Book Review: The Duchess of Malfi by John Webster

Genre: Drama Type: Tragic Play/Tragedy Year: 1612-13 Themes like Corruption and Women’s Place in the Society are explored in Webster’s ‘Duchess of Malfi’ however, the theme of ‘Love and Revenge’ is the most prominent one. The play revolves around the dates and events or rather the calamities which befalls on the two lovers, namely, The Duchess of Malfi and Antonio Bologna. Violence and horror in excess can be found prior to the climax.

Overview of The Duchess of Malfi

The two lovers were determined to beat all odds pitched against them by the two siblings of the Duchess. Duke Ferdinand and the Cardinal were hell-bent to see that, the Duchess of Malfi remains unmarried. However, their wishes could not materialize with the entry of Antonio the steward, with whom the Duchess enters into a secret but legal marriage. It was a sort of a Romeo and Juliet story except that, there were no opposition from Antonio's kith and kins.

The Aragonian Brothers, i.e, the Cardinal and Duke Ferdinand employed Bosola, "the only court gall" who would stoop to nay level in order to get benefited or rewarded. Bosola's duty was to gain information about the love life of the Duchess, which he executed with a devilish perfection. The brothers, when they got the information through Bosola, termed the marriage as disobedience, and sent Bosola to take the life of Duchess and her child, as well as her husband's. However, the events took a different turn when Bosola became reformed, after murdering the Duchess and her child, and connived to turn the table on the brothers themselves.

Antonio too was not remaining idle either, he had made up his mind to take vengeance into his own hands. But unfortunately, he got killed by Bosola by mistake. These turn of event however did not bother Bosola. He was now even more intent on carrying out his mission. He had been used like a slave, treated like dirt by the two brothers and realization came to him that, he had shed the blood of innocents with the evil Aragonian brothers pulling the string from behind.

Thus, with a grim determination to avenge the death of the innocent Duchess as well as for the wrongs committed against him, he pays back the dues, but in the process, he too dies from a fatal wound he received from the dying Ferdinand.

Characters and Characterization

The Duchess, Antonio Bologna, Delio, Daniel de Bosola, The Cardinal, Ferdinand, Roderigo, Grisolan, Silvio, Pescara, Cariola, Julia, Malateste, Doctor, besides others employed as literary aids in order to make the plot progress.

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