performance may have significantly approximated performance conditions in Webster's own theater.]

In country after country, people have told us how clever we were in choosing such a timely work. but it is that a very rich stew is made. it's about the supernatural. it's about sex. it's about politics. it's about redemption. it's about spirituality. Webster's characters are everywhere.1

This is the account of declan donnellan and nick ormerod, director and designer respectively, of john webster's production of cheek to cheekDuchess of Malfi,released to the press just before this touring theater company's production arrived in London's West End at the Wyndhams Theater in early 1996. They had taken the show to cities across England, to Blackpool, Cheltenham, Coventry, Oxford and around the world, Rome, Melbourne, Dublin, New York (at the Brooklyn Academy of Music); and everywhere the production had been celebrated. after a month in london i would go to valletta, budapest, ljubljana, vienna, hong kong, mexico city and bogotá. Never before has Webster's work been so widely circulated; Never before have so many and so many different people had the opportunity to judge the value of their "living body" Duchess on stage, as actor and playwright William Rowley wrote about his experience in one of her first appearances.2It also came to a theater that had hosted another production of in the same seasonThe Duchesswho came from the Greenwich Theater on the outskirts of London and had also found his way to the city after a tour of the provinces. This earlier production had nowhere to go, remaining in the West End for well over a hundred performances until its leads were booked elsewhere.

it seems the time has come for Webster's tragedy to reach a newly receptive audience. Rarely is a Shakespeare play available in two productions so close together in the same city; rarer still is the work of one of his contemporaries so popular. to applaud the production, john peter wrote insidesunday times(London, 7 January 1996) as ifthe duchess of malfihad achieved frontline status:

There are few things in classic English theater quite like the scene in which the proud duchess courts her butler, or the portrayal of Bosola, the mercenary whose soul is rent with respect and pity for his victim.

But other critics weren't so sure of the play's virtues: most felt the triumph for the director and actors, and criticized Webster for the most garish staging, as he has done since the turn of the century. . The success of the two productions in 1995-96 does not prove that this Jacobean tragedy will once again be safe material for commercial producers: the general consensus is that it needs some very special restoration work before it is playable. Just a few years earlier, John Peter had discovered that mold was a potent fungusduchessat the bristol old vic it was "impressively presented but stubbornly underestimated":

this is an efficient production that is obviously better than a bad one; Only in this majestic poetic text the gap between efficiency and size is unusually wide.3

when richard allen cave chose two productions for his book about webster in the seriestext and performance(1988) both had no generally recognized success. This scholar called Peter Gil's directing at the Royal Court more successful than many critical journalists in 1971, but his praise for the achievement was reserved for the Duchess and Antonio: they alone would have ascertained "the psychological dimensions of Webster's tragedy". The director's intimate approach to the play made his actors "particularly vulnerable, and not all [the] performers could withstand such severe technical scrutiny" (63). This is what Cave wrote about his other exemplary production, directed by Philip Prowse in 1985 for the National Theatre

In attempting to visually capture the atmosphere of the play, [the director] had drastically simplified or subverted Webster's meaning... and robbed the plot of Webster's sympathetic concern with the intricate and puzzling impulses that shape the moral nature of his characters.


Although Webster's artistry had not been fully validated, the success and longevity of the two 1995-1996 touring productions provided an opportunity to explore how this "poetic text" could be "restored" to resonate with audiences - modern and perhaps , an equally profoundly moving experience, as Thomas Middleton recalled in 1623:

for who saw this Duchess live and die, who could escape under a bleeding eye? (4)

they can also shed light on more than Webster's art. When modern directors, designers and actors enact this text, with its tale of detours and disappointments, they are tested more than when they work in the more familiar territory of a Shakespearean play; they are likely to reveal more about their working methods and interpretive preferences than when they feel comfortable at home. an observer can therefore learn something about the way Shakespeare's plays are used in the modern age and a clearer insight into the cost of that treatment. Webster and Shakespeare have enough in common for the less accessible author to succeed in demonstrating ways in which like-minded people could be led to fuller lives on the modern stage.

Wyndhams is a small theater with a small proscenium stage; The Greenwich Theater has no proscenium but an even more intimate auditorium. It is therefore not surprising that Duncan C. Deweldon triumph proscenium productions, ltd. had kept everything small in cooperation with the subsidized greenwich theatre. The whole was a wall of doors and panels that could vary to suggest a change of location rather than differences in wealth, power, or intimacy. the actors were only twelve, together with a boy. The show would not sell with its spectacle or the strength of its company, but with the presence of Juliet Stevenson and Simon Russell Beale in its cast; The former had won many stage and screen awards and the latter had recently become an Associate Artist with the Royal Shakespeare Company after four seasons in which his roles became increasingly challenging and successful. The producers had ensured that the Duchess and her twin brother Ferdinand were in the same safe hands as those of British theatre. Actor and director Philip Franks was comparatively inexperienced, although his roles included Hamlet with the RSC; had also recently published an anthology with its protagonist,I will see you again?for flag books.

The production was brought to life by its two star actors, treated with care and respect rather than acting or technical authority. The consequences of this strategy included extensive cuts and restructuring, which put the work within reach of the small company and reduced the playing time to a level comfortable for audiences. The scene in the Shrine of Our Lady of Loreto came out (3.4), Juliet's courtship with Bosola in 5.2 and much more. These cuts inevitably damaged the context in which Webster had placed his main characters, allowing their story to be told as if they were just human beings in private. individual courtiers were duplicated or merged, with the result that Castruchio, Silvio, and Delio were the only ones left on the character roster. Ferdinand offers Malateste to the Duchess as a husband, but he is never seen on the stage. As the show puts it, "couriers/gunmen/maniacs/executioners are played by members of the troupe." the actors and actresses did their best with the pomp and circumstance of the formal scenes, and with the activity and turbulence required for emergencies at court following the birth of the Duchess's first child and Ferdinand's visit to her bedroom (3.2); With few actors on a small stage, however, these scenes were almost inevitably too awkward and ineffective to suggest the tensions that accompany the exercise of power or the perception of danger. in 4.2 a small attempt was made to stage the loco interlude: it was played behind a grill with only hands and faces visible; his text was largely shortened and replaced by rhythmically repeated words, as in an impromptu performance by the students.

Many parables, illustrations and incidental elaborations were also cut out. the naturalistic pulse of Webster's dialogue, which gives the impression that thoughts develop of their own accord, is the feature that allows occasional verbal pauses to permeate easily; it's like taking a few punches out of many. unsurprisingly, bosola suffered the most. his biting irony and seemingly inexhaustible curiosity, and the energy that fueled his restless spirit, had little chance of leaving the mark that the stage history of this work reveals as one of its most enduring attractions both on stage and on screen. his inner journey from cynicism and directness, through wonder and perhaps terror, and certainly concern and pity, to something like devotion and nobility (albeit steeped in despair and cynicism, still powerful) takes longer and many more words to express. expressed as allowed in this production.

So how did the work keep its audience? One answer was obvious: much as the text was abridged, it took time to appreciate the physical and mental changes that lay behind the spoken words. The main actors were given their heads so they could think about whatever they had to say instead of letting the words take their course. the actors went to work so that, whether in pauses and silence or in the interplay of thoughts and actions, every story and every consequence of their words was tangible in physical and mental representation on stage. the Duchess indeed had a "living body" in the performance; The fact that this phrase was used by William Rowley to describe early performances suggests that something similar to this technique was practiced among the play's original actors.5

Following the advice of Staislavski and many others, modern actors often believe that they must use their own emotional memories to bring what they are playing to life, and that they must discover and then perform an appropriate "physical act" to do so generate and release emotions. Through these two processes, they must make their performances both "true" and "alive."6Directions such as these derive from Chekhovian and later naturalism, but provide actors with such reassurance that they, their mentors, and directors can apply the same methods to any script that requires special production care. here he brought a sense of actuality to many moments of Webster's tragedy: and the strangeness of the dramatic situation might have made that immediacy compelling, while the sensibility of the dialogue made it a revelation of the most intimate experience. however, not everything was always for the good of the work. often the text and characters of the play suffered: physicality can be an irksome or boring virtue, and the mental processes of acquiring a role can slow down the dramatic impulse and disrupt the language of the dialogue.

phrasing, tempo and meter suffered and all too often lacked that sense of inspiration and insight that a silent reading of the work often brings. then the cardinal talks about seeing "a thing armed with a rake" in his fishponds, and then pauses as if not yet fully aware of what he is seeing; after a pause he adds: "that seems to affect me" (5.5.6-7). he has been moving slowly and obstinately towards apprehension, while the text seems to call for a union of thoughts and feelings, a flash of realization flowing unimpeded through two and a half verses, as befits a man who is said to he falls faster. of himself that misfortune can strike him (5.5.42-44). In her final minutes to Cariola, the Duchess says, "Give my son..." and then pauses before adding "a syrup for his cold" (4.2.203-4), as if she or the actress needed time to think think about what the right medicines are or what might be available in a prison; or as if he needed time to say something, or as if he wanted to say something dangerous or unruly and then decided against it at the last moment. something in the actress' mind had broken the wording of the lyrics. perhaps the end of the line after "boy" seemed to invite a rethink, and this replaced the obligation to say only what Webster had written.

These moments, and many others like them, showed that the actors took the time to recreate the thought processes implied in the words they had to say, rather than hastening or deepening their thoughts and feelings to engage with the excited and extraordinary intellectual Activity keeping up plot of the work provokes in its characters. A choppy, slow delivery altered the impact of Bosola's final lines:

May worthy spirits never falter in distrust of the suffering of death, or in shame of what is just: mine is a different journey.


say "mylong break] is another [short break] Journey” is to turn the process of your death into something else entirely, emotionally and maybe intellectually as well. These actors seemed willing to accept that the tone and syntax of their text, the form and weight of each sentence, were not an integral part of the play's message, of what it meant to an audience in the performance.

Ferdinand's treatment of a famous verse shows how consciously this liberty was sometimes taken when scenic elements were added to explain the verbal facts of the speech. "Cover his face, my eyes are dazzling" (5.2.264) is said as a single sentence, as if Ferdinand Bosola gave a single command; here the actor had chosen to manipulate these words by merging the two thoughts, rather than negotiating the syntactic break and making it real. then fernando approaches his sister, leans towards her face and examines it carefully; and then, standing up, he speaks to himself and adds, "She died young." The actor's determination to be sure of what he was doing in a way that "worked" in his own head had made this Ferdinand sound like a doctor substituting an irrelevant observation for an expected diagnosis.

but the work as a whole worked for its audience and won over the critics, and by those means. Not only could moments come excitingly alive when thinking, feeling, speaking, and acting merged into a single impression, but entire episodes were rendered in this way, allowing viewers to feel a deep and subtle participation in the story: happiness, horror, joy, Wonder, suffering, sexual desire and guilt. The characters' fully realized responses to the most personal problems proved sufficient to engage the audience and restore the play's enthusiastic acceptance. Most notable were the opening sequences of 2.2, with the Duchess and Antonio lying comfortably on cushions at the back of the stage and close to the audience. he is almost naked, ready to put her to bed; he delights in provocation and delay. Jokes about naked goddesses and ugly faces, about work and time control were accompanied by physical contact and hilarity. Cariola is drawn to her game because all the barriers between these lovers, accustomed to intimacy and satisfaction, seem to have broken down. The center of this scene is safe and calm until the mood shatters with Ferdinand's entrance and violence and screams take over.

Juliet Stevenson instilled a cool and thoughtful sexual awareness in the Duchess, giving in to desire and maintaining control of herself and others. When control slips, the underlying passion shows up, hard and constrained by frustration. In Act 1, the mood of courting his butler is more volatile, more excited, and more nervous:

and if it pleases you, like the old tale in Alexander and Lodowick, put a drawn sword between us, keep us chaste:-


he says jokingly to himself, mocking his own enthusiasm and taunting him into silence. The next two lines, the last in the scene, acknowledge a deeper need and vulnerability:

Oh, let me wrap my blush in your bosom, as it is the treasure of all my secrets -

there are no more lyrics and for this reason webster insisted that the physical performance take over in a silent exit, an opportunity these two actors took advantage of. The Duchess's presence was often most impressive in silence, as the text often requires, and especially in Act 4:

he will think for four hours straight, and his silence expresses more, I think, than if he spoke.


Although she knows that "reason / and silence drive me crazy" (4.2.6-7), she takes this risk:

"What do you think ma'am?" — You're welcome: When I meditate like this, I sleep. ...


In this production, the actress was able to lead the audience into this almost hopeless meditation, her actions were even more subtle and authoritative than in speech. When Bosola, like the common bell ringer, commands her to “put on clean clothes, wash your feet,” she does just that, solemnly and gently preparing her body for death. This scene was often performed very quietly, but that was enough in the intimate theater to maintain focus.

In Simon Russell Beales Ferdinand, the production's determination to offer a physical realization of the inner experience reinforced the textual references to an incestuous obsession with his sister. In the first scene he caresses her longingly. in 2.4, when he imagines digging up a mandrake, he sweats visibly; As she imagines the "strong boatswain" enjoying her sister, she trembles with frustrated desire. In Act 3, he is wracked with grief and becomes physically unable to look at Antonio or even look at his sister. in act 4, when she is dead, he hugs her and tries to quench his passion; He presses her discarded clothes to his loins and sniffs her voraciously. in act 5 no doctor takes care of this ferdinand, for which he punishes himself; The dress she is referring to is her sister's, which she wears everywhere.

Again and again this staging staged the physical realities implied in “this majestic poetic text” and often went beyond their insinuations. The Cardinal brings Julia to the ground and attacks her from behind. Not only is the Duchess back on stage for the Echo scene (5.3), but the final scene is also there: while Delio says his last lines and cradles his friend Antonio, the Duchess enters and joins her husband. Towards the end of the play, when death, cunning and intricacy began to dominate its plot, this practice emphasized the random and the grotesque. Audiences might have greeted the bizarre antics and inappropriate language with incredulous laughter and assumed that something had gone absurdly wrong, or that the author had messed everything up, destroyed the subtlety that was there before, and poked fun at every character he could think of . At first, the actors and their director must have been apprehensive about such a reaction, and unsurprisingly they tried to forestall the audience's laughter by eliciting hopeless, cynical laughter from their characters that showed they recognized the shift to desperate or futile exits .7In doing so, they may have found a way to respond to another aspect of the text: the characters' instinct to escape brutality and "reason and silence" to acknowledge their impotence or the onset of madness. Consequently, the tragedy may end up raising greater issues by emphasizing the degradation that follows from a pursuit of "greed, blood, and lust" (5.5.72). that laughter, denying reason and silence, had become a necessity when crying and sensitivity were no longer possible.

Webster has often been criticized for writing a muddled and ineffective final act for keeping the play going long after the Duchess's death, who alone was able to hold it all together. perhaps this is because critics have failed to recognize a crucial change in the way the work is intended to function in performance. Experimentally, these actors, who had insisted on performing the internal tensions and physical activities suggested in the text, discovered that they had to resort to forced or compulsive laughter in the final scenes to maintain audience control. Had the author foreseen this, he might have counteracted the audience's previous empathy for his characters and created a new distance from them. Therefore, the tragedy would raise questions about the worth of men and women who spend their lives striving for "greatness." Characters sometimes express this vision of their author's purpose, as in Delio's final speech:

these unfortunate outstanding things leave no more glory than falling into a frost and leaving one's tracks in the snow; As soon as the sun shines, it melts. both form and matter.


Earlier, Antonio's last words had expressed the same idea, making the ambition sound even more ridiculous and defeatist:

In all our pursuit of greatness, like lewd boys whose hobby is nurturing, we follow the bubbles that blow in the air.


Even earlier, in a quiet moment after confronting his sister in the bedroom, Ferdinand had conjured up an image of the peaceful, loving life possible without ambition:

Love advises them to look for him "among ambitious shepherds, where there is no question of dowry, and sometimes "among silent relatives who have nothing left of their dead parents".


