Drama and Poetry

Background to 'The Duchess of Malfi'

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witchcraft against Elizabeth. Act 4 scene 1?
Duchess also refers to witchcraft practices against herself that parallels forms of ·
Duchess also echoes language of Elizabeth 1-Duchess refers to herself as 'prince' ·
Webster's redemption of the Duchess through the end that her son,born in wedlock, ·
The clandestine marriage of Duchess recalls these rumours. ·
Rumours of secret affairs and sexual dalliances of Elizabeth1. ·
Elizabeth refused to fulfil.
The Duchess's life enacts the imaginary fantasy of Tudor dynastic succession that ·
Duchess of Malfi-wife, mother-images of sterile Queen. ·
Nostalgic correlation with Elizabeth 1. ·
Increased interest with female protagonists in Jacobean era. ·
The Duchess and links with Elizabeth 1
1 of 2
2 of 2
'The Duchess of Malfi' and historical sources
· The historical duchess was Giovanna d'Aragona, Duchess of Amalfi from 1493 to
1511 when she disappeared.
· She was from a royal blood.
· She married Alfonso Piccolomini at the age of twelve.
· At the age of fourteen she had two children: a girl who died at the age of eight in
1498 and boy born the same year who eventually succeeded his father as Duke
of Amalfi.
· When her husband was killed in a battle in 1499, she remained a widow.
· 1510 November, it became common knowledge about the scandulous secret
marriage to Antonio da Bologna.
· By this time she had miraculously kept it quiet including two children she had by him.
· She tried to flee to Siena after the revealation but was intercepted with her two
younger children and were never seen again.
· Her husband escaped to Milan where he was murdered by Daniele da Boszzola in
1513, very likely at the behest of Cardinal Luigi d'a Aragona (her eldest brother).


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