John Webster’s Play The Duchess of Malfi

John Webster’s Play The Duchess of Malfi

Diksha Dadich

Assistant Professor

School of Languages,Literature & Society

John Webster was one of the best, Jacobean playwright of the early 17th Century. Mostly he wrote dark and intricate tragedies. He is remarkably known for his play “The Duchess of Malfi”. His writing explores the themes of power, corruption, and the complexity of human nature. This style of his has left an ever lasting impact on English literature.

The play is a tragedy of a widowed Duchess who secretly marries her steward, Antonio. Her brothers Ferdinand and the Cardinal, oppose her marriage because of the greed for the property of her share. They think that if she will remarry and will have children then their family property will be divided. Moreover, during that time, second marriage was not allowed for the women of high class family. The discovery of her secret marriage leads to a betrayal, deceit, murder and intrigues which ends only after the pathetic deaths of the Duchess and her children.

The major themes of the play are:

•Power-The whole play deals with position and power and that's why Ferdinand and Cardinal didn't want the Duchess to remarry, so that her empire stays in their control.

•Deciet and Betrayal - The waxed statues that was shown to Duchess as her Husband’s and child’s, which broke her emotionally and mentally.

•Gender and Class- Duchess’s marriage because so hyped because she secretly married someone from lower standard than hers.

•Madness-Madness for prestige and power, authority to control .

•Tragic fate-The Duchess was made to believe and shown.

•Moral Decay-It was a complete mental turmoil that was given to her.

Thus we see that the play, The Duchess of Malfi depicts gender and class conflict in the 17th century. It also shows the pathetic condition of the women in the 17th century society. Girls and women had no any right in the society. It was a patriarchal society. Women and girls were under the control of their father and brothers. They were not allowed to marry a man of their choice. Thus we can draw a conclusion that The Duchess of Malfi is a culmination of tragedy depicting the consequences of unchecked power, betrayal, and societal constraints. The death of the Duchess and her children symbolizes the strong grip of fate and the inevitable consequences of character’s choices. It serves as a reminder of the tragic outcomes when individuals are trapped in a web of deceit, power struggles and moral decay, ultimately leading to their down fall. If you find the blog interesting and informative, please share and forward to your friends.