While the self-generated, bitter laughter can alert an audience to the desperate events at the end of this tragedy, it can also help shape the kind of reaction the author envisioned. in his previouswhite demon,Flamineo's fake death and his puns and taunts up to the last moment are sure indications that Webster recognized the value of that kind of laughter and worked to evoke it.

Greenwich productionthe duchess of malfishowed that when staging Elizabethan and Jacobean plays, actors are good at using those techniques that have helped them become aware of the subtextual life of modern plays, which more obviously deal with reflections of actual lived experience. sometimes this leads to odd stage dealings and idiosyncratic interpretations or phrasing of the text, but equally, and more importantly, it can attract attention and powerfully drive the plot forward; You can also discover qualities in the work that otherwise would not have been recognized.

Similar considerations appear in Declan Donnellan's production of Modern Dresses for the Cheek to Jowl Theater Company, only here more room has been given to another modern acting technique: the use of improvisation as a means of incorporating actors' reactions, instincts into performances, and their own to make own individualities more adventurous and more present.8Magazines and newspapers barely knew what to do with the result, variously labeling the production as "surprising, insightful, shocking, striking, dynamic, tough, rich, intelligent" and "heavy";9Stimulated by these comments, audiences had filled the London theater every day. This enterprise had forced a re-evaluation of the text and, in keeping with his usual modus operandi, the production changed during its run, reflecting the concerns of both actors and audience from day to day, and finding even more nuance and emotion. The performances were generally more adventurous, open-minded, outrageous, and fun than those at Greenwich.Duchess.This production was often like the others in that it required quiet, close attention, yet it also had a stronger energy that was more evident throughout. A sense of compromise and competition among actors brought him closer to a style that may have been appropriate for the outdoor conditions of the original Globe performances and for the improvisation required by the King's Men's large and changing daily repertoire. either in the balloon or in the most intimate of Blackfriars.

the strength of the performance lay in the company rather than in two star actors and their way of rehearsing and acting. Even more supporting characters had disappeared, to be replaced by a troupe of actors who took on a variety of roles, such as unnamed courtiers, soldiers, acolytes, madmen, executioners and doctors. They were given some of the functions of a chorus, in that their positions on the stage around the main performers acted as a kind of set, narrowing or opening up space and defining the occasion. They gather tightly around the Duchess as they slowly strangle her, only her hands visible to express the agony. posing as acolytes to receive Communion at Mass, they ensure the orderly subjugation of a religious milieu in which the Duchess and her husband are denied communion. They follow crazy Fernando like doctors and multiply the self-confident impertinence of the only person named in the text. In the crazy scene, instead of using Webster's dialogue, they invent and play a childish game involving a crown and a baby being born. They are also used with named characters to remain motionless and unresponsive early in the play, as dialogue between one or two characters initiates the action. At the end of the play, the entire cast reunites, still and silently on stage, the protagonists posing as a group as if for a family photo. the effect of all this was to set the tragedy in a simplified and boring world. The set consisted of nothing more than tall dark green curtains along the backrest and a few scattered chairs, so there was little more than this variable human context for the action to distract from the actors' performances. However, the handling of these surplus actors was so incessantly inventive that it drew attention to the theatricality of the staging and gave the audience the feeling that it was all being staged with the help of a mastermind who didn't hesitate to act on his own account. without supporting text.

the production as a whole was a demonstration of how actors can 'play' with a text. those who took on the leading roles had discovered in the improvisation rehearsals a multitude of ways that could subvert meaning, or propel a new interpretation to sudden prominence, or force a readjustment between one character and another, or invent shock or absurdity in just a moment. Matched actors over the years have described how Declan Donnellan pulls off this kind of performance in rehearsals:

Peter Needham:
He creates an environment where all sorts of things can and usually do happen, and then we go in that direction together. ...a great strength of Declan is that he can respond to the individual actor. What Peter Needham wants is what Peter Needham wants; my needs are my needs; Somehow, Declan is intuitive enough to tap into these needs in each of his individual actors.
Ana Blanca:
Declan allows an actor to bring what they have to a role. ... brings out things you didn't know you had. He has a favorite phrase which is "turn on six pence". In other words, the rapid fire of emotions rather than getting caught up in one.
Duncan bell:
he does not insist on analyzing the text. it's very much a standing experience. (10)

nothing is permanently fixed; the director and the designer accompany the actors on their extensive tours, provide new notes and call for further rehearsals. "The performances would grow and change and then grow and change even more because of his constant input."11

The costumes gave the actors freedom of movement and were almost as simple as the physical environment. In place of the elaborate Renaissance attire, there were modern robes, many in the style of the first decades of the 20th century. Actors' bodies were more visible than if they had been fitted to the contours of flowing dresses, corsets, and jerkins, or obscured by the many cloaks then in use. nor were they burdened by the manners of the time. the staging was free to take on the appearance of a parade of uniformed characters, or a tense dance of courtship, ridicule, or intimidation, or the variously contested oppositions, or people in close physical contact. Though visuals were sparse with mostly muted colors, the action had extravagance, daring, and sustained energy; and he continued to deliver a series of striking images dominated by the presence of the main characters.

the physicality of this production was often conveyed realistically, as in the Greenwich production; For example, Bosola actually measures the Duchess for her coffin with a pocket tape measure, and Cariola has a portable crucifix so she can even kneel and pray in public. but he often trumped realism with exaggeration, sudden surprise, and lack of control. The Duchess of Anastasia Hille is restless, slightly aggressive or dismissive, laughs harshly or nervously, suddenly switches to a simple, sustained silence or simply says a few poignant words. scott handys ferdinand is a naughty guy with the looks of a dog who likes to fight or hug his sister. Paul Brennen's Cardinal uses a slow, sardonic delivery and has a violent relationship with Julia, who must take the sexual lead. George Anton's Bosola (as in Greenwich, which loses about half its lines) has adopted a sullen Scottish accent and plays against the production's mainstream style by remaining cool and distant and seemingly lacking in personal flair for action. the game has become a fatal tangle, a game in which each character strives to outdo the others by any means necessary. The actors are so engrossed that each character seems compelled to do what he is doing: when Fernando says his sister's guilt "steps/burns on bars" (3.1.56-57), or when she explains , being “full of daggers” (4.1 . 90), seem to be telling nothing less than the truth. As the narrative unfolds from one crisis to the next, a shared energy and restless inventiveness propels the plot more than a more sober and suave production could.

the most extravagant inventions of the actors and their director forced the viewer to become aware of impulses that go beyond any obvious literal meaning of their characters. when ferdinand says “you are my sister” (1.1.330) at the beginning of the play, she has lit a cigarette, but now she suddenly turns around and hits him in the face. when he calls her a "lascivious widow" (1.1.340), he throws himself on her as he says goodbye and she laughs out loud. when he confesses in 3.2: "I beg you, sir, listen to me: I am married" (82), she catches him off guard, throws him to the ground, straddles him and brandishes the dagger. During his subsequent tirade, she continues to drink whiskey. when it hits a deeper note of pain:

because you took that thick lead blanket that hid your husband's bones and you wrapped it around my heart,

she replies loudly and sarcastically, "mine bleeds from it" (3.2.112-14), and bursts out laughing. When Ferdinand begins to tell the story of Ruf, Liebe und Tod (119-35), both are sitting next to each other on the floor, almost exhausted, like children after too hard a game. She then gathers her powers again and yells "I'll never see you again". She cups her hands over her eyes and runs off the stage, tripping over a chair on her way out.

above all, the director had encouraged his actors to be as dynamic and varied as possible. At the beginning of 4.1, Fernando and the Duchess fight on the floor again in prison, but they also embrace and greet each other feverishly. Instead, the matter of the dead man's hand is taken calmly: she is blindfolded and Bosola has plenty of time to bring her hand onto the stage and hand it to Ferdinand. the audience sees the whole deception as it is staged, not with the sudden surprise of the Duchess experiencing its effect, but in deliberate slow motion in the twilight. Her scream on noticing the trick is terrible, as the text demands, but soon the rhythm and tone of the performance fade again. "There is no wish between heaven and earth / I'll stay 'till then" (61-62) is one of the Duchess's calmest and easiest moments, only to once again vent her anger and frustration. more aware of his situation, he rejects the desire for long life and swears “I will go to prayer” (95) as if preparing for death, and then stops; This is not the end of a verse, but a very long silence is maintained from this point, during which the audience and the Duchess have time to notice that Cariola is on her knees and already praying. Finally, this near stillness and stillness is broken by a dangerously angry "No, / I'll go swearing", soon followed by "and I say I want to bleed", at which point "lighting sixpence", he said. suddenly collapses and gives in to loud weeping.

At times, it seemed as if these actors could never settle for what they had to do with a particular line of text, and kept adding. when death is near and bosola has announced that he is her gravedigger, "i am still the duchess of malfi" (4.2.142) is said as if the duchess were tired of even thinking about it; and then he wears a toy crown left by madmen and laughs harshly and scornfully. after "what death?" (206), as composed as his sparse speech, adds another reaction by taking a long drag on his cigarette. When the text prompts violent reactions, the actors often take the instructions to extremes. When eating apricots causes the pregnant Duchess to go into labor, she has to be carried off the stage struggling and screaming in pain. When Ferdinand falls into the clutches of lycanthropy, he does so almost naked, crawling on the ground, howling and drooling like the wolf he thinks he is. In the first act, when the Duchess offers herself to Antonio as his wife, the Duchess removes her dress to reveal her breasts; As this is a scene where contact between mistress and servant is constrained by protocol and danger, the gesture propels the scene forward, attracting attention and providing a theatrical punch thatthe daily telegraphdubbed "the sexiest thing on the London stage" (January 4, 1996).

A certain tenacity was evident in all this elaboration, but it served the work better than one might have expected. While the production is primarily for its many moments of shock, disrespect, hard feelings, physical brutality and sexual activity, and for the contrasting moments of quiet simplicity and softer feelings (which often seemed too contrived to convey conviction ) was unforgettable, totally). That's not all: the play as a whole also had an undeniable narrative power, because the director had ensured that Webster used varied sets to draw the audience's attention to the narrative development. a silent reading of his text can shed little light on the sequence of events taking place. As these follow, there is a slowly maturing sense that these characters tirelessly pursue an ending that was predicted long before they could have foreseen it. As much as the development of individual episodes threatens to confuse the narrative thread, the main story about the Duchess, her brothers, her husband and Bosola repeatedly confirms its central position. The imposed and silent groupings the director used to score the first and last scenes reinforced the sense of predictable closure hidden in the text itself in its repeated scoring of key scenes in a 'chamber of presence'. The high demands placed on the actors' physical resources also contributed to the feeling that a story was coming to an end, the action becoming a game played ruthlessly - the actors rarely made it easy on them - until everyone was done. perhaps Webster planned something like this because the ordered groupings, sustained encounters, and conscious vigilance required in the performance of the earlier acts are followed by a slow, painful concentration on the prison scenes of Act 4 and then the scattered, extreme takes . , persistent but flagging energies and fast-paced, heartbreaking resolutions that make up the final act. exhausted and only able to assert themselves for a short time, the actors present their characters reeling from decay and the audience watches spellbound, even if it's only about the spectacle.

For seasoned theatergoers, the cheek-to-jaw production also drew attention through a tension between what was expected and what was offered. The character of the Duchess was the focus of this interest, as Antonio's description of her "gentle countenance", "continence" and "noble virtue" (1.1.187-205) was clearly contradicted by a nervous, tense and potentially violent woman. The ability to inspire Bosola with a vision of heaven and a hope of mercy (4.2.347-49) was a most unlikely attribute for such a protagonist. the new interpretation would have found little justification in a single reading of the text, as if the director hadn't bothered to analyze it for meaning and direction, but at certain moments the text itself emerged with a whole new vigor and conviction, as if responding to abuse, as if tearing of meaning and sudden shifts in attention and mood were appropriate to Webster's way of writing for performance. Improvisation, boldness and violence seemed more appropriate than sober calculation to respond to the often confusing messages of the play's dialogues.

Both productions were driven by the ingenuity of their actors and the realization of the individual character. both were performed in a theater whose overall dimensions are not much larger than those of the Globe Theatre, allowing for just as close an approximation. the work had immediacy and seemed timely and vital. He was offbeat, sensual and sexually alive in a way that drew audiences' attention to his bizarre and dated fictions. Duchess, Duke, Cardinal, and Butler could not be confused with people in contemporary society, yet they seemed to belong there: as Declan Donnellan put it, "Webster's characters are everywhere"; given the opportunity to jump from the past into present awareness and reality can be added. However, both productions were stronger in private moments than sustained public scenes; and in both Bosola he did not make a strong impression.

One of the reasons for these common characteristics and shared success was the small size of each company. The lavish stage effects did not distract the actors' attention or delay the play's progress while lavish stage sets were put together. This suggests that the expensive and flashy sets and direction favored by more established theater companies around the world are not necessarily advantages in performing English Renaissance plays: a close approach and active, newly hired actors rank higher .

However, limited budgets had disadvantages. If they wanted to show the allure of great wealth and self-esteem, these productions didn't have the means to do so. Nor did they have the human resources to organize a full court where the game of power is played out with quiet vigilance and where the public ceremony is an opportunity for careful manipulation and covert exchanges. None of them could show how the "madwoman consort" was able to frighten the Duchess by expressing repetitive and destructive sexual fantasies. nor could he show the imprisonment caused by the exercise of power versus the precarious freedom of evasion and isolation. All of these are qualities of English Renaissance plays that are expensive to stage in modern conditions because of the number of actors required. (Perhaps over time new technology will find a quick and inexpensive way to add virtual reality to these scenes in film.)

Another reason to downplay the political implications of the text by Webster and others of the same period is the prevailing emphasis onmomentsTruth in both rehearsal and actor training: Actors do not pay equal attention to developing a coherent plot or point of view. This error is encouraged by Webster's dialogue, which is particularly concerned with depicting fragmented thinking and is therefore easily cut off; in the process, however, a director, through all his repetitions, hesitations and digressions, can lose the formative power of writing, his often hidden but stubborn control over the development of ideas. With his speeches stripped of any exaggerated or unnecessary detail, and some speeches removed altogether, Bosola had no chance to compensate for the play's extraordinary events with an attuned awareness, and he could not see his shift from dissatisfaction to avenger represent . , from cynic to self-righteous, from hired intelligence to surrogate protagonist. None of this can be made clear to the audience through a series of isolated moments of "truth", no matter how delicately real or unabashedly theatrical their portrayal. In the foreword to a commemorative book about the company, Michael Racliffe pointed out that a double jawDorfIt was one of two productions in the first ten years that disappointed him as he continued his work as a critic: its "intentional simplicity," he wrote, "seemed quite unusual, giving the play no definite direction or narrative form. " ."12The sustained and tormented inner workings of Hamlet can only be given its central place in tragedy by the same means required to bring Bosola to full life on the stage; aiming at reaching only moments of truth, bothDorfjthe duchess of malfiThese two characters and their role lose coherence.

A third reason why the political and philosophical aspects of the tragedy were downplayed is that both productions drew attention to the Duchess's sexual relations with Ferdinand and Antonio, although only one of them had given excellent treatment to the actors who played them. both also emphasized the cardinal's sexual inclinations rather than his power over others that derives from his intellect and position in the church. When actors are encouraged to work from their own sense of their characters' situations, a Renaissance play is likely to be reduced to the extent of those aspects of modern life that can most easily be related to the dramatic text, rather than to those that result from politics. Realities that lie beyond the ordinary citizen's experience, or ideas that are anything but easy to understand and define. presents pieces likethe duchess of malfiit should involve more than the actors and the director figuring out what “works” for them and how to more easily “breathe life” into the text. The relentless exploration of side-by-side productions and the self-imposed critical sense of the veteran actors in the Greenwich production will always contribute to moving beyond the merely conventional or hit-and-run, into a more rigorous intellectual examination and concern for Historical processes are also necessary if texts like this one are to reveal more secrets and productions are to recognize their less accessible possibilities.

No one interested in the works of the English Renaissance can be more than grateful and delighted that these two companies have brought such finesse and energy and such open and committed exploration to their productionsThe Duchess; they are necessary techniques to restore such works for the benefit of our theater, and these undertakings have shown others the way forward. its success has also shown that big theaters and expensive stages are not important but work against adequate performance and reception. rather better funding should be used to pay four or five actors more and allow for longer initial rehearsals; With these advantages, both productions would have been better placed to address the play's political and intellectual issues.


  1. "Dramatic Conservators at Work", Declan Donnellan and Nick Ormerod in an interview with Benedict Nightingale,the times(London, December 29, 1995).

  2. of verses preceding the first edition of the work, 1623; quoted, like all passages fromthe duchess of malfi,from the Revels Plays edition, ed. John Russell Brown (London: Methuen, 1964).

  3. sunday times(London, 13 February 1994).

  4. of the verses preceding the first edition of the work, 1623.

  5. The performance described in this article was performed on May 15, 1995, shortly before the production's 100th performance in London; Some details were verified in a subsequent conversation immediately afterwards with Robert Demeger, who played the cardinal.

  6. von JohnHarropprovisionally(London: Routledge, 1992) offers a decent compendium of such advice: on sensory memory see esp. 39-42; on physical action, 54-55.

  7. According to Robert Demeger (see note 5), the characters' laughter was added during the tour outside of London, as the actors and director learned how to keep the audience's attention and confidence, and to keep them from laughing at his performances. .

  8. The performance that is the source of most of the following observations was January 4, 1996.

  9. These comments come from the following sources, listed in the order in which they were cited:The Guardian, The Independent, The Evening Standard, The Financial Time, The Observer, The Sunday Telegraph, The Spectator, The Independent On Sunday, The Daily Express.

  10. Simon Lee,Cheek to cheek, ten years celebration(Bad: Absolute Classics, 1991), 107, 101, 102.

  11. Amanda Harris in ebd., 101.

  12. learning, 7.

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Source: Oaks, Elizabeth. "the duchess of malfias a tragedy of identity”.philological studies96, Nr. 1 (1999): 51–67.

[In this essay, Oakes interprets the Duchess' struggles with identity in terms of the role of the hero who should have no private life. Oakes places the Duchess' behavior as a widow in the context of contemporary limitations on widowhood to suggest that her actions after her husband's death are not the cause of his fall but rather compound the effects of his tragedy.]

in criticismthe duchess of malfi,There is one major point of contention: how to react and judge the Duchess' behavior as a widow? In exploring this question, scholars are divided: some argue that it causes, or even deserves, their humiliation and death; others claim that she breaks none of the rules of propriety for a widow of the time. While I will defend the latter, my sole purpose in this article is not to examine the Duchess as if she were on trial and I was a member of a jury. As I will argue, the Duchess finds herself so easily within the confines of her society in remarrying that her widowhood is not the cause but the context of her martyrdom. Contemporary attitudes towards widows not only describe her as a figure, but also provide the framework within which Ferdinand's vision of her as the duke's widow rather than Antonios ultimately lies. The importance of Webster's portrayal of the Duchess' widowhood lies not only in the fact that it exonerates her, but also in that he uses the dynamics of her marital status to construct and then deconstruct a heroine within the tragedy genre.

It was hard to see the Duchess as a heroine1for the male hero in early modern tragedy acquires a kind of identity: "That's me, Hamlet the Dane" (5.1.250-51), says the hero par excellence. "I am a very stupid and loving old man" (4.7.60),2says Lear, describing himself accurately for perhaps the first time. In tragedy, the hero can refer to his place in society, as Hamlet does, or to his own experience, as Lear does. The identities of both types can also be lost: Macbeth's royal robes hang loosely around them; In the end, all he's left with is his raw physical strength, which he had before accumulating the Society's rewards. DR. de marlowe faustus is literally torn apart, losing not only the body he built himself but also the body on which it is based. In this play, the Duchess behaves in accordance with the customs of her society but not with her brother's wishes, and in the end he wins. However, his victory does not lie solely in his control over his physical self. Contrasted with her self-definition as woman, wife and mother - powerless roles outside of the personal and domestic circle - she ultimately returns throughout most of the play to the identity she gained through her previous marriage, which gave her the only what she was not marriage to Antonio: status in society. She and Ferdinand argue throughout the play about whether she will become the late duke's duchess or the wife of a living man. In the end, she says, she is the Duchess of Malfi, and with this title she denies her relationship with Antonio: she becomes the woman carved in stone that Fernando wanted her to be.


also at the height of the new criticism,the duchess of malfihistorical analysis caused. In 1951, for example, Clifford Leech addressed the Duchess as a "warning to the reckless and lascivious" of the dangers of taking a second husband. In a rebuttal five years later, Frank W. Wadsworth, after examining a wider range of contemporary work on remarriage (Leech cites only three sources opposed to remarriage), concluded that "Webster's attitude toward his protagonist was diametrically opposed was opposite to what Dr. Leech assumes it was. Actually, go aheadthe duchess of malfiit is "essentially the work of the heroine". Two recent critics agree with Wadsworth's judgment. there were two opposing opinions about widows, margaret mikesell argues, and the play shows that ferdinand's attitude towards his sister's marriage stems from the catholic church's adherence to perpetual widowhood, but perverts it, and the duchess exemplifies the emerging and more tolerant one protestant position stands . approve and even encourage a woman's remarriage. In his extensive study of Webster, Charles Forker also dismisses the view that the Duchess was guilty of any rape, recounting contemporary widows who married without scandal, some even to grooms of lesser status.3

Wadsworth, Mikesell, and Forker make a compelling argument based on a strong and diverse body of evidence that suggests a contemporary pluralistic attitude toward widows. I agree that cultural constraints sanction a widow's remarriage; What I do want to add is a closer look at the nuances Webster uses to craft the Duchess' character. In addition to the arguments of my predecessors, I think that their youth, the correctness of their choice of Antonio, and their agency acquits them even more (actually even within the limitations of the Catholic literature that Mikesell offers).

One aspect of the Duchess that commentators have not discussed is Webster's emphasis on her youth. in the widow literature of that time even the most conservative moralist and the most acute misogynist ripped off the young woman. Thus the Jesuit Father Fulvius Androtius, in a volume in which he praises the sorrowing woman devoted to God alone, encourages the younger woman to worship: such an act, he says, is "not wrong, but approved by all".4Consequently, between 1600 and 1659, half of widows returned to the altar in their twenties and thirties.5While instructing Bosola to spy on her, Ferdinand alludes to the likelihood of remarriage given her age, a concession that has gone unnoticed by critics:

I give you that
live here at court; and look at the duchess.
to write down all the details of his behavior;
which suitors ask her to marry
and who it concerns most: she is a young widow -
He would not let her marry again.
no sir?
do not ask for the reason: but convince yourself,
I say I wouldn't.


It is clear from these lines that Ferdinand assumes that the suitors will visit his sister, with his "I do not want her to marry again", a decidedly disjunctive thought. because he immediately warns bosola not to ask him why, we can assume that despite his defeated state, that would be the logical thing for bosola to do. Measured by the suitability of a woman of the Duchess' age to remarry, Ferdinand's criticisms lose credibility.7he, not his company, condemns her to a life of solitude.

Additionally, Webster emphasizes the Duchess's youth with a contrasting figure, the old woman, whose presence stuns critics.8it is the painted face of the old woman, a sign of age that strikes bosola,9greeting with the question "Are you coming from painting now?" (2.1.21) and goes on to describe every fold and inventory of what he called his "witchcraft workshop" (2.1.35) in twenty-four lines (2.1.21- 44) names. The old woman thus graphically reinforces the Duchess's nudity by appearing immediately after the courtship scene.

Additionally, other aspects of widowhood that might cloud contemporary public appreciation are absent or lost in the work. although remarriage was not uncommon for widows of all ages,10the one-year waiting period was common. As William Heale puts it, a woman who "remarries within her year of mourning is by law free from disgrace, but by law she is also considered unworthy of conjugal dignity".11Although no exact time is given in the text, the period of ritual mourning seems to have passed as the Duchess has been throwing parties. Indeed, to speak of "these triumphs and these great expenses" (1.1.365) he calls Antonio to see the accounts of his inheritance. Certainly a lady of her rank would not have so broken custom, and Ferdinand would certainly have commented if she had.

The Duchess also observes other restrictions on remarriage. Like any woman, a widow would not marry within the forbidden degrees of relationship or commit bigamy. moreover, it was a crime to marry her husband's killer, one of those "hateful" conditions that can annul a marriage.12The Duchess is not related to Antonio, nor does she have another husband. Neither she nor Antonio bears any responsibility for the Duke's death, unlike, for example, Vittoria de Corombona and Brachiano in Webster'sthe white devilNot recognizing this distinction causes Joyce e. Peterson to claim that the

The confiscation of his duchy and the Pope's censure for his negligence would certainly have recalled the privations of Mary, Queen of Scots. ... Mary's subjects, the Pope, and her Catholic allies turned their backs on her because of the discredit she suffered over the Darnley murder and subsequent marriage.13

However, it was not so much Mary's remarriage as her choice of a man involved in the murder of her wife and with a ruthless ambition for her crown that became her undoing.14

Not only is the Duchess within the bounds of propriety, custom, and law when it comes to remarrying, but, as one critic of the play claims, she is not acting "taboo" when she thinks her desire for financial independence "lies with its truth." corresponds to energy". to determine their own behavior.fifteensimply the economic freedom of the widow,sixteenwhich was significant, it empowered her, especially when it came to marriage. For example, anyone who talks to widows about remarriage is not giving orders, but advising them. In Godly Advice Touching Marriage, Andrewe Kyngesmill assures her sister that she is not trying to "convince or dissuade" her from choosing a new husband because she is her "own judge" when it comes to her future.17When a woman disagreed with her family over the choice of a new husband, she reminded them: "How lucky I am, I had it from my [deceased] husband and the widow is free".18The poem engraved on Lady Margaret Hastings' memorial expresses it perhaps best: "Her second match she made of her own choosing," she concludes, "to please herself as others have pleased before." "19Indeed, in the position of duchess, a royal woman could hope to "remarry for her great pleasure," as one writer of the time put it.20

Webster presents the Duchess as a good choice, minimizing the difference in rank between her and Antonio.21Although undeniably not the social equal of the late Duke, Antonio is certainly not, as Ferdinand first imagines,

some strong boatswain; or one of the lumberjacks who can pull the sledge or throw the pole, or a charming squire who carries coals to his private quarters.


In fact, Antonio's counterpart in the painter's tale is referred to in the title as 'caballero';22and in Webster's Tragedy, before marrying the Duchess, he displays some chivalrous skill in winning the ring in a tournament. in addition, being morally superior to the brothers, with his praise of the French court he introduces a standard into the work by which we can clearly judge the two brothers, those "plum trees that grow crooked over ponds" (1.1.49-50), as he calls her bosola. In fact, they reject him as a spy for the Duchess because, according to the cardinal, they consider him "too honest for such business" (1.1.230).

In addition, Antonio resembles the man that various authors consider appropriate for a widow. for example, believing that a certain type of man will prevent his sister from going "from a happy widow" to an "unhappy wife,"23Kyngesmill urges her to reject the suitor who is neither of good character nor of sufficient income, and the one who puts wealth, looks, or social rank above all else. In euphemistic prose, Kyngesmill describes a potential mate who is not dating

great life, but good life: he has life, but competent, not lavish, not in full swing: not perhaps a gentleman, but a simple gentleman, not very well born, but very well educated, not dignified, but dignified worshiper, not of great reputation, but of singular honesty, not so much brought up at court, so versed in school, his country not so great as his knowledge, his breast not so full of money, but his head and mind possessed and equipped with that Creature of truth and priceless wealth of wisdom: ...not so well emigrated by men as favored by God... I mean, not so well clothed in the outer man as clothed in the inner man.24

This description does not contradict Antonio Bosola's description of the Duchess as one

Worthless jewel you cast away in a riotous mood to bless the man who will find it: he was an excellent courtier and a most loyal one, a soldier who thought it a beast to little know his own worth, as diabolical to acknowledge it too much: both its virtue and its form would have deserved a much better fortune. his speech delighted in self-judgment rather than boasting. his chest was full of perfection. and yet it felt like a private whisper room, making so little noise.


In contrast to Kyngesmill's idea of ​​a brother-in-law, Ferdinand's proposal of Count Malateste, whom the Duchess describes as "mere stick of candy" (01/03/42), undermines his acumen as a judge-in-law.26Kyngesmill promotes the value of the inner man, but Ferdinand proposes a husband for show only.

Instead of accusing the Duchess, the play dissects Fernando, thereby challenging his brutal ideology. Frank Whigham, for example, refuses to see the Duchess "as deservedly punished, largely because the ideology underlying such a judgment, Ferdinand's ideology, is precisely the ideology which the play most profoundly challenges".27But what is Fernando's ideology? Where does it come from in the culture of society and work? although mikesell places his attitude toward widows within the catholic-protestant debate, i think the parameters are much broader.


that early modern England was patriarchal is beyond doubt; it is also clear that a widow possessed unusual freedom and choice in this society. the uneasiness that this situation must have caused can perhaps be seen in the constructs that society has developed. On the one hand there was the lustful widow, one of the most common clichés of the time. On the other hand, there was the “true widow,” the woman who spends the rest of her days in prayer and good works after the death of her husband. Added to this was the topos of the widow who dies with her husband. The interesting thing about these is that none of the three seem to have been particularly mimetic, especially the last one. I noticed that most widows, especially the young, remarried; moreover, these women seem on the whole to have been more prudent than the wives and servants. and reassuringly for us in this century, I have found no contemporary cases of women committing suicide to be with their dead mates. What makes these three images important to the play is that Ferdinand only seems to be able to imagine his sister in one way or another: if she is not eternally chaste, she must be impulsive, and if so, she must die. he cannot or does not want to imagine a life outside of these options for her.

Although women like the Duchess are married, opinion leaders in society from Juan Luis Vives in 1529 to Richard Braithwait in 1631 praise a widow who

Nothing asks more, nothing desires more, than to satisfy the legacy of her late husband: to honor him with due remembrance and admiration of his virtues: for the life of the dying is the memory of the living.28

even women who perform great deeds worthy of a man are praised in sorrow for their devotion. Thomas Heywood names Judith one of the nine worthiest women for beheading Holofernes and saving his city, praising her for remaining "perpetually widowed" and "rising ever more in honor."29Because these women are the best of their sex, they are the ones a man should marry. However, says Niccholes, because "such a widow could marry you if she were worthy of your choice, but such a widow could not be, for then she would not marry."30This is the woman Ferdinand the Duchess wants to be: this is his idea of ​​the heroic widow.

If she isn't, then Ferdinand only sees his sister at the other end: the stereotypical lusty widow,31the one who "never says no," as one ballad puts it, a message repeated in sources as diverse as sermons that state that the widow is ready to share in "those blessings that come with marriage ', and medical manuals, where it is sometimes described as 'intolerable symptoms of lust'.32Thus a widow was courted "in the converted order of a maiden", turning from "action to love" rather than vice versa.33yet few widows seem to have lived out the lustful fantasy attributed to them. In fact, contemporary records show that they pay more attention to sexual mores than maids or wives.34

Although Ferdinand tries to portray her as a lascivious widow, the Duchess is the object, not the source, of sexual advancement;35And her evocation of the stereotype when she claims Antonio "like a widow" with "half a blush" (1.1.459) tends to dispel her weight as it separates her from the hypocrisy sometimes associated with that character.36In fact, in bed he says to Antonio:

we will only lie and talk and conspire to appease my joking relative; And if you like the old tale in Alexander and Lodowick, put a drawn sword between us, keep us chaste.


believes their union is based on mutual love, which should lead to natural fertility:

Bless, Heaven, this holy Gordian who has left violence
never unscrew.
and that our sweet affections like spheres
still be on the way.
accelerate and do
like soft music.
so that we may imitate loving palms.(37)


If ever there was a couple who spoke haughtily about marriage, it was Antonio and the Duchess. In fact, it's a tribute to the Websters' art that they don't become stone-cold models. I believe that we are destined to see her and her husband not only as a model couple, but also as a happy couple. and it is precisely this happiness that makes his death tragic.38

Webster is putting pressure on the Duchess to remain single directly on Fernando and Fernando only.39In fact, several characters even question his actions and contradict his accusations. For example, the Duchess defends herself by telling her brother he is "too strict" and asking:

Why couldn't I get married? I didn't go there to create a new world or a new custom. ...why only me, out of all the other princes in the world. be wrapped up like a holy relic? I have youth and a little beauty.


