Critical approaches for the Duchess of Malfi

A bunch of critics and some contexts and how prehaps to apply them

?

Revenge

Belsey- "Revenge is not justice. It is rather an act of injustice on behalf of justice...Revenge exists on a margin between justice and crime"  On Hamlet, however, also applies to Ferdinan (villian) and Bosola (malcontent)

Alexander- "The desire for vengeance is seen as part of a continuing pattern of human conduct"
On Hamlet, also applicable for Ferdinand/Othello and Bosola/Iago

Christopher Hart- "[Bosola is] a twisted misanthrope and cut-throat." 

Irving Ribner- "[Bosola is] the most important unifying element in 'The Duchess of Malfi'."
-"The final act is designed to show that the way of the Arragonian brothers is that of madness and damnation, the complete descent of man into beast symbolised by the lycanthropia of Ferdinand."

Muriel Bradbrook- "The sight of [the Duchess'] face awakens Ferdinand to what he has done."

Frank Whigham- "When Ferdinand looks down into his sister's "dazzling" eyes, he sees himself, faces his own death too." "

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Women

Rebecca Smith- "Female virtue is identical with chastity; thus Polonius (…) trained his daughter to be obedient and chaste and is able to use her a a piece of bait for spying."
On Hamlet, but idea bleeds into DOM through presentation of women particuarly Duchess and Julia

Irving Ribner- "The Duchess, not her brothers, stands for ordinary humanity, love and the continuity of life through children."

Murray- "The radiant spirit of the Duchess cannot be killed"

Macmillian New Casebook The Duchess of Malfi- "The achievement of Webster's play is that it makes public the 'feminine secrets of domestic and family lifein a way that exonerates its heroine and casts a shadow on a public world, whose exclusion of women and personal happiness is the sign of absolute corruption"

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Women Part Two

Elizabeth Oakes- "At the end she is, she says, the Duchess of Malfi still, and with that title she negates her relationship with Antonio: she becomes the woman carved in stone that Ferdinand wanted her to be."

Muriel Bradbrook- "The sight of [the Duchess'] face awakens Ferdinand to what he has done."
-"[Julia is] a foil to the Duchess... who takes a man as she feels the impulse."

Kathleen McLuskie- "It is clear that the Cardinal's description of the affair [with Julia] expresses only satisfaction of his sexual prowess."

Nanci Roider- "[The play is] a cautionary tale which shows what can happen when women marry without being granted the "proper" consent."

R. S. White- "The tragedy of a virtuous woman who achieves heroism through her death."

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Madness

Irving Ribner- "The final act is designed to show that the way of the Arragonian brothers is that of madness and damnation, the complete descent of man into beast symbolised by the lycanthropia of Ferdinand."

Muriel Bradbrook- "The sight of [the Duchess'] face awakens Ferdinand to what he has done."

Frank Whigham- "When Ferdinand looks down into his sister's "dazzling" eyes, he sees himself, faces his own death too."

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Family

Christopher Hart- "The two brothers are not driven by any sense of possessive outrage, however warped, but by a delight in malice itself, a "motiveless malignity" even against their own flesh and blood."

Irving Ribner- "The final act is designed to show that the way of the Arragonian brothers is that of madness and damnation, the complete descent of man into beast symbolised by the lycanthropia of Ferdinand." 

Muriel Bradbrook- "The sight of [the Duchess'] face awakens Ferdinand to what he has done."

Frank Whigham- "When Ferdinand looks down into his sister's "dazzling" eyes, he sees himself, faces his own death too."

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Corruption

Michael Neill- "Antonio can be no model of virtue: he is too like the equivocal Bosola."

Christopher Hart- "[Bosola is] a twisted misanthrope and cut-throat."

Irving Ribner- "[Bosola is] the most important unifying element in 'The Duchess of Malfi'."
-"
The final act is designed to show that the way of the Arragonian brothers is that of madness and damnation, the complete descent of man into beast symbolised by the lycanthropia of Ferdinand"

Lee Bliss- "The Cardinal's cool, unemotional detachment is more terrifying than Ferdinand's impassioned raving."

