John Webster's Play The Duchess of Malfi Essay example

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John Webster's Play The Duchess of Malfi

In the opening of The Duchess of Malfi takes place between Delio and
Antonio, a steward of the Duchess and his friend. Webster makes his audience aware that Antonio has journeyed outside Malfi, to France.
The words "France, Frenchman, French" all appear within the first four lines of the text, a blunt indicator to ensure that the audience, however inattentive, grasps the point that Antonio has been absent from Malfi. He supports this point by referring to the timespan since
Antonio last saw Delio, "You have been long in France." The word
"long" suggests that a considerable time has passed since he was last resident in Malfi. Equally, Delio's description of Antonio, as a "very
formal
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Antonio then goes on to mention that "flattering sycophants" were banished from the court. Thus, between the wisdom of the king, and the lack of falsities in France, a government has been created where justice flowed from a "common fountain." Webster uses the metaphorical image of a common fountain for two reasons. Webster wishes to note to the audience that the French court is "common," not in the sense that it fails in the traditional hierarchy of power, but rather that justice in France is "common." Justice is handed down through "silver drops" to every subject of the relm no matter their rank. Equally,
"common" as the adjective to the font (representation of justice) suggests that it is not extraordinary for justice to be offered to the people of France, rather that it is a "common" occurrence.

The description of the French court by Antonio gives way to a less positive account of the mores in the duchy of Malfi. The rhyming couplet below explains that it is vital for a country to have fair noble leaders, else the badness would filter down and infect the whole being: "Some curs'd example poison't near the head Death and diseases through the whole land spread"

Without just and wise leaders, "poisen, death (and) disease" shall corrupt and infest the state of Malfi. The words "poisen, death and disease" all offer negative connotations, and the audience is thus trebly assured of the fate that
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