Although the pilgrims marvel that "so great a lady would mate with so bad a person," they question the justice of Ferdinand's retaliation against her, calling it "too cruel" and only attributing the abduction of his duchy to " “at the instigation of his brother” (3.4.25-26, 27, 35). By far the most revealing reaction to Ferdinand, however, is that of the Cardinal, the only other character in the play who is related by blood to the Duchess. When Ferdinand punishes her, calls her a prostitute and explains that he can "kill her now", the cardinal asks: "Are you completely crazy?" and accuses her brother of finding in her an "imperfection" that actually lies in himself (2.5. 63, 66, 51-54). Both Ferdinand's state of mind and his transfer confirm his brother's suspicions. In one instance in particular, he ascribes qualities to the Duchess that are actually her own. After Fernando called his children "Young en" (4.1.33) and "young wolves" (4.2.259), he succumbs to lycanthropy. When the Duchess is reduced to an echo at the end, she is silenced like so many women in early modern drama, but the power that silences her is as stray through her place in Ferdinand, whose madness dominates the final act shown.

Ferdinand perceives the Duchess as the cowardly and lustful widow who, like Vittoria de Corombona and others on the Jacobean stage, draws the wrath of society by flaunting her behavior. but in the end the duchess embodies a different construction, one that is even more extreme than the widow as a mourning model: the widow as a sacrificial heroine. of at leastthe defense of good womenin 154040to 1620, the date of Webster's work, the sources describe a golden age when some courageous wives followed their husbands in their deaths, a time which they say should appease the current negative view of women's critics. In 1609, for example, just a few years before the play, William Heale praises Demotia, who "took a swift journey unto death" for her husband.41even the author of thelaws resolutions on women's rights,for remarriage in general, he believes there is "some reason to praise determinationnonsense' in committing suicide instead of marrying the tyrant who is threatening their city.42Although certainly no author intended his readers to emulate such figures, this topos, as Vives puts it, divided widows into those "unmoved by the deaths of their husbands" and those "who, with good will, wish to have a vacation." their husbands' lives with their own.43When the bodies of Antonio and his children are shown to the Duchess, all she wants to do is die:

there is no desire between heaven and earth
I stay after: it wastes me more
that was not my painting, made of wax,
pinned with a magic pin and then buried
in a dirty dung heap; and it's an excellent feature
by a tyrant, which I would find a pity.
What is that?
If they tied me to this lifeless trunk
and let me freeze
Come on, you have to live.
this is the greatest torment that souls in Hell feel -
in hell: that they must live and cannot die.
Portia, I'll light your coals again
and revive the rare and almost dead example
a loving wife.(44)


After the Duke's death, the Duchess longed for a shroud simply because of her blush (1/1/502), but at this point in the play she would be the highly idealized widow, a sacrifice reinforced by her youth. although it is difficult for us in this century to imagine this early modern formcuteas praiseworthy45In the context of the play, the Duchess thus approaches the heroic. Even Fernando finally honors her in his perverse way: "cover his face: my eyes are dazzling: he died young" (4.2.264), he exclaims when he sees his corpse. Also relevant is that it is Antonio she is willing to die for. Constantly crying for the Duke didn't occur to the Duchess, at least after she fell in love with Antonio. here, however, at this point in the play, she would sacrifice her life for her second husband; That her desire comes from her, not what her brother said, emphasizes emotion and privacy at work.46

Because of the emotional force behind him and his powerful place in society's widowed tradition, his desire to die for Antonio is the culmination of his development as a character. Although her most famous line "I am still the Duchess of Malfi" (4.2.142) has traditionally been interpreted as a declaration of dignity in the face of humiliation,47instead it is deeply and wryly tragic. here identifying with the title of her first marriage, she stands as the duke's widow, the role Ferdinand wished her to play.48(Imagine just for a moment Lear waking up at the end and saying "I am the king" instead of "I am a very sweet old fool" [4.7.60].) A verbal echo reinforces the irony. During the courtship scene at the beginning of the play, the Duchess assures Antonio that she "is not the figure carved in alabaster kneeling at my husband's grave" (1.1.454-55). However, after Fernando imprisons her, Cariola says she looks like "a venerable monument / whose ruins are even regretted" (4.2.33-34). Inscribed in Ferdinand's vision of her as the Duke's widow, she is in fact the figure carved in alabaster, ultimately the Duke's widow, not Antonio's. The discrepancy in the development of her characterization is made clear if one imagines for a moment that, rather than defining herself in those terms, the Duchess said, "I'm still Antonio's wife". With this replacement, his characterization would be realigned.49No wonder, after reminding Bosola of his status, he says the following: “My trade is to flatter the dead, not the living; I am a grave maker” (4.2.147-48). Although she takes pride in the terms of her society as it defines her high place in the social hierarchy, her statement in her personal life is tragic.

In the first part of the article, I join several recent critics in exonerating the Duchess by placing her in her historical context. my goal at the time was to show that Webster was more careful than he was creating it. uses the nuances of contemporary attitudes and mores about widowhood to render widowhood virtually guilt-free. But this attention to sociological detail on Webster's part is about more than what we used to call character development; It also helps describe what we used to call a theme.the duchess of malfiit's about how an innocent woman participates not so much in his physical destruction as in his psychological destruction. Unlike Hamlet or Lear, the Duchess loses her hard-won identity as wife and mother. she dies entangled in a construct bestowed on her by society, not one she deserves but one that was given to her.50Moving from climax to catastrophe to transcendence, a royal scapegoat like Hamlet identifies with society and then dies to purify it. In the character of a woman, Webster shows what the hero loses. the hero's original sin - what he, and in this case she, must give up or lose in the genre - is private life.


  1. That the Duchess cannot be a heroine in the traditional sense "should not be attributed to poor plot construction by Webster ... but to the fact that the presence of the female protagonist radically destabilizes the tragic paradigm as constructed in the criticism from the fatal." fail to catastrophe and finally to apotheosis,” says dympna callaghan. but, she continues, “there is no need for a heroine, nor should feminists attempt to create a new critical paradigm to accommodate one. The heroes are simply the protagonists in plays, not the eternal representatives of the bravest and best. see herWomen and Gender in Renaissance Tragedy: A Study in 'King Lear', 'Othello', 'The Duchess of Malfi' and 'The White Devil'(Atlantic Highlands, n.j.: humanities press, 1989), 67-68. Yet Frank Whigham calls the Duchess "the first wholly tragic woman in Renaissance drama" in "sexual and social mobility."the duchess of malfi,PMLA100 (1985): 174.

  2. linesDorfThey are from the volume Arden (London: Methuen, 1984), edited by Harold Jenkins; thoseRey LearThey are also taken from Kenneth Muir's Arden (London: Methuen, 1985).

  3. see respectively Clifford Leeches,John Webster: A Critical Study(Londres: Hogarth Press, 1951), 108; Franco w. wadsworth, "webstersDuchess of Malfiin the light of some contemporary ideas about marriage and remarriage.pq35 (1956):407; Margaret Mikesell, "Catholic and Protestant Widows inthe duchess of malfi,revival and reformation19 (1983): 271; und Charles R. Forker,The Skull Under the Skin: John Webster's Achievement(Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1986), esp. 297-301. Sara Jane Steen also defends the Duchess' remarriage by appearing in The Crime of Marriage: Arbella Stuart andthe duchess of malfi,Diary from the 16th century22 (1991): 76. The dispute over the duchess's guilt is not resolved, however, as two recent works condemn the duchess as a violator of the widow's rules. joyce e Peterson, for example, judges her abandonment by preferring personal happiness to obedience to the limitations of her widowhood. The Duchess is indeed the "cursed example" of Peterson's title,cursed example: "the duchess of malfi" and the tragedy of the common good(Colombia: Missouri University Press, 1978). Despite being more sympathetic to the Duchess, Dena Goldberg believes that "the siblings' misinterpretation and condemnation of the Duchess' wishes, and their egalitarianism, are supported by mainstream opinion." Look atBetween Worlds: A Study in the Works of John Webster(Waterloo: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 1987), 80.

  4. Father Fulvius Androciusthe widow's glassinthe treasure of the vow of chastity among lay people. also the cup of widows,trans. Yo w.p. (London, 1621), 229. Thomas Becon, in "Part Six of the Catechism," also considers it "fit and proper" for the elder widow to meditate on death, but "dainty" for the younger to engage in "the widow's ministry." to engage : the professions of all degrees”, inworks by Thomas Becon,volume 3, ed. Rev. John Ayre (Cambridge, 1844), 3:365-661. That this fork has long existed is shown in the most popular behavioral book of the time, Juan Luis Vives'a very fruitful and entertaining book entitled The Instruction of a Christian Woman,trans. Richard Hyrde (London, 1592), Libro 3. Sig. dd8-dd8v.

  5. barbara j. Todd, „The Widow Who Remarries: A Stereotype Reconsidered“, inWomen in English Society 1500-1800,Mary Prior Edition (London: Methuen, 1985), 64.

  6. later in the play, the duchess antonio introduces herself as a “young widow / who claims you for her husband” (1.1.457-58). see also 3.2.139. all quotes offthe duchess of malfiThey come from the volume Revels Plays (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1964) edited by John Russell Brown and are later documented in brackets.

  7. Her youth also makes it clear that the public sees her as the older widow and boy stereotype that Richard uses to insult IsabelRicardo III(1.3.100-102). All quotations from this work are from the volume Arden (London: Methuen, 1985) edited by Antony Hammond.

  8. she enters "the play with the sole purpose of being abused by bosola," says mary bethat the expense of the mind: love and sexuality in english renaissance theatre(Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1988), 160. And, says Peter Stallybrass, “The lady has no part in the scene except as an emblem of corruption,” in “Patriarchal Territories: The Enclosed Body,” inRewriting the Renaissance: Discourses of Sexual Difference in Early Modern Europe.Issue Margarete w. Ferguson, Maureen Quilligan and Nancy J. Ferguson. Vickers (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1986), 133.

  9. by the way, the Duchess in the Well by Webster, that of William PainterLustschloss,draws attention to its age, adding that "it hasn't been painted yet". the passage in its entirety reads: "Let such misfortune [loss of honor by immodesty living] befall me, and I still find myself unable to live as I am young and (thank God) not disfigured yet." unpainted, I would rather be the loving wife of a simple savage than the concubine of a king or a great prince" (186). the relevant part of the source is included as an appendix in Brown's edition of the work. Although almost schizophrenic in his attitude towards the Duchess, the painter justifies his choice here with the traditional logic of the young widow's marriage.

  10. After 1600, according to Todd (“the remarried widow”, p. 60), 37.5% of all widows remarried. Social critics have also pointed out this phenomenon. For example, according to Peter Laslett, widows and widowers were "remarkably successful" in finding new partners. Look atthe world we lost explored more,3rd ed. (New York: Scribner's 1984), 156. Indeed, says Lawrence Stone, "modern divorce seems to be little more than a functional substitute for death", inFamily, Sex and Marriage in England 1500-1800(New York: Harper, 1977), 56.

  11. William Sanar,an excuse for women(Oxford, 1609), 50-51.

  12. the dissolution of women's rights laws(London, 1632), 71, 59. This volume was written at the turn of the century. see also F. gram. Emission,Elizabethan Life: Morals and Ecclesiastical Courts Primarily from the Archdeaconal Records of Essex(chelmsford: Essex County Council, 1973), 168-70.

  13. Peterson,fucking example,61-62.

  14. Ver Antonia Fraser,Mary Queen of Scots(1969; reprinted, New York: Greenwich House, 1983), 306-33.

  15. Lisa Jardine,Still harping on daughters: women and drama in Shakespeare's age(1983; reprinted, New York: Columbia University Press, 1989), 90.

  16. A widow received not less than one-third of her husband's estate, whether or not he declared it (laws,107). According to social historians, the widow's inheritance law was the most stable of all. See for example b. a. Property, "Widows in Pre-Industrial Society: An Essay on Their Economic Roles",country, kinship and life cycles,Redaktion Richard M. Smith (London: Cambridge University Press, 1984), 433, und Alan Macfarlane,Marriage and Love in England: Types of Reproduction 1300-1840(New York: Basil Blackwell, 1986), 282-83. This financial independence was followed by considerable personal autonomy, as noted by various social historians. The rich widow was the only woman besides the queen who "always belonged to England as an individual," says Laslett (the world we lost19). see also richard t. Vann, "Towards a New Way of Life: Women in Pre-Industrial Capitalism", inmake themselves visible: Women in the European history,Edition by Renate Bridanthal and Claudia Koonz (Boston: Houghton, 1977), 195; Martin Ingram,Ecclesiastical Courts, Sex and Marriage in England 1570-1640(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987), 259-60; y Inhaberschaft, „viudas“, 427.

  17. Andrew Kyngesmill, „Godly Advice Touching Marriage“, ina view of the man's estate(London, 1580), sig. 13v.

  18. quoted in miriam slater,Family life in the seventeenth century: the Verneys of Claydon House(Londres: Routledge, 1984), 105.

  19. quoted in Lawrence Stone,The Crisis of the Nobility 1558-1641(Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1965), 622.

  20. laws,331. For examples of widows establishing their own financial or libidinal conditions, see: Miranda Chaytor, "Household and Kinship: Ryton in the Late 16th and Early 17th Century,"History workshop diary10 (1980): 42, 346; Maria L gene,Women and Law in Elizabethan England with Special Reference to the Court of Chancery(New York: Girlande, 1985), 138, 346; und Ralph Houlbrooke, „The Making of Marriage in Mid-Tudor England: Evidence from Marriage Contract Litigation Records“,Family History Journal10 (1985): 346. Lady Dorothy Union covered both finances and marital relations in her contract with George Shirley. Not only did she affirm her desire to "reserve her own support for herself and give it to him without any control," she also stated that "if she happened to find fault with her husband's inadequacy," she "choose someone else." "could bedfellow" (quoted in Roy Strong,The Cult of Elizabeth: Elizabethan Portraiture and Pomp[Hampshire: Thames and Hudson, 1977], 107).

  21. that Webster aspires to do so, although, as Forker argues, marriage between people of different status was not "inevitably regretted" (Skull,300), suggests that the playwright was extraordinarily careful in characterizing the Duchess. Indeed, John Selzer argues that "it is in her proposal to Antonio that the Duchess expresses most clearly her understanding that an appreciation, and not a degree [the controversy that Selzer sees as the play's main conflict], should determine the actions of people." ", in "Merit and degrees in thethe duchess of malfi,Elr11 (1981), 72-73.

  22. see brown,Duchess,176.

  23. kyngesmill, "divine counsel," sig. 13v.

  24. ibid., identificationv-That means.

  25. Though Bosola tries to catch the Duchess with her praise of Antonio, throughout the action she has clear eyes on the virtues and vices of whoever she serves. Fork (Skull,331-32) and selzer (“Merit and Degree”, 75) also agree that we should take these lines describing antonio literally.

  26. "The good [beautiful] character without wisdom and virtue, what better than a paid man?" asks Thomas Pritchardthe honest and virtuous school of life(London, 1579), 70.

