Discuss “the Duchess of Malfi” as a Revenge Tragedy.

1438 Words Oct 25th, 2008 6 Pages
“The Duchess of Malfi” is a macabre, tragic play, written by the English dramatist John Webster. It 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. The play is sometimes ridiculed by modern critics for the excessive violence and horror in its later scenes. But the violence and horror scenes give it the touch it needs to be a revenge tragedy.

The Cardinal and Ferdinand, the brothers of the Duchess, are very much against their sister’s re-marriage. Ferdinand urges her not to marry again. He condemns it because he thinks that it shows a lustful nature. He doesn’t want to give any other reason. But it is
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Ferdinand meets the Duchess in the dark because he had vowed not to see her again. In the dark he promises her pardon and peace, and offers her a hand to kiss. The Duchess makes the dreadful discovery that she is holding a dead man’s hand which, she is told is Antonio’s. A curtain is then drawn, revealing figures of Antonio and the children, appearing as if they were dead. This provokes her to suicide which the Duke wanted in the first place. He is happy that his sister is in distress upon seeing the wax figures. He further wants to torment her by letting loose a group of madmen upon her. From the point were he gave her the dagger to this point, Ferdinand didn’t want to be blamed for the death of his sister. He was hoping that the torture he was doing to his sister would ultimately make her take her own life. But, as this didn’t work, he sent Bosola as a tomb-maker. Then he sends executioners with coffin, cords and a bell. These things don’t scare her a bit. At last when the Duchess doesn’t take her own life, she is strangled to death. But after seeing the dead body of his sister Ferdinand is full of remorse for killing her.

“Cover her face. Mine eyes dazzle. She died young”

He didn’t have any problem when he tormented her to take revenge or if she had committed suicide. But when the murder of Duchess falls directly in his hand, he becomes insane and remorseful.

But the revenge doesn’t end there. The Cardinal hires Bosola to