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In hiring Bosola to spy on their sister, the Cardinal and Ferdinand are setting a trap; and as men trap wild creatures in order to kill them, so the Duchess, if trapped will be killed.The Duchess’ secret marriage is literally confined within the walls of her chamber, and in this sense as Cardinal says: The marriage symbolizes a prison in another sense too, for the Duchess’, movements and emotions are restricted as those of a prisoner.This gives the uniqueness and originality to the play.
It is light and discontinuous, rapid or deliberate, as the situation demands.
The light and the discontinuous line and the occasional, momentary regularity create a style wholly appropriate to a drama of interplay between passion and conscious thought, contrasts of appearance and truth, and inter-relationships of characters who often try to live only for themselves.
The Duchess, the central figure, is a stoical figure who bears misfortune with calm resignation and fortitude.
Opposed to her and devout to destroy her are the three Machiavellian figures – Duke Ferdinand, the Cardinal and Bosola.
Physical corruption is suggested by diseases such as leprosy and consumption.
There are frequent references to poison and some to magic and witchcraft.The story of the Duchess of Malfi, the main plot, and the story of Julia, the sub-plot, is skillfully interlinked to form a single whole.First, the same characters figure in the two stories and, second, there are strong parallelisms and contrasts between the sexual behaviors of the two women mentioned.Animal imagery is frequent in the play, and is an expression of the degeneration and corruption of man. The element of a true story will be enhanced by catchy dialogues.Webster’s dialogue is undoubtedly dramatic and appropriate.The Duchess is one of the finest creations in Elizabethan drama; no other female character outside Shakespeare surpasses her in vividness and subtlety.Her persecution transforms and her despair renders her personality a lofty and stoic touch. The setting to the play is provided by contemporary Italian court life. The courts are those of the small independent states into which Italy was divided at the time.The central motif is revenge, but the revenge is not taken as a sacred duty but out of selfishness and vindictiveness.The motif for revenge is dishonorable and our sympathies tend to be towards the victim of the revenge rather than with the avengers.The facts of the historical Duchess are as follows: in 1490 she married when she was twelve, and was widowed at the age of twenty.After Antonio Bolonga became her major-domo in 1504, she fell in love with him and secretly married him for which only her maid was a witness.