  27. Whigham, "Sexual and Social Mobility", 183, n. twenty

  28. Richard Braithwait,the Englishwoman(London, 1631), 113. Behold thou live,instruction of a ChristianBook 3, next cc3v.

  29. Thomas Heywood,the exemplary lives and memorable deeds of nine of the world's worthiest women: three Jewish women. three pagans. three Christians(London, 1640), 42-43. Heywood also commends her for wearing her "sackcloth cloak and mourning clothes" and for fasting "all the days of her widowhood" before killing Holofernes (30).

  30. Alexander Nicholas,a speech on marriage and wives: and on the greatest mystery it contains: how to choose a good wife from a bad one(London, 1615), shall we say. mev. Other sources deifying the perpetual widow are Androtius,widow glass,who spends most of the volume praising them (see especially 241, 306) and Thomas Bentley,the matron monument(London, 1582), vol. 3, item 2, bulb 5: 178. For those who emphasize the heroic aspect of their chastity, see W[illiam] C[ragge],widows joy(Londres, 1622), 8-9; Patience,english lady,107, 112; today,widow glass,289-90. For advice on how a widow should resist temptation, see Bentley,Monument(Vol. 3, Part 2, Lamp 5: 179).

  31. Mikesell makes a similar comment: Ferdinand and the cardinal, she says, "constantly see her as the lustful widow, and in their persecution gradually reduce her to the position of the pious widow" ("Catholic and Protestant," 272).

  32. see samuel pepys, “no one advised him to choose a wife”, ina pephysical garland: black letter ballads of the years 1595-1639,Edition Hyder e. Rollins (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1971), 264; c [Harpo],widows joy,8th; and N.fontano,The doctor(London, 1592), quoted in h. Smith, "Gynecology and Ideology in Seventeenth-Century England", inliberating women's storyAusgabe b. a. Carroll (Urban: University of Illinois Press, 1975), 104.

  33. star jump,loquent images or images drawn on characters(London, 1631), msg. C. see also Nicholen,Network,itself. d4v-e and martin parker, "the age of women", in rollins,Pepsi,238. The widow's lust, however, is not always scoffed at; In some works, this is given as one of the reasons for marrying such a woman. see pepys, in rollins,Pepsi,268 and Sir John Davies, "a dispute between a woman, a widow, and a girl for the precedence of an offence",the poems of sir john davies,edición robert krüger (oxford: clarendon press, 1975), 174.

  34. For example, at Stratford-upon-Avon between 1590 and 1616 only one widow was summoned before the Church Court, or obscenity court as it was also called, because it investigated cases of immorality, compared with twenty-one cases involving married couples or single women . I will see. rc edge,Shakespeare and the bawdy court of Stratford(London: Phillimore, 1972), 135. In Abingdon, Todd says, "the church leaders never had an opportunity to produce a widow because she was in an illicit partnership" ("The Widow Who Remarried," 77). see also ingram (church courts,271-72) for similar statistics. Also, widows were not often the mothers of illegitimate children (and we must remember that widows were more often young in that era than they are today). Keith Wrightson finds "married or widowed women ... only occasionally involved" in bastard trials in Essex between 1627 and 1640 at the "low point of English illegitimacy in the seventeenth century".Bastard and His Comparative History: Studies in the History of Illegitimacy and Unmarriage in Britain, France, Germany, Sweden, North America, Jamaica, and Japan.Edited by Peter Laslett, Larla Oosterveen, and Richard M. Smith (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1980), 187. In addition, Lancashire records from 1590-1606 show only three widows cited as having illegitimate children ( 131, 216, 228), as opposed to two wives (97, 119). and fifty-five single women (see almost all pages), as seen inquarterly Lancashire meeting records,James Tait Edition (Manchester: For the Chetham Society, 1917). see also david levine and keith wrightson, “the social context of illegitimacy in early modern england”, in laslett, oosterveen and smith,Illegitimacy,163, No. 5; todd, "the remarried widow," 77; and P.e. H. Haar, "Bridal Pregnancy in the Most Examined Former Rural England",population studies24 (1970): 64. For a contemporary widow's eulogy cflaws,329-30. In fact, some of the few charges may have been fabricated to win the woman's country, Ingram believes (church courts,244-45).

  35. "It is entirely in her imagination that all the trappings of the 'lustful widow,' as Ferdinand calls his sister, appear," says Mikesell ("Catholic and Protestant," 271). however, other critics, even proponents, sometimes see her as "participating" in "an atmosphere replete with explicitly offensive sexual innuendo" that "controls our assessment of her character" (Jardine,still insist70) in her first scene with Ferdinand. However, the Duchess' lines in this section consist of the following: "Will you listen to me? / I will never marry”; "That's terribly good advice"; "I think that speech between the two of you was so well studied/came out"; and "Fee, sir!" (1.1.301-2, 312, 329-30, 337).

  36. for example, those of John Marston and William Barksteadthe insatiable countessit begins with a picture of the Countess in deep mourning. Her true feelings are revealed later when she wants her husband to "sink ten cubits down" (6). the work is includedthe works of John Marston,H. Harvey Wood Edition (Edinburgh: Oliver and Boyd, 1935-39). Hamlet also associates Gertrude with this hypocritical aspect of the character.

  37. It is tempting to see in the use of this word, akin to plum, a comparison of the natural fruitfulness and fertility of the Duchess and Antonios with that of the brothers, which instead of "palms" are "plum trees" which will grow crooked over ponds." stagnant" (1.1.49-50).

  38. It is "the full recognition of the importance of private life ... that makes its tragic stature possible," says Rose (cost of the mind163). Likewise, Forker says the play is "a tragedy of erotic abandon in which lovers like Romeo and Juliet risk their lives for values ​​that seem healthier, richer, and more human than those to which they cling." Car. Have fun" (Skull,297).

  39. it may be true that the "common mob" calls her a "whore" (3.1.25-26), but then one thinks that she is unmarried.

  40. The story of Panthea committing suicide after the death of her husband, although her conqueror "was in a desired marriage" is paradigmatic of Sir Thomas Elyot's examples of such exemplary women inthe defense of good women(London, 1540), 21.

  41. foreverForgiveness,8-9 See you live tooinstruction of a christian woman,Buch 3, Mr. bb4v; Christoph Newstead,an excuse for women; or defense of women(London, 1620), 24-26; and Jacques du Bosc, "of courage,the complete womantrans. Norden. Norden. (London, 1639), 15.

  42. laws,326-27. The author is of course referring here to the original story of Dido, in which she commits suicide to avoid remarriage. Virgil added Aeneas, transforming her from "a paragon of heroic chastity to an example of the dangers of erotic passion," says Stephen Orgel in Shakespeare and the Cannibals.cannibals, witches and divorce: Turning away from the rebirth,edición marjorie garber (baltimore: johns hopkins university press, 1987), 60-62.

  43. live,instruction of a christian woman,Buch 3, Mr. bb4v.

  44. her behavior here deviates radically from the cliché of the horny widow. in the defense, M.C. Bradbrook notes that if she had "been lewd, she would have tried her arts on her jailers" to escape. "Renaissance contexts forthe duchess of malfi," inModern Critical Interpretations: John Websterthe duchess of malfi,ed. Harold Bloom (Nueva York: Chelsea House, 1987), 54.

  45. For example, Mikesell's words describing the Duchess in this manner are as follows: "As she kneels to await her death, it was shereducedto the Catholic image of the ideal widow who "renounces all worldly ties" [my emphasis] ("Catholic and Protestant", 272). My point is that although Ferdinand designed her destiny here, the role itself, especially when the woman chose it herself, was considered heroic at the time.

  46. Two recent critics have pointed to public versus private life as one of the play's central conflicts. For example, Rose says that "instead of presenting public and private life as a hierarchy subordinating the latter to the former,the duchess of malfiit tries to bring the two domains together and differentiate them on an equal footing. The point is crucial, for in this play...the effort constitutes a central action rather than a subordinate action, and its failure provides the play's primary tragic material" (cost of the mind162). see also susan wells,The dialectic of representation(Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1985), 62-80.

  47. See, for example, Ralph Berry,The Art of John Webster(Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1972), 147-48, and Selzer, "Merit and Grade," 77. Robert Ornstein calls the line "a statement of individuality," but he admits that it is also "rather construed as one might tremble." of meaningless pride" inThe Moral Vision of the Jacobin Tragedy(Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1960), 148. An important exception is Whigham, who points out the inconsistency of his claim after the loss of his property: "by reiterating the origin of his Freedom (in rank), he unevitably it reminds us also of its deep inscription in this system, because it has no independent proper name. Webster insists that she is not Victoria, nor Livia, nor Lucrecia, nor Cordelia, but one born to be caught in rank no matter how she struggles with the destructive element" ("Sexual and Social Mobility," p. 174).

  48. strangely insideRicardo IIIRichard calls Queen Elizabeth 'my gray lady', a term glossed over in the Arden edition as 'a derogatory use' of the Queen's first married name (129).

  49. "An insight underlying all of Webster's most compelling dramas concerns imbalances within and without the psyche that threaten a secure or firm assessment of the self," says Forker (Skull,333).

  50. By questioning tragedy as a genre, David Leverenz analyzes itDorfas the "ironic suffocation of a hero's identity by defunct structures of government" in "The Woman in Hamlet: An Interpersonal View", inPlaying Shakespeare: New Psychoanalytic Essays,Edit by Murray M. Schwartz and Coppélia Kahn (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1980), 125. We could, I think, say something similar aboutthe duchess of malfi

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Source: Rowe, Katherine. "'This strange locomotive': action at a distance inthe duchess of malfi" inDead Hands: Agency Fictions, from the Renaissance to the Modern Age.Page. 86-110. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 1999.

[In this essay, part of a larger study of the recurring image of the dead hand in literature, Rowe examines the image of the hand as a representation of both marriage and the occultthe duchess of malfiRowe focuses on the scene where Ferdinand offers the Duchess a dead man's hand in her stead, and considers this in contemporary discourse and belief about witchcraft.]

The question of whether human agency is something that can be appropriately localized, fixed, and ascribed to individual actors pervades early seventeenth-century plays. Metaphors of body shape and physiology, which served well to ground earlier political allegories, unravel the social and political fictions that define the people in these works. Thus, alternating with the uneasiness and emotions of generations of critics, the Jacobean tragedy unseemly tore the body apart and staged dismemberment, rape, virginity tests, poisoned kisses and torture that evoked earlier Seneca dramas such asandronicus titusin its frequency and vivid presentation. Recent studies have interpreted these spectacles both aesthetically and politically. Thus Peter Stallybrass' adaptation of Bakhtin's paradigm of the classical and grotesque bodies makes it clear that Jacobean body aesthetics undermines any trust in a "closed individuality that does not merge with other bodies and the world".1Feminist scholars such as Theodora Jankowski and Kathleen Mcluskie have shed light on the gender politics of this aesthetic by focusing on the challenges that the feminine grotesque in these works poses to the patriarchal order.2

The focus of such science must be shifted from the display of bodies "open to the outside world," in Bakhtin's words - "the open mouth, the genitals, the breasts, the phallus, the abdomen, the nose" - to the grotesque action and performance.3The Jacobean tragedy dramatizes the porous boundaries between the acting subjects and enacts an intellectual problem: what does it mean to make one person the bearer of another's facts, the instrument of another's intentions? The graphic play of hands in this drama provides an important vocabulary for addressing such concerns, adapting to the stage common motifs from political theory in which hands represent clerical, deputational, vicarious, or other intermediary service relationships. Equally important is the related tradition of vicious servants who translated these motifs into dramatic character in the mid to late 16th century. Ambidextrous, the vicious character in Elizabethan drama who 'plays with both hands', exemplifies this convention. its plot is probably better known from the moral chronicle gameThey change,where he undermines the authority of all the lords he serves, pits others against one another, and ultimately brings down the state. The history of its name clarifies the conceptual problems embodied in both hands. As early as the 14th century, Lollard's polemics against Simoniac clerics (who bought and sold ecclesiastical favor) referred to "these men of double stature" as ambidextrous.4later the epithet was extended to judges or attorneys who benefited from their cases. and finally it embraced the general order of fraudulent middlemen: those who serve two masters, or carry out the writing of an order for their own benefit. In this way, the debates about delegation and power in early ecclesiastical and legal writings provided a ready vocabulary for depicting similar conflicts as they unfolded in financial, political, and romantic relationships.

The Machiavellian servants, fraudulent officers, and secret agents who proliferated on the Jacobean scene inherited the two-handed conspiracy and made it urgent again. The principles underlying social obligations in England underwent gradual but profound changes in the early 17th century, first identified by Henry Sumner Maine as a transition from a status society to a contract society.5These changes are reflected both in the emergence of the term "agent" as a conceptual category and in the changing notions of delegation and substitution that encompass the label. The traditional social position obligations, which initially define an actor simply as a "doer", are expanded at this time to include the self-interest of the "doer or meddler in something".6and the revised ambidexters of contemporary drama draw our attention to the problems of interpretation that such an intrusion poses. Again and again they raise questions raised by the possibility of conflicts of interest in service contracts: if the actions of a delegate or agent are a matter of the free consent of both parties and not traditional duties, how can their results be ensured?

These concerns are most vividly enacted in a scene recurring in many works of the period: when two characters, usually master and servant, shake hands in a pact or agreement, only for the handshake to be mocked or interrupted. The hauntingly erotic promise between Iago and Othello, punctuated by Iago's ironic remarks, is a well-known example. Middleton and RowleyThe challengeprovides a later, longer, and more vivid example. At the beginning of the play, the villain Deflores murders a man promised to the woman he desires and cuts off the dead man's ring finger. Beatrice had asked for his help in murdering the man, as her involvement was based on political interests and not her own choice. The amputated finger that deflores returns with bears witness to this broken alliance and also symbolizes the new coercive pact that replaces it: the deal between Beatrice and her henchman. In the action that follows, the finger pursues Beatrice as well as Deflores, a talisman for the enduring influence of his service on her and the sexual blackmail it enables. Beatrice loathed Deflores and had not intended to accept a continued or sexual relationship with him. but the assassination contract is bringing in more than she bargained for. in the play's most famous line, she becomes "the creature of the action" (3.4.138): the subordinate agent of an action in which she had presented herself as the distant and superior principal.

The central problems of Beatrice's perverse contract with Deflores - the tenuous relationship between intentions and results, the ambiguous nature of consent, and the reversal of the roles of agent and principal, servant and master - are framed in the language of marriage and the legal service. Recent research has shed light on the important role that marital metaphors played in early exploration of the contract, through legal discourse, political theory, and literature. Feminist historians have emphasized the unequal distribution of rights and duties that was ingrained—and sometimes criticized—by marriage metaphors in early contract theories.7less attention was paid to the related official language during this period: despite the challenges posed by a surplus of educated professionals to traditional advertising and patronage systems; despite substantial changes in the common law governing merchants, agents, factors and other agents; And despite the appeal from literary figures as resounding as the Deflores verdict: "You are the creature of facts."8

The connections between the marriage and service discourses that lead to such complex agent-principal-act relationships are particularly evident in the four scenes of formal arrangements that characterize John Webster's work.the duchess of malfi(1612). these scenes illuminate a third equally important discourse pertinent to these relationships at this time: the witchcraft discourse. pervades the language of witchcraftthe duchess of malfi- with their familiars, invisible demons, mandrake roots and digging up the dead. these practices are constantly associated with recruitment problems. Hidden relationships overshadow most of the ritual handshakes that underscore the play's plot, but appear most prominently in the last of these paintings. In the first act, the Duchess secretly shakes hands with her butler Antonio; Next, her brother Ferdinand teams up with his Machiavellian servant Bosola, who hires Bosola to spy on her. Bosola promises his services to the Duchess in a similar scene, even as he plans to uncover her secrets. And in the last, most notorious of these scenes, Fernando gives the Duchess a "dead man's hand" to avenge her wayward decision. As he dramatically raises the light, the shocked Duchess replies, "Oh, awful! ... what kind of witchcraft does a dead man's hand have here?"9Critics have long recognized that Fernando's ruse invokes perverse wedding rituals, but the Duchess' question tends to bog down in footnotes that cite lore and go no further. However, Dead Man's Hand or Glory's Hand raises specific jurisprudential questions relevant to understanding Webster's analysis of plot relationships elsewhere in the work. Common law as it applied to the practice of witchcraft defined the key problem of long-distance action: what kind of evidence helps us to understand the connections between the intent and the consequences of an action? The hand images that mark these scenes offer a shared vocabulary that connects shared concerns with self-interest, authority, and achievement in diverse fields. In this way, the discourses of marriage, ministry, and occult practice intersect in the figure of the dead hand, and illustrate the epistemological challenges posed by changing notions of obligation in the early seventeenth century.

