John Webster: The Duchess of Malfi

(1240 words)
  • Martin Wiggins (University of Birmingham)

The action of The Duchess of Malfi takes place in early sixteenth-century Italy against a background of escalating European war; but its focus is on tensions within an aristocratic family. The power of the male head of the family over his female relatives' love-lives was a feature of patriarchal society which fascinated the author, John Webster, and underpins character relationships in many of his plays. In The Duchess of Malfi, the tensions, and the secrecy, arise from the Duchess's brothers' opposition to her remarriage; the Duchess being told by her elder brother, the Cardinal, that “[t]hey are most luxurious [lecherous] / Will wed twice” (1.1.284-5). In a period when female honour was associated largely with female …

Please log in to consult the article in its entirety. If you are a member (student of staff) of a subscribing institution (see List), you should be able to access the LE on campus directly (without the need to log in), and off-campus either via the institutional log in we offer, or via your institution's remote access facilities, or by creating a personal user account with your institutional email address. If you are not a member of a subscribing institution, you will need to purchase a personal subscription. For more information on how to subscribe as an individual user, please see under Individual Subcriptions.

Citation:
Wiggins, Martin. "The Duchess of Malfi". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 25 October 2002
[http://www.litencyc.com/php/sworks.php?rec=true&UID=996, accessed 28 August 2015.]


Related Groups

  1. Revenge Tragedy
  2. English Renaissance Theatre - Jacobean