Kathleen McLuskie- "It is clear that the Cardinal's description of the affair [with Julia] expresses only satisfaction of his sexual prowess."

Lucy Webster- "[Bosola] reveals that the Cardinal and Ferdinand are responsible for supporting a society of parasites - and, by implication, flatterers.The impression is of a society which is overblown and decadent, where only the crooked thrive

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Heroism/Villiany

Christopher Hart- "[Bosola is] a twisted misanthrope and cut-throat.
-"
The two brothers are not driven by any sense of possessive outrage, however warped, but by a delight in malice itself, a "motiveless malignity" even against their own flesh and blood."

Irving Ribner- "[Bosola is] the most important unifying element in 'The Duchess of Malfi'."

Kathleen McLuskie- "It is clear that the Cardinal's description of the affair [with Julia] expresses only satisfaction of his sexual prowess."

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Tragedy

Muriel Bradbrook- "Bosola, the chief instrument in the Duchess' betrayal and subjection, also bears the strongest witness to her virtues."

R. S. White- "The tragedy of a virtuous woman who achieves heroism through her death."

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Morals

Muriel Bradbrook- "Bosola, the chief instrument in the Duchess' betrayal and subjection, also bears the strongest witness to her virtues."
-"The sight of [the Duchess'] face awakens Ferdinand to what he has done."
-"[Julia is] a foil to the Duchess... who takes a man as she feels the impulse."

P. B. Murray- "Antonio is modelled on the ideal of Christian gentility."

Michael Neill- "Antonio can be no model of virtue: he is too like the equivocal Bosola."

Irving Ribner- "The final act is designed to show that the way of the Arragonian brothers is that of madness and damnation, the complete descent of man into beast symbolised by the lycanthropia of Ferdinand."

 

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Malcontent

Muriel Bradbrook- "With all his many roles, Bosola is never permitted the luxury of being a self."
-"Bosola, the chief instrument in the Duchess' betrayal and subjection, also bears the strongest witness to her virtues."

Christopher Hart- "[Bosola is] a twisted misanthrope and cut-throat."

Irving Ribner- "[Bosola is] the most important unifying element in 'The Duchess of Malfi'."

Lucy Webster- "Bosola gets straight to the heart of the corruption and tainted relationships infecting the world of the play. He reveals that the Cardinal and Ferdinand are responsible for supporting a society of parasites - and, by implication, flatterers."
-"In Elizabethan and Jacobean drama, lack of position, and social exclusion characterises the malcontent...
Such characters offer a cynical perspective on the machinations of the court, cutting through the rhetoric, the dissembling & hypocrisy."

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Love, Lust and Marriage

Evans- "Lust becomes a metaphor for wider social sickness"  On The revenge tragedy genre, applicable to Ferdinand

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Moral Part Two

Kathleen McLuskie- "It is clear that the Cardinal's description of the affair [with Julia] expresses only satisfaction of his sexual prowess."

Nanci Roider- "[The play is] a cautionary tale which shows what can happen when women marry without being granted the "proper" consent."

Lucy Webster- "Bosola gets straight to the heart of the corruption and tainted relationships infecting the world of the play. He reveals that the Cardinal and Ferdinand are responsible for supporting a society of parasites - and, by implication, flatterers. The impression is of a society which is overblown and decadent, where only the crooked thrive."

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Webster

J. M. Symonds- “each part is etched with equal effort after luminous effect upon a murky background; and the whole play is a mosaic of these parts. It lacks breadth which comes from concentration on a master-motive”.

Rupert Brooke- “Webster was a great writer; and the way in which one uses great writers is two-fold. There is the exhilarating way of reading their writing; and there is the essence of the whole man”."

T. S. Eliot- “a genius directed toward chaos”

Sidney Lee- "Webster “concentrated his chief energies on repulsive themes and characters”.

F. L. Lucas- "Both Webster and his Duchess seem to sit “bayed about with madmen”."

John Wilson- "Webster was a “master of scenes”."

William Hazlitt- "The Duchess comes “the nearest to Shakespeare of anything we have upon record”."

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