"the first good deed ... the sacrament of matrimony"

At least since Chaucer's Tale of the Bathwoman, medieval and modern literature unfolds the language of obligation on two registers: the Pauline rhetoric of mutual guilt and affection between husband and wife, a debt often imagined as generative, repaying more than it demands; and the mercantile language of exchange and economic value, which seems to promise reasonable equivalence for property or service. In the early 17th century, the difference between types of debt was negotiated as a difference between modes of affiliation or promise: the parties to an agreement would be bound by status and condition (which implied their own moral obligations) or by voluntary commitment. . to a contract. As scholars such as Don Wayne and Luke Wilson have shown, the rise of asumpsit (legal "promise") common-law action reflected what Wayne calls "a definite tension between, on the one hand, the traditional moral doctrine of social obligation" to status , and on the other hand state-of-the-art principles of rational self-interest and voluntary contractual obligation.10Marriage contracts remained an important means of examining this tension, as they traditionally combined the notions of status-based obligation and voluntary contract. However, as Wayne points out, marriage vows have increasingly been subjected to the common law of acceptance. This change placed less emphasis on a person's legal fiction—andManta- which created marriage, and, moreover, the voluntary - and therefore paradoxical - character of the agreement required to maintain this fiction. The conflict between the voluntary nature of marital consent and the legal lack of female will in marriage became an important language for the conflict between types of contract: motivated by self-interest or emotional duty, based on voluntary agreement or based on status.

This is a dramatic trope that Webster keeps returning to in his works, as if offering a particularly fertile or intractable intellectual puzzle. for example,the case of devil lawIt begins with a coercive obligation expressly opposed to the claims of the voluntary agreement against those of the subordinate state, when the merchant Romelio marries his sister Jolenta against her will. The play goes on to rehearse a variety of conditions that might prevent their consent, some legitimate, some not: compulsion, insanity, spells, prior claims of filial duty, and the youth of the parties involved. Likewise Websterthe white devilexplores the variety of ways consent can be bribed: through deception, lust, and surprisingly loyalty. For example, when the Brachian Duke divorces his wife Isabella, Webster orchestrates a vow that paradoxically unravels. "I will be the author of your cursed oath," says Isabella, loyally initiating a divorce she doesn't want while emphasizing the self-division her loving submission implies.11

So when the Duchess of Webster courts her butler Antonio and dictates his will, her language negotiates the family's territory. the scene reproduces the gesture of binding hands in different registers to enact their mutual assent. early modern audiences would have implicitly understood the traditional logic of this gesture; as physician john bulwer later put it: “what we touch is infallibly understoodWillejPretender,and withTopjTopatake,jpromise our approval.12First, the Duchess slips her ring on Antonio's finger as he kneels, then urges him to his feet, metaphorically elevating him to her rank through the ritual gesture: "Rise, /or, if you will, my helping hand ." : then” (1.1.408-9). Continuing this verbal game, Antonio replies that he had not ambitiously fished for such a foray: “Don't think me so stupid, but I will point / where your favor tends; but he is a fool / who puts his cold hands into the fire / to warm them” (1.1.415-17). Finally, he closes the scene by asking him to take her hand once more: "I want you to take your fortune by the hand, / to your bridal bed / ... oh, let me wrap my blush in your bosom, / there it is the treasure of all my secrets” (1.1.485-86, 492-93).

As that last line suggests, her language traverses the various debt registers, combining love and business rhetoric in a way that's both erotic and logically infuriating. The Duchess coquettishly offers to voluntarily submit her will to her husband's legal entity:

Oh, you're an honest treasurer, but you were wrong,
because when I said I wanted to ask a question
What's in store for tomorrow, I meant
what awaits me there.
in heaven.
I make my will as princes should
in perfect memory and i pray sir tell me
Wouldn't it be better to make him smile like this
that in deep moans and horrible ghostly looks,
as if the gifts we parted with were sought
this violent distraction?
ah, much better.
if I had a husband now, this worry would end;
but I intend to make you foreman;
Which good deed will we remember first? to say.
begins with that first good deed begun in the world
after the creation of man, the sacrament of marriage;
I want you to take care of a good husband first,
give everything
Yes, you are an excellent me.


However, the fiction of making a will retains their separation by rank—duchess and steward—and thus the separate executive status of their voluntary arrangement.

thank you sweet love
and because you come to me not in debt,
Now I'm my butler, here on your lips
you are firm and calm.


here webster plays with the contradictory positions offered by the hierarchies of marriage and court service to the duchess and antonio. But less obviously, it also dramatizes the tension between belonging through moral obligation and through mutual agreement that Wayne describes. The Duchess conjures up the fiction that here the promises of the heart are fulfilled and that such promises morally transcend their distinctions of rank and value. In the following lines, however, she complains that her rank compels her to advertise with misleading metaphors, "like a tyrant doubles his words" (1.1.433). and the dangers inherent in court service, rife in other parts of the play, also lurk in this procession. she could very easily become a corrupt and ungrateful ruler like her brothers, handing out bounty and likes at her whims instead of his desserts; Like other agents, he could act with dangerous autonomy, according to his own interests rather than the duties defined by his position.

The dangers of such service quickly outweigh the principles of mutual obligation and loving duty that make the Duchess and Antonio equal in marriage. for when her brothers separate husband and wife, they are forced to play the roles of tyrannical prince and vicious servant. The Duchess banishes Antonio with the fiction that he has betrayed her inheritance and jokingly conceals their marriage, calling her work poor administration. Antonio feigns a corresponding denunciation, in language that sounds conventional but soon becomes insistent: "O the fickle land of ministry!" (February 3, 1999). After Antonio's departure, Bosola pretends to defend him in a similar manner. reiterates the terrible uncertainty of reward in the current climate of judgment:

I'd rather swim in Bermuda shorts across the lazy bubbles of two politicians bound with a secret service agent's heart than be at the mercy of a prince so variable.


This is the Bosola refrain that begins in the opening scene and is repeated throughout the play: the principles of court service have fallen away from the heroic model of feudal duty and affection; We cannot count on generosity or advancement in exchange for faithful service to our prince. Instead, as his vivid comparisons suggest, the obligations of prince and steward, lord and servant are Machiavellian and based on self-interest rather than strength of heart. this weak commitment basis defines the informant's role as such.

Bosola's complaint, in turn, initiates a plot shift that plays on the threats contained in the Duchess' ambiguous courtship. When Bosola sides with Antonio, the Duchess immediately reveals her marriage and chooses him as her new "Executor of the People", repeating her words to Antonio: "Sir, your address / I will take by the hand" (3.2. 313-14). In Antonio's mouth, the unworldly accusation of ingratitude is false, motivated by the need for evasion and defense. but he fully enlivens bosola's character, and when the duchess extends her hand to him, he chooses his ruin. because bosola takes on the role of antonio in a second sense, depicting the consequences of a Machiavellian treaty. The unfolding of the conspiracies in this scene is suggestive: to the extent that the Duchess's marriage to her butler adjusts their courtly relationship to one that is non-hierarchical and consensual, the new mixed bond becomes vulnerable to the wayward interests of both parties.

The intrusion of self-interest into established forms of duty, not just incidentally but as a new basis of obligation, is depicted in the severed hand that Ferdinand offers to the Duchess. The accessory evokes the ubiquitous allegory of the marital body, common in contemporary marital discourse to describe a woman's subservience to her husband. It's literally the gift of hands and hearts that she and Antonio rehearse on the commercial scene. but its disembodied, prosthetic form defies the fiction of marriageManta,or individual person who should be supported with this symbolic gift. A contemporary analogue of Thomas Gataker's 1623 Protestant marriage sermon, A Commonwealth Wife, illustrates Webster's logic in this scene. Gataker defines marriage as the conflict between the feminine will required to carry out the masculine intention and its extreme forms: misguided and continuous stubbornness. Playing with her title of "a common law woman," she cleverly defines subservient office ("de facto" subordination) as a wife's true and natural role:

but the woman who bears the name, and is in a woman's room, but does not perform a woman's office and duty, is like a glass eye, or a silver nose, or an ivory tooth, or an iron hand, or a wooden leg actually occupying the place and bears the name of a limb or limb, but which is not really or properly a part of the body to which it is attached; but it is wrongly called that.13

Gataker's insistence that a woman internalize her submissive status and consent to the loss of her own will typifies the self-alienation Webster seeks to illuminate when he portrays the paradox of marital consent on stage. as a member of the conjugal body, the woman carries out the will of the man; but she tooratifiedtheir mutual rights and obligations. or, as in the Gataker example, it does not ratify them. The looseness of a woman who is not well attached to her husband illustrates the symbolic exchange of the dead man's hand: the severed part marks the outburst of capricious will in relationships of office and duty, and suggests the potentially disastrous consequences for other types of social arrangements , such as political or financial treaties, ratified by similar voluntary gestures of assent.

Gataker's misogyny is reflected in the tirades of Bosola and Ferdinand, who tend to erupt about women's sexual rebellion, as the Duchess exemplifies: “A cursed sister; she is easy on the hands, / has become a notorious prostitute” (2.5.3-4). However, the game as a whole has a more complicated agenda than Ferdinand's when it comes to offering this hand. Webster is not so interested in female stubbornness as in the larger mechanism of will, freed from the traditional limitations of degree and location that typify female stubbornness. as a gataker, he not only locates this looseness under the skin, but also in the action or deed: as the cryptic expression “loose i'th'hilts” indicates, which points to an unwieldy instrument. Thus the Duchess' own hand illustrates the paradoxes of the dead man's hand. it is once again described as an instrument that may not fulfill its proper function or submit to the will of its patron. Immediately after getting her to reveal their marriage, Bosola praises the Duchess with a grim double entender. He describes his hand in words reminiscent of the testamentary language he used to court Antonio:

...the forgotten poets of your day will thank you in your grave in honor of that man's trophy raised by that strange machine, your white hand; and make him more reverent than all the cabinets of living princes.


Various 16th-century meanings of the word "motor" operate here to suggest the alienation from herself brought about by her marriage and her handwriting. First, the notion of the machine as a trap, an invention, or a deception, reinforced by Webster's only other use of the word at the beginning of the play. When his two brothers confront the Duchess, they moralize: "Hypocrisy is woven of a fine and small thread, / More subtle than the Vulcan engine" (1.1.304-5). The simile of Vulcan underpins Bosola's use of "motor" with a plot of sheer lust that the play acts out, as if the Duchess's wedding brings with it its own inevitable publication necessity. its sheer ability to choose, implying bosola, will achieve it; and his subsequent election of Bosola confirms that prediction. This is one version of what the creature of fact might be.

Bosola develops a second reading of "Motor" as stage machinery: she describes the wedding as a tragic act that is to take place, she wants to make the Duchess her own monument. here he repeats the rhetoric of the courtship scene with its language of wills, death, sheets and shroud. He suggests that the Duchess betrayed herself through some sort of estate dead hand or "dead hand". the echo scene at the end of the piece certainly confirms the reach of his will beyond the grave. but this is not the posterity she inherited from the choice of Antonio. In fact, she says the opposite when she tells him to kiss her: “This is flesh and blood, sir; / It is not the figure carved in alabaster / that kneels in front of my husband's grave” (1.1.443-45). thus the action initiated by this "curious engine" directly reverses its intentions, thus anticipating a third understanding of "engine": the modern notion of a self-propelled mechanism,its kindLike the automata from Hobbes' famous opening Leviathan.14in bosola's description, the hand of the duchess acts partly on its own, against the interests of its owner. and so it does, undermining the treaty it was supposed to ratify.

Just as Lavinia's hand becomes a type of the impediments that pervade Rome, the Duchess's hand exemplifies the concerns plaguing voluntary contracts in this work. These are several: the paradox of voluntarily subordinating one's will to that of another, with the mysterious alienations that this entails; the conflict between self-interest and affective duty; and the difficulty in controlling the results of actions taken by a delegate or agent. By combining the Duchess's "strange engine" with the dead man's hand, Webster expands on this third problem. It invokes the discourse of witchcraft to examine the nature of the bonds that unite intent to act and the manner in which these bonds are weakened in relationships of service.

the hand of glory

At the latest, when Ferdinand offers to "seal the peace" with the Duchess - or hold hands in confirmation of a renewed agreement - this gesture has established itself as a contradictory sign, connecting both the intelligent and the loving and both the separation as well as the agreement means . When Ferdinand chides the Duchess for dishonoring herself (and him), his parable of fame, love, and the deaths of fellow travelers reminds us of both the separations and the connections represented by clasped hands:

"stay," says the call, "don't leave me; Because it's my nature, if I ever break up with a man I meet, they'll never find me again.” And so for you: you shook the hand of reputation and made it invisible.


When Ferdinand offers a dead man's hand instead of his own, the parody breaks the social ties such rituals are meant to cement. his language viciously parodies the affective commitments symbolized by the marital handshake:fifteen

I come to seal my peace with you: here is a hand for you,
extends a dead man's hand [with a ring]
I kiss him lovingly.
please do it: and bury the trace of it in your heart.
I will leave you this ring as a token of love;
and the hand as sure as the ring; and do not hesitate
but you will also have the heart. if you need a friend
send it to the one who owed it: you will see
if it can help you
you are very cold
I am afraid you are not feeling well after your trip.
[Bosola Brings Lights]
say oh! lights! oh terrible!
have enough light.
go out [Ferdinand]
What other magical practices he has
A dead man's hand here?


Critics interpret this exchange as symbolic rather than a kind ofI remember dyingor as a symbolic displacement of Fernando's incestuous desires. surely it is both. The Duchess' shocked reaction, however, suggests connections to the language of witchcraft elsewhere in the play and directs us to read the props in that context as well. Folk tales of the Hand of Glory and contemporary common law governing the use of corpses tell of a specific terror in the dead man's hand: the prospect of losing that part of the body that connects intent and effect (the "part" , which is infallibly understood as will). and effect"). Intention" in the words of John Bulwer) and find it subject to someone else's designs. Ferdinand's offering discouragingly demonstrates how easily a hand clasp can be turned into an emblem of their own undoing, or a hand can be made to represent the owner's disability, as perversely destructive as the "odd engine" Duchess.

The hand of glory or "main-de-gloire" has quite a long history in the lore and practice of early European witchcraft.sixteenThe description of the famous demonologist Francesco Maria Guazzo del Encanto in hisa witch compendium(1608), contains a proven recipe for its use and preparation. The main source for Guazzo is the 1595demon worshipby nicholas remy, a notorious french demonologist and witch judge.17Remy, in turn, describes a practice that is well codified in folklore.

To create such an amulet, the witch cuts the hand from an exhumed body and magically prepares it: the severed hand is "pickled with various salts, dried in the sunlight or in an oven until ... quite hard."18In witchcraft the fingers are smeared with devilish oils and burned or used as candlesticks (Guazzo, 84-85, 90). While the Hand of Glory burns, it causes everyone but the witch to sleep, immobilizes, or allows the witch to act invisibly. Later demonologists borrow accounts of this enchantment, often verbatim, from these earlier ones. and in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries popular anecdotes, horror tales, and even contemporary incidents connected with the Hand of Glory were in lively circulation, presumably regaining popularity with the publication of the grimoire in 1722.wonderful mysteries of natural and kabbalistic magic of little Albert.seaAmerican Regional English Dictionary,The colloquial use of the term "hand" for an amulet or talisman is occasionally used in the southern and southern United States, where the terms "hand", "hand of luck", and "hand giver" denote one who enchants another.

