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The Duchess of Malfi (With Extensive Notes and Glossary)
     

The Duchess of Malfi (With Extensive Notes and Glossary)

2.7 3
by John Webster
 

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The Duchess of Malfi (originally published as The Tragedy of the Dutchesse of Malfy) is a macabre, tragic play written by the English dramatist John Webster in 1612–13. It was first performed privately at the Blackfriars Theatre, then before a more general audience at The Globe, in 1613-14. Published in 1623, the play is loosely based on events that occurred

Overview

The Duchess of Malfi (originally published as The Tragedy of the Dutchesse of Malfy) is a macabre, tragic play written by the English dramatist John Webster in 1612–13. It was first performed privately at the Blackfriars Theatre, then before a more general audience at The Globe, in 1613-14. Published in 1623, the play is loosely based on events that occurred between about 1508 and 1513, recounted in William Painter's The Palace of Pleasure (1567). The Duchess was Giovanna d'Aragona, whose father, Arrigo d'Aragona, Marquis of Gerace, was an illegitimate son of Ferdinand I of Naples. Her husbands were Alfonso Piccolomini, Duke of Amalfi, and (as in the play) Antonio Bologna.

The play begins as a love story, with a Duchess who marries beneath her class, and ends as a nightmarish tragedy as her two brothers exact their revenge, destroying themselves in the process.

Jacobean drama continued the trend of stage violence and horror set by Elizabethan tragedy, under the influence of Seneca, and there is a great deal of all that in the later scenes of the play. The complexity of some of its characters, particularly Bosola and the Duchess, plus Webster's poetic language, ensure the play is often considered among the greatest tragedies of English renaissance drama.

The play is set in the court of Malfi (Amalfi), Italy 1504 to 1510. The recently widowed Duchess falls in love with Antonio, a lowly steward, but her brothers, not wishing her to share their inheritance, forbid her from remarrying. She marries Antonio in secret and bears him several children. The macabre story continues from here with heavy involvement from the Duchess' lunatic and incestuously obsessed brother Ferdinand.

Product Details

BN ID:
2940015117783
Publisher:
Balefire Publishing
Publication date:
09/06/2012
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
155
Sales rank:
797,871
File size:
9 MB

Meet the Author

John Webster (c.1580 – c.1634) was an English Jacobean dramatist best known for his tragedies The White Devil and The Duchess of Malfi, which are often regarded as masterpieces of the early 17th-century English stage. He was a contemporary of William Shakespeare.

Webster's life is obscure, and his date-of-birth and death date are not known. His father, a coach maker also named John Webster, married a blacksmith's daughter named Elizabeth Coates on 4 November 1577, and it is likely that Webster was born not long after in or near London. The family lived in St. Sepulchre's parish. On 1 August 1598, "John Webster, lately of the New Inn" was admitted to the Middle Temple, one of the Inns of Court; in view of the legal interests evident in his dramatic work; this is possibly the playwright.

Webster married the 17-year-old Sara Peniall on 18 March 1606 at St Mary's Church, Islington. A special licence had to be obtained to permit a wedding in Lent, which was necessary as at the date of their marriage, Sara was seven months pregnant. Their first child, John, was baptised at the parish of St Dunstan-in-the-West on 8 March 1605 or 1606. Bequests in the will of a neighbour who died in 1617 indicate that other children were born to him.

Most of what is otherwise known of him relates to his theatrical activities. Webster was still writing plays as late as the mid-1620s, but Thomas Heywood's Hierarchie of the Blessed Angels (licensed 7 November 1634) speaks of him in the past tense, implying he was then dead.

Despite his ability to write comedy, Webster is best known for his two brooding English tragedies based on Italian sources. The White Devil, a retelling of the intrigues involving Vittoria Accoramboni, an Italian woman assassinated at the age of 28, was a failure when staged at the Red Bull Theatre in 1612 (published the same year), being too unusual and intellectual for its audience. The Duchess of Malfi, first performed by the King's Men about 1614 and published nine years later, was more successful. He also wrote a play called Guise, based on French history, of which little else is known as no text has survived.

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The Duchess of Malfi (Arden Early Modern Drama Series) 2.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A very interesting, and macabre play that I never tire of reading. A true classic.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago