Duchess Of Malf Open Learn

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John Webster, The Duchess of Malfi

Introduction 3
Learning outcomes 3
Background 3
Description 4
Act 1: setting the scene 5
Courts ideal and real 5
Discussion 5
Description 8
Bosola the malcontent 8
Discussion 9
Marriage for love: family opposition 10
Discussion 10
Love and marriage: Antonio the steward 13
Discussion 14
Love and marriage: the Duchess 15
Description 16
Description 17
Discussion 19
Act 2: discovery 21
Ferdinand 21
Discussion 22
Conclusion 24
References 24
Further reading 25
Next steps 25
Acknowledgements 26
Figures 26
Don’t miss out 26

Introduction
This unit, on the first two acts of John Webster’s Renaissance tragedy The Duchess of Malfi, focuses on the representation of the theme of love and marriage in the Malfi court,
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The text on it, centred and in a variety of lettering, reads: ‘The Tragedy of the Dutchesse of Malfy. As it was Presented privatly, at the Black-Friers; and publiquely at the Globe, By the Kings Majesties Servants. The perfect and exact Coppy, with diverse things printed, that the length of the Play would not beare in the Presentment. Written by John Webster. Hora – Si quid – Candidus Imperti si non his utere mecum. London. Printed by Nicholas Okes, for John Waterson, and are to be sold at the signe of the Crowne, in Paules Churchyard, 1623.’
End of description
The Duchess of Malfi was first performed in 1613 or 1614 by the King’s Men, the acting company to which Shakespeare belonged. The play was not printed until around ten years later in 1623, in quarto, a smaller and less expensive edition than the larger folio size used for the first edition of Shakespeare’s complete works. The title page of this edition (shown in Figure 1) tells us that the play ‘was presented privatly, at the Blackfriers and publicly at the Globe’; that is, the play opened at the Blackfriars, the company’s indoor theatre, and then played at the open-air Globe. The title page also informs potential readers that the text of the play is the ‘perfect and exact Coppy, with diverse things Printed, that the length of the Play would not beare in the Presentment’; in other words, the play text includes numerous passages that were cut for performance. The publisher, then, appears to be

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