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Gender Inequality Throughout The 's The Middleton 's `` Duchess Of Malfi ``

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In The Revenger’s Tragedy, Middleton presents a look at gender inequality in the early 1600’s through characters like the Duchess. He allows these characters a level of agency in which their actions are either punished or rewarded depending on the socially acceptable rules established by the patriarchal hierarchy in the play. Similarly, in Webster’s Duchess of Malfi, a parallel examination is made where the Duchess is given a certain degree of agency and is ultimately killed for her actions in the play. Both Duchess’ in Middleton and Webster’s plays, rebel against the patriarchal hierarchy and are punished by the male characters in the plays. The treatment of women in these plays constructs the ideal moral woman through inappropriately deemed actions. In The Duchess of Malfi, the Duchess is presented as a widow whose brothers end up determining her fate by constructing rules for how she is to live. Ferdinand and the Cardinal both caution the Duchess in the first act that marrying or engaging in a relationship again would tarnish her reputation. The Cardinal is also skeptical of the Duchess’ resolve remarking, “So most widows say, but commonly that motion lasts no longer than the turning of an hourglass” after the Duchess says she will never marry again (Webster 1765). Ferdinand also displays skepticism by saying, “And women like that part which, like the lamprey, hath nev’r a bone in’t” and enforces his remark by showing his sister a dagger. The entire scene showcases the
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