Duchess of Malfi and Rosetti revision notes

Duchess of Malfi (and how I would link to ideas about Rossetti) 

Important scenes to revise:

  • Act 1 scene 1: court scene 
  • Act 1 scene 1: marriage scene
  • Act 2 scene 5: different reactions of Ferdinand and the Cardinal 
  • Act 3 scene 2: bedroom scene 
  • Act 4 scene 1 and 2: Torture and death of Duchess

Main Rossetti poetry links:

  • Maude Clare 
  • Goblin Market 
  • Round Tower at Jhansi
  • A Birthday
  • From the Antique
  • Twice

Act 1

Setting: Italian city of Amalfi in the sixteenth century, in the audience chamber or "presence'' of the widowed Duchess.

Ideas of public and private: We meet the character public selves. 

Internal world of the court: disconnect with he res to society- they have their own moralities and values. 

Webster begins his play with a description of an ideal court only then to show onstage a court that fails in every respect to live up to that ideal. 

What happens: Antonio, the Duchess's steward, talks with his friend Delio as they observe the others who pass through the chamber.  p3

Antonio has returned from France; we are positioned to trust him as he has an unbiased view of the court. He has great respect for the French court he has retuned from. (Reniasaance ideas of the contrast between the real and ideal world) 

-Highlights the ‘fixed order’ of the court with the rationale prince at the head. (No honestest in the English court - Websters commentary on King Jame’s corrupt court, who appointed his favourites/ lovers to higher positions, their entire court was ‘drunk on spending’, and to fund this sold titles and knighthoods -Schama)

-No ‘flatt’ring sycophants’, instead the King of France gets a council to advise him.

-Fountain imagery: ‘Is like a common fountain, whence should flow Pure drops of silver in general, but if’t by chance some cursed example poison near the head, Death and disease through the whole land spread’ (Antonio P3) Suggesting the strength of the royal court links to the wellbeing of a nation. Deviation in metre stresses the world ‘Death’  - The final line is an ironic foretaste of what’s to come: there’ll be a lot of deaths, but the disease that’s going to kill them won’t be literal illness, but the disease of corruption.

-Contrast between the imagery of pure silver and that of death and disease. 

-Links to the garden of Eden: Antonio imagines a fixed state of societal order, in the Garden of Eden there is no changes/ageing as a reminder we are no longer perfect beings. (Ironic however as it is Antonio that disrupts social order) 

The first to enter are the Cardinal and Bosola. Although Bosola has recently been released after serving seven years for a murder he committed at the behest of the Cardinal, the Cardinal is cold to him and will not acknowledge his debt. p5 -Bosola neglected/ isolated

Bosola: the court satirist/ the malcontent

‘He and his brother are like plum trees that grow crooked over standing pools’ and ‘crows,


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