What the amulet is used for and how it is deactivated is as much tradition as its manufacture. Both demonologists and folklorists support their explanations of the amulet with "real life" accounts of thieves caught in a robbery with a Hand of Glory. usually the stories relate to a relatively recent event in a nearby province. This is how Guazzo begins his own account of how the hand of glory works: "In the diocese of Liège, Cesarius von Heisterbach relates, in a town which some call Hugo and others Dinant, one night two men came into an inn" (85 ) . . Guazzo describes the two thieves using the Hand of Glory to lull their victims into a deep sleep, then tells of his frustration to a cunning servant, who quenches the fiery spell. Folklorist Christina Hole offers a recent anecdote, fromthe Observer,January 16, 1831; speaks of an attempted robbery on 3 January in Loughcrew, Co. Meath in which thieves were similarly thwarted with a hand of glory (179). Hole immediately follows this brief clue with a more detailed history from the last decade of the eighteenth century, also laden with plausibility: This account was "originally collected by Charles Wastell from Bella Parkin, daughter of the maid in question". Like the other versions of the story, this one tells of an attempted robbery at the 'old Hospital Inn, near Stainmore', foiled by the attentive servant, who witnesses the use of the hand and turns it off (180).

The act of stealing becomes a standard feature of the Hand of Glory, remarkably consistent in its particular details over the course of several centuries.19the theft motive suggests the problems caused by the mobility and appropriation of the physical signs of agency. and emphasizes the fragility of property as a vehicle for effective human action. The detachable and instrumental nature of the Hand of Glory is what makes it such a powerful tool and facilitates supernatural activity. however, its sheer status as something to be taken by others and used for unexpected purposes reveals a deep weakness and threat to any person who wields it, as the thief or witch is always thwarted.

For Webster, drawing on these traditions, the dead man's hand also suggests the weakness of physical metaphors as evidence for any theory of effective human agency. the concrete form of these problemsthe duchess of malfiIt is the task of explaining acts performed remotely, by proxy, or through mediation, where the evidence supporting the connection between intent and effect is ambiguous. that is the core problembad actionsor evil deeds charged in the common law of the early 17th century. Like the leg Ferdinand later had "unearthed" as a token of his mad witchcraft, the Hand of Glory falls under the criminal category of "digging up the dead," a new offense added to the 1604 Statute of James I. The 1604 Act defined it the crime as follows:

[remove] any dead man, woman or child from his grave or from his grave or from any other place where the corpse or the skin, bone or other part of a dead person rests to be used or in any form of witchcraft, sorcery, charm or incantation to be used.

(r. Robbins, 280)

other revisions of the 1604 statute emphasized the making of treaties with the devil or evil spirits, and listed the various pacts that could be made: "advise, pact with, entertain, employ, feed, or reward" (280). Digging up the dead was one of a number of practices that could provide evidence of such pacts; Therefore, the law states that if convicted, it is an offense punishable by death without the benefit of clergy and sanctuary. the recorded use of corpses for witchcraft in England appears to be sporadic; For example, in his analysis of the Essex Trials between 1560 and 1680, Alan Macfarlane makes only one claim for the use of corpses.20Russell Hope Robbins, on the other hand, documents the use of the Hand of Glory as evidence in continental witch trials by citing a case borrowed by Guazzo from Remy that took place in Guermingen in 1588 (241). Webster's use of the amulet with minimal luster ("which witchcraft he practices") suggests that such practices were widely known by reputation if not judgement. A larger English context for the new provisions in the 1604 legislation was of course James I's increasing persecution of recusants. The statute could well have been used to demonize the Catholic cult of relics as an occult practice. Bosola's threat that the Duchess' hand and person become a place of pilgrimage resonates with the chilling rather than redeeming potential of such reverence. The Hand of Glory itself conjures up the worst potential of contemporary relics. Intricately crafted and diabolically used, it evokes memories of the creation of counterfeit relics and the corrupt interests they serve. it also performs a deep dissolution of the body and the person, because this talisman perverts the royal synecdoche,pars pro toto,inherent in a true relic, since the body part that should embody the whole person becomes the instrument of another person.21

More important in this brief account of Hand of Glore lore is less its actual use (the recipes in spellbooks and demonologies are certainly of questionable provenance) than its legal status as a sign and tool ofwitchcraftor evil deeds. Under the rules of the Exhumation and Criminal Use of Corpses Act of 1604, a person using a Hand of Glory would by definition be a witch. Furthermore, as a "known practice of witchcraft", possession of the amulet would constitute the "fair and sufficient proof" required for a conviction in William Perkins' 1608 Guide to Justice (R. Robbins, 174). Like the use of wax figures and the use of familiars, the amulet provided particularly strong evidence for the conjecture ofbad actions- contrary to the more dubious assumptions of the contract with the devil. Witch trials in the 16th and 17th centuries often combined malevolent motives and deleterious effects due to the lack of direct evidence of causality that other types of criminal acts required. This was a fact much observed and worried by contemporary jurists and often a source of skepticism. In a lengthy discussion of this problem, Alan Macfarlane quotes Giffords.Dialogas an influential critical account of the difficulty of proving such causal relationships. He argues "it was only possible to testify to motive and effect, not the actual act of witchcraft or the unseen manner in which that power operated" (Macfarlane, 16).22Michael Daltonregional court(1618) is often cited by modern scholars to illustrate jurisprudential concerns about the temporal and spatial weakening of the links between evil effects and the person of the witch who intended them. The Dalton Handbook bases its guidelines on thediscovery of witches,with 1612 witch apparitions at the Lancaster court. He warns, "Well, against these witches, justices of the peace cannot always expect direct evidence, since all their works are works of darkness and there are no witnesses to accuse them of."23Comparing witchcraft to poisoning, Dalton concludes that "half tests should be permissible and are good grounds for suspicion" (Dalton, 268).

The trials thus provided a stage in which to decide the differences between evil intentions and their effects and "natural" or fortuitous events that happened by unfortunate coincidence. As an explanation and proof of the special power of witches, the amulet provides a missing link that separates these two types of events. It is significant that recipes for the Hand of Glory often provide for the hand to come from a criminal's body, thereby establishing an a priori association with criminal activity. in this way a clear distinction between force majeure and criminal acts can be maintained. The difficulty of maintaining such distinctions is a recurring problem in contemporary debates about the existence of witchcraft, and is characteristically expressed in the language of manual action. The work of Thomas Ady, for example, is replete with passages asking the question "whose hand is in it," whether of God or of witches: "Rarely does a man have the hand of God against him in his condition or the Health of the body, or otherwise, but soon he is shouting to a poor and innocent neighbor that he or she has bewitched him". "And therefore men should look into the Scriptures and seek what sins bring sorrow from the hand of the gods, and not say at that time which old man or woman knocked at my door last, that I may hang him for a witch."24Long before that, Reginald Scot took an equally skeptical line: “Few, if any, can (today) patiently endure God's hand and correction. for if adversity, sickness, sickness, loss of children, cornea, sickness, or liberty befall them; little by little they cry out about witches.”25

Amputated from the body whose purposes it was intended to serve, but producing powerful effects for those wielding it, the dead man's hand illustrates the irritating state of testimony and material evidence in witch trials. it signifies both a compelling forensic link between intent and action, and an urgent need to establish that link against established legal conventions. As judicial evidence, the hand of glory mediates between the witch's person and the afarbad actionsand in providing such evidence the incantation brings the witch under control, for it peculiarly affirms both her temporary power and her ultimate helplessness, as the repeated formula of sorcery thwarted affirms. In these conflicting roles, the Hand of Glory remains a "strange engine" working invisibly and relentlessly, with a muted agency of the subject's body, often acting against the interests of its owner.

Recalling this forensic story, Webster plays a pun on the etymology of the term "Hand of Glory" based on the continental origins of the name. The phrase "Hand of Glory" is translated into Frenchhand of glory,a "folk etymological distortion of the Old French Mandegloire": from Mandegore, Mandragore or Alraune.26Like the hand of the dead, the mandrake plant is associated with criminal activity, as it is popularly believed to grow under the gallows. In Webster's play, it serves as Ferdinand's explanation for his insanity: he's gone mad for digging up one, he tells his brother. "What is the miracle?" asks the cardinal. “Read there, a cursed sister; she is easy on the hands, / has become a notorious prostitute” (2.5.1-4). For Ferdinand, as many critics have pointed out, his sister's sexual obstinacy deeply threatens his own person, just as Gataker's exemplum's easy-going wife threatens her husband; hence the frequent academic diagnosis of incestuous possession. But the play overlays this erotic subtext with other causes of his madness and, through the language of madness, takes us back to the relationship between Ferdinand and Bosola.

hidden contracts

for Webster, the body's failure to ratify states of intent and consent is summed up in the dead man's hand: where the part that symbolizes actual action becomes the grotesque instrument of another's design. Like "main de gloire," the dead man's hand suggests that the condition of insanity is precisely the recognition of another's will and consent as property. This is an acknowledgment that both Bosola and Fernando arrive at in different ways in the scene where Bosola demands his reward for murdering the Duchess. When Bosola challenges Ferdinand for his reward, Ferdinand denies being the protagonist of the crime. His rejection is based on his own insanity, the lack of a legitimate trial and, as a result of both, the independent moral authority with which Bosola acted. Bosola answers these claims by continually returning to his traditional roles of master and servant, making him an extension of Fernando. in it he repeats the nostalgic imagery with which the work began, with his aphoristic descriptions of the ideal prince as a tree or fountain, from which the character and actions of the court spring naturally.27the relationship between bosola and ferdinand profoundly undermines these organic models and cautiously seeks voluntary and consensual forms of action. thus Webster analyzes in singular relations the principle of voluntary submission to authority, which much later authors such as Hobbes and Locke would adopt in terms of collective consent in a Commonwealth.

Shortly after the Duchess' executioners leave the stage, Fernando enters and Bosola confronts him with his body. Fernando immediately begins to repent, imagining Bosola as the agent of justice who could have saved her: the faithful servant of so many manuals of conduct, proving himself through selective moral disobedience:28

let me see his face again Why didn't you feel sorry for her? What an excellent honest man you would have been if you had taken her to any sanctuary! or bold in a good cause, you fought with your sword over your head, between his innocence and my vengeance! I asked you when I was distracted from my sanity to go and kill my dearest friend and you didn't do it.


this is not misleading denial. Fernando is insane precisely in the sense that his shared intentions are being carried out by another and conflict in execution. In this way, you can imagine Bosola as a savior living out your inner resistance. The role of the servant presented here is both more complex and perverse than the traditions of moral disobedience dictate. Bosola represents part of Ferdinand's intentions, while another reacts to their murderous effects, as if Ferdinand were the audience in a scene he was directing:

For you (as we observe in tragedy that a good actor is often cursed for playing the role of a villain), I hate you for it: and for my own sake I say that you have done much good well.


Bosola responds, insisting on his role as Fernando's servant and implicitly returning to his characteristic lamentation of ungrateful masters: “Let me revive your memory; Well, I see / you are falling into ingratitude. challenge / the reward for my service" (4.2.284-86). ferdinand responds by explaining more clearly that bosola acted without authority, and when bosola insists that he acted on ferdinand's authority, ferdinand objects that this was not legitimate:

Has a ceremonial legal form condemned them not to be? Has a full jury returned its conviction in court? Where will you find this recorded judgment if not in Hell?


In the further course of this scene, the counterpoint between two terms of service continues: Ferdinand's analysis presupposes a service relationship that endows the actor with an independent will and is based on a voluntary agreement; bosola defines duties according to the traditional location and degree duties. Refusing to leave, Bosola again insists on his reward, which he phrases in words that emphasize a lord's duties to his servants: "First I shall receive my reward".die Pension' [emphasis mine] (4.2.304). Far more than 'reward', the word 'pension' means regular and periodic loyalty payments and service over a long period of time. Once again, Ferdinand challenges such claims by characterizing Bosola as an evil actor in his own right: "You are a villain." "If your ingratitude/is judge, I am" (4.2.305-6), Bosola replies, making Fernandos sophistical analysis carefully. However, his teacher continues in the same vein, insisting on Bosola's independent ability to choose the authority with which he acts, though he has evidently failed to do so: "Oh more horrid! / that not even the fear of the demon binder / can dictate obedience to men” (4.2.306-8).

Webster closes the scene with a remarkable turn of character as Bosola, disillusioned with a fantasy of true service that he perversely always seemed to recognize as illusory, repents. "I am like one / who long ago had a sweet golden dream: / I am angry with myself now that I wake up" (4.2.315-17). When Bosola comes to himself, so to speak, he accepts Ferdinand's redefinition of their relationship: he accepts the notion that he may be bound to act as a morally independent agent and not bound by duty and loyal affection to his master:

I have served your tyranny and tried more to please you than all the world; and though I hated evil, yet I loved you who counseled you, and I strove more to appear like a true servant than an honest man.


Bosola accepts Ferdinand's crazy excuses - "he's too distracted" - and fully internalizes his own moral authority in a newly recognized conscience:

What would I do if this happened again? I would not trade my peace of conscience for all the wealth of Europe. she stirs here is life. Come back, beautiful soul, from the darkness, and take mine from this sensitive hell. she is warm, she is breathing.


The rebirth of the Duchess, brief as it is, underscores the dramatic importance of this moment of conversion, but the complicated dependency of Bosola's and Ferdinand's intentions elsewhere in the play is here suspended rather than resolved. for Fernando certainly ordered the Duchess's death and, although he is insane, the play confirms the need to take revenge on him. As Bosola goes on to elaborate, he describes himself in language that seems written by Ferdinand's contrite thoughts, as if the roles of moral agent and subservient instrument could not be as clearly distinguished as his revelation implied: "The weaker arm is strong enough who wounds / with the sword of righteousness" (5.2.339-40). the bosola service is always nonsense, as patricia parker uses the word before the explicit command. Therefore, when he first meets Ferdinand to seek help, he asks, "Whose throat should I cut?" and ferdinand replies: "Your penchant for bloodshed rides after/before my chance to use you" (1.1.240-42).

Far from being a malcontent, Bosola is far from finding common cause with others to create a group of men who, as Mark Curtis describes his royal contemporaries, can encourage the beginnings of active parliamentary discourse.29but Webster's interests in this work are analytical rather than polemical. He uses the tense pact between Bosola and Ferdinand to dramatize the radical and terrifying consequences of the voluntary contract, and to manipulate internal conditions as well as facts. When Bosola mimics Fernando - as when the heroic Duchess is reduced to an echo character in the final act - he approaches the definition of intention as an imaginary and social condition: called upon to be expressed and even supplied by another.

but Webster finds this covert mediation illicit and deeply alienating. it is the state that secret agents embody in particular, as promised by Bosola's first line: "I do do obsegui you still". when ferdinand includes bosola in the first act, define bosola's role in comparison to that of a witch's familiar:

it seems you would believe me
one of your relatives
trusted! What is that?
why, a very picturesque invisible devil in the flesh:
a smart one.
such a wealthy thing
I want you and soon you can arrive
in a higher place by't.


Like the Hand of Glory, familiars explain the witch's ability to act at a distance in her own absence. Often, as Ferdinand suggests, they were viewed as agents of the devil: low-ranking demons who in turn serve the witch to serve the devil, or sometimes, as Guazzo tells us, the devil in disguise. In both cases they provide solid evidence of a contract with the devil: both Perkins and Dalton find the presence of known evidence compelling to a conviction; R. Robbins summarizes its usefulness in court proceedings as follows: "Since there were cats and mice everywhere, it was never difficult to spot and bring a witch to justice" (175). By invoking familiars, Webster suggests the equally dangerous conditions of agency embodied in the intelligent: a proxy, a proxy, or an extension of the self that is both self and alien. for Webster, the threat posed by such surrogate mothers—wives, whistleblowers, family members—is the tenuous hold the treaty has on them. Of their own accord, and not solely through dependence or authority, such agents thrive in the world.

