The Conflict Of Good And Evil In The Duchess Of Malfi

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First performed in 1613, ‘The Duchess of Malfi’ is a timeless and tragic piece of literature which explores both the conflict of good and evil within Jacobean society and the underlying corruption which inhabited the courts and government of James I. Webster particularly uses the setting of this Machiavellian Italian court to offer a direct political and social commentary on the abuse of power within the era and the hypocrisy of the church. Heavily influenced by Webster’s skeptical and forward-thinking views on religion, ‘The Duchess of Malfi’ also explores the inequalities within society through the Duchess and the misogynistic world in which she dwells. Characterisation and symbolism plays a critical role in execution of expressing Webster’s views; focusing on the bleak idea of evil being an innate force within the world and good being something hidden.
Even within the first scene of act one, we can identify the characters’ awareness of the corruption in the court and their responses to it. Having just returned from France, Antonio sheds light on this matter by commenting on the French king’s act of cleansing the court; giving the image of a good court being ‘like a common fountain’ which should flow ‘pure silver drops in general’. Essentially, his dialogue seems to indicate his own personal motivation to cleanse the Italian court and restore honesty and good within the country and its leaders. Ironically, as they speak of the ‘flatt’ring sycophants’ which the French king

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