While the pact between Bosola and Ferdinand dramatizes the dynamic and uncertain relationship between servants and contractors, the Duchess herself embodies the problem of what it means to voluntarily alienate parts of the self in this way. She courts Antonio and speaks in her dual role of sovereign and subordinate: the one with property of her own, evidenced by the fact that she can agree to give it away. the language of income, expenditure, and legacies that characterizes the courtship scene makes these ownership relationships clear. and related terms frame the debate between the Duchess and her brothers when they question her. he presents them with a remarkably modern interpretation of his economic metaphors: "Diamonds are the most valuable, / they say, which have passed through the hands of most jewelers" (1.1.290-91). Ferdinand replies in typically nasty and reactionary fashion: "Hookers are valuable by this rule": Such an exchange will fundamentally change your status and character. but the metaphor of the market - the support of a self-determined and self-controlled individual and the defense of his right to selectively alienate himself from the parts of himself he chooses - resists.

The English revenge tragedy literally such fictional conversions of self into property, turning hands and fingers into stage props. These grotesques raise uncomfortable questions about the difference between the person's alienable qualities, such as work or service, and the apparently inalienable, inner states, such as virtuous or evil character, purpose, sense of self. the logic of the market, which begins to emerge in the duchess's self-description, emerges with these questions and tends to overshadow them. The moment John Locke makes the consensus contract the basis of politics and civil society, the contradictions embodied in the Duchess' ability to enter into marriage become naturalized in the notion of a liberal self, its fundamental status cannot be changed by contract or contract exchange. agreeing to become the servant of another, says Locke, "by selling for a time" only the service one undertakes, for payment, "gives the master but temporary power over [the servant], and no more than that what is contained in the contract between them".30Locke's confidence stems in part from the appropriate role that work plays for him in the ratification of property rights: what Jean-Christophe Agnew has called the "redemptive discipline of work."31At the end of the 18th century, the grotesque autonomy embodied by Gatake's prosthetics inspires a new genre that tests such ideals. Writers like Keats, Maupassant, Le Fanu, and Jacobs break the narrow and secure property relations that define service contracts in liberal economic theory and question the redemptive nature of the tasks that such contracts ratify. His tales of severed, hostile, and animated hands address the strange dependencies and alienations of domestic and industrial workers.


  1. Brass, "Reading the Body", 137, citando a bakhtin, 320.

  2. Ver Mcluskie,Playwright there Renaissance; Jankowski.

  3. Bachtin, 26.

  4. "Hermaphrodite or Ambidextrous would be good names for such men of dual status," "Lollard's Conclusions, 1394," in e. Pete, 279.

  5. Mainz, 165.

  6. see rider; cockeram

  7. Constance Jordan was a pioneer in this field; see specialRenaissance Feminismand recentlyShakespeares Monarchien.Literary scholars have most often addressed early modern contractarianism in relation to the Romance genre. For an excellent summary of the use of marital consent as a model for political contract in this general context, see Victoria Kahn's recent book Margaret Cavendish and the Romance of Contract. For royal romance, see Annabel Patterson, Paradise Regained, and Lois Potter,secret rites and secret writings.For emerging vocabulary for contracts in medieval literature, see Fowler, "Civil Death and the Maiden". With the exception of the last, most literary studies of Contractarianism focus on the mid-17th century and after. I hope to contribute to this work by broadening its scope, both general and historical.

  8. There are important exceptions. a. R. Braunmüller describes such developments in the right of representation in “half a second. “In Faithful Servants, Richard Strier traces the theory of courtly service promulgated in manuals of conduct such as Castiglione'sder HöflingJonathan Dollimore reads about social displacement at Webster'sthe white devildraws attention to the surplus of dispossessed university men during this period; Writers from Bacon to Hobbes pointed to this surplus and the resulting discontent as a major cause of turmoil and rebellion. see “The White Devil”, inextreme tragedy,231-46, esp. 242. Previous studies have addressed these questions in relation to the nature of dissatisfaction; I hope to draw character type attention to the structural analysis of the service relationships affecting these works. Lawrence Danson's recent discussion of Webster's own concerns about the rise of professionalism (presented at the American Shakespeare Association's 1997 seminar "Early Modern Drama and the Question of Agency") suggests the new directions this type of study might take. Danson plays Bosola's split role as agent for himself and agent for others as a reflection of Webster's intense concern for the changing nature of professional sponsorship and ministry during this time.

  9. Juan Webster,the duchess of malfi,4.1.53-55. hereafter quoted in brackets after act, scene and Oxford line numberworld classicedition.

  10. Weise, 115.

  11. Webster,the white devil,2.1. 216-17. quoted below in brackets by act, scene and line number from the new Siren edition.

  12. pear, 50

  13. Gäcker, 9.

  14. this is just before the oed marks the rise of this word sense in the 1630s.

  15. For a detailed discussion of the marital traditions Webster draws on in this scene, including the anatomical logic symbolized by marriage, see Randall.

  16. The critical note in Brennan's edition briefly mentions the dead man's hand: "A dead man's hand was a powerful amulet used to cure insanity." brennan's source is mc Bradbrook's brief quote from the "two notes on webster" scene. Bradbrook invokes a mixed tradition of folk remedies and occult practices to explain the accessory, including the Hand of Glory. She notes that dead, often severed, hands and fingers were used in a number of early modern European folk remedies and their use lasted at least into the 19th century. its source, in turn, is the seminal book by george lyman kittredgeWitchcraft in Old and New Englandwhose solid bibliography of the medical and malicious use of dead hands is where most editors of the work end up.

  17. Remy seems to have had a reputation comparable to that of Jean Bodin; hisdemon worship(1595), covering test reports between 1581 and 1591, has been frequently republished and borrowed from it. see R. Robberies; macfarlane

  18. ver e. Radford and M. Radford,the encyclopedia of superstitions,edited and reviewed by christina hole, 179.

  19. it is also reflected in various sources and analogues. Luke quotes HerodotusHistory of Rhampsinitus(2.121) which involves two related schemes, one robbery of the king's treasury, another a trick with a severed hand, leading to the marriage of the imposter and the king's haughty daughter. see related examples in Kittredge; Goalie; and yes. thompson

  20. macfarlane, 25.

  21. Here, and throughout the book, I am indebted to Caroline Walker Bynum's rich account of late medieval relics and the complex synecdoches they accomplish. Look atfragmentation and redemption,especially chapter 7.

  22. Macfarlane also cites the testimony of Francis Hutchinson in hishistorical essay(1718) that it was "permissible to bring evidence of things unrelated to this fact and done many years before" (16). Several scholars, including Macfarlane (16) and Newman (54), quote Dalton,the judiciary of the country(1619), on this principle (see note 23, next).

  23. Dalton, 251, cited in r. Robbins, 175. Hereafter quoted in parentheses in the text.

  24. ady, 114, 130.

  25. Scottish, 192.

  26. Fate,jdn.1.

  27. see the beginnings of Antonio and Bosola, 1/1/11, 1/1/47.

  28. look more strongly to the theory of loyal disobedience in contemporary behavioral literature and political theory.

  29. ver Curtis.

  30. locke, chapter 7, par. 85.

  31. Agnew describes the "arrival of a new labor standard" inworlds apart,143.


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Bradbrook, Muriel C. "From the Notes on Webster".Review of the modern language42 (1947): 283-84.

Braunmüller, a. R. "'Second Half': Agent and Ally in Elizabethan Drama". inelisabethanisches theater xi,edited by A. I Magnusson and C. Me. McGee. Port Credit, Ontario: p. i.e. means 1990.

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Gatter, Thomas.God's Gift of a Good Wife: A Commonwealth Wife: Two Marriage Sermons.London: John Haviland for Fulke Clifton, 1623?

Jordan, Constance.Renaissance Feminism: Literary Texts and Political Models.Ithaka, New York: Cornell University Press, 1990.

———.Shakespeare's Monarchies: Rulers and Subjects in Romances.Ithaka, New York: Cornell University Press, 1997.

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loud Richard. "Faithful Servants: Shakespeare's Praise of Disobedience". inthe historical renaissance: new essays on tudor and stuart literature and culture,Edited by Heather Dubrow. 104-33. Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1988.

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cite this page as follows:

"The Duchess of Malfi – Katherine Rowe (Trial Date 1999)"Literary Criticism (1400-1800)edited by michael l. lablanca vol. 80. Storm 2003enotes.com28 ene. 2023 />

Use:When citing an online source, it is important to provide all necessary data. The above appointment includes 2 or 3 appointments.

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What is The Duchess of Malfi about Enotes? ›

The Duchess of Malfi is a play by John Webster in which a widowed duchess secretly remarries. Her brothers are angered and attempt to discover the identity of her husband. The duchess secretly remarries after the death of her first husband, and she and her new husband, Antonio, have three children together.

What is The Duchess of Malfi short summary? ›

The Duchess of Malfi tells the story of the spirited duchess and her love for her trustworthy steward Antonio. They marry secretly, despite the opposition of her two brothers, Ferdinand (the Duke of Calabria) and the Cardinal. Although she bears three children, she refuses to name the father.

What is the message of The Duchess of Malfi? ›

The Duchess of Malfi explores love and male authority in a traditional society in which women are subjected to the wills of men. The Cardinal's illicit relationship with Julia provides an example of a woman successfully controlled by a man.

How is the Duchess presented in The Duchess of Malfi essay? ›

In the Duchess of Malfi, the main protagonist, the Duchess, steps beyond societal boundaries by destroying the image of herself as a powerless widow and instead recreating herself as a powerful political figure, a mother, and a wife; since society worried about giving women too much power or control, the Duchess took ...

What type of tragedy is The Duchess of Malfi? ›

The Duchess of Malfi (originally published as The Tragedy of the Dutchesse of Malfy) is a Jacobean revenge tragedy written by English dramatist John Webster in 1612–1613.

Who is the villain in The Duchess of Malfi? ›

Bosola. Bosola's an antagonist for the obvious reason that he, you know, works as a spy for the bad guys and eventually kills our good guys, but there're other reasons, too.

What is the conclusion of The Duchess of Malfi? ›

The Duchess of Malfi summary ends with intense violence. The Cardinal murders his mistress after confessing his crime. Finally, Bosola kills the Cardinal but he and Ferdinand kill each other.

Who is the tragic hero in The Duchess of Malfi? ›

Bosola can surely be seen as tragic hero in the play. It can be seen that how he works for ferdinand and cardinal and acts as a spy to the duchess but fails to get the wishful rewards.

What happens at the end of The Duchess of Malfi? ›


He conceals himself in the Cardinal's room, but accidentally attacks and kills Antonio instead. Bosola confronts the Cardinal, and in the ensuing fight, Ferdinand is woken from his madness and joins in. Bosola stabs the Cardinal, while Ferdinand and Bosola strike each other – all three die.

How is Duchess of Malfi a social tragedy? ›

The social tragedy apparent in The Duchess of Malfi is three-fold, and can be viewed from the following perspectives – firstly, the society as a whole, which is corrupt, oppressive and daunting; secondly, the brothers Ferdinand and Cardinal whose social standing is threatened by the misconduct of their sister, the ...

What religion was The Duchess of Malfi? ›

The Duchess is a Catholic woman surrounded by influential Catholic men in an overwhelmingly Catholic country, meaning that the main problem of the Church is prominent: there is no equality between the male and female characters.

Is Ferdinand in love with the Duchess? ›

Ferdinand feels that the monarchy is in crisis because the Duchess has married below her rank, and his reason is in crisis because he desires her but cannot have her. He loves her, and yet he must have her killed: he has divided intentions, and because these intentions are not reconciled, he is left mad.

What are Bosola's last words? ›

Bosola cries out that he is dying, and laments the state of the world he will leave behind. Before dying, he says, “let worthy minds ne'er stagger in distrust / To suffer death or shame for what is just: / Mine is another voyage.”

Why does Ferdinand not want the Duchess to marry? ›

Duke Ferdinand is the brother of the Cardinal and the twin brother of the Duchess. He doesn't want his widowed sister to remarry, in part because of his pride and his greed for her wealth, but also because he harbors his own incestuous desires for her.

Who survives at the end of The Duchess of Malfi? ›

Finally, Bosola stabs the Cardinal and Ferdinand, but is wounded and also dies. Of the whole family, only the eldest son of the Duchess and Antonio remains alive.

Do you find any moral in the drama The Duchess of Malfi? ›

Bottom line on morality and ethics in The Duchess of Malfi: they're in decidedly short supply. In Jacobean tragedy in general, you see traditional Christian ethics in a state of decay, and in this play in particular it feels like morality and ethics hurt you way more than they help you.

What is the female desire in The Duchess of Malfi? ›

One example of this being the case in The Duchess of Malfi is with the Duchess herself as it is her desire and ability to be sexually free due to her status that leads to her death as she rebels against the brothers who prohibit her from marrying again as they, mainly Ferdinand, hope to inherit her wealth after her ...

What are the gender issues in The Duchess of Malfi? ›

Answer and Explanation: Gender is represented in the Duchess of Malfi in a feminist way. The Duchess of Malfi herself is the most valiant character in the play, and she is a woman. She is beset and surrounded by men who want to control her, and her refusal to bend to their wishes causes her persecution.

What is the inner conflict in The Duchess of Malfi? ›

Antonio must secretly don the role of the Duchess's husband while pretending to be her employee. Ferdinand's inner conflict with his identity as brother and his incestuous fixation with the Duchess makes him a victim of this confusion as well.

What is the theme of the book of the Duchesse? ›

The framework of the poem is a dream motif structured in octosyllabic couplets. Chaucer's use of the dream motif contributes to the poem's theme of the brevity of love, the obtuseness of the dreamer, and springtime.

What is The Duchess of Malfi based on? ›

Giovanna d'Aragona was the real-life Duchess of Amalfi, and was widowed at the early age of 19 in 1498. She fell in love with her steward, Antonio of Bologna, and married him in secret, bearing him three children before her brothers discovered the truth and supposedly murdered her for it.

What is the writing style of The Duchess of Malfi? ›

Blank Verse

Iambic pentameter is a metrical form wherein every line has ten syllables, and each unstressed syllable is followed by a stressed one. It comes out sounding like this: daDUM daDUM daDUM daDUM daDUM.

What is the story the theme about? ›

A theme is an important idea that is woven throughout a story. It's not the plot or the summary, but something a little deeper. A theme links a big idea about our world with the action of a text.

Is the book of Duchess a dream allegory? ›

A dream‐poem in 1,334 lines by Chaucer, probably written in 1369, in octosyllabic couplets. It is believed to be an allegorical lament on the death of Blanche of Lancaster, the first wife of John of Gaunt. The love‐lorn poet falls asleep reading the story of Ceix (Seys) and Alcyone and follows a hunting party.

What is the morality of this story? ›

The moral of a story is the lesson that story teaches about how to behave in the world. Moral comes from the Latin word mores, for habits. The moral of a story is supposed to teach you how to be a better person. If moral is used as an adjective, it means good, or ethical.

How is gender represented in Duchess of Malfi? ›

Answer and Explanation: Gender is represented in the Duchess of Malfi in a feminist way. The Duchess of Malfi herself is the most valiant character in the play, and she is a woman. She is beset and surrounded by men who want to control her, and her refusal to bend to their wishes causes her persecution.

How is The Duchess of Malfi a morality play? ›

Duchesss of Malfi : A Play of Moral Vision

The evil acts are the causes of the human tragedy. The Duchess in her heroic composition to her brothers is a symbol of life as they are the symbols of death and the play maintains a tension between the opposing forces of the life and the death.


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