The Standards and Values by which the Court of Malfi Lives Essay

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The Standards and Values by which the Court of Malfi Lives

The values that govern character's decisions in The Duchess of Malfi are diametrically opposed to the modern day ethos by which we are accustomed to live. The play is set in a time and society where today's basic sociability, fairness and freedom from oppression were completely unheard of and unprecedented. Those in power saw no point to their authority if they did not take full advantage of their influence, nobody would lookout for anyone else and people's livelihoods depended on kings' fickle whims. Corruption was rife, fuelled by the ruthless backstabbing and do-or-die attitude. In fact, the play starts by amalgamating and spotlighting the flaws with the
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He has perceptive vision and cogently describes people he sees in precisely terse thumbnail sketches. Perhaps most admirable, is the way he is able to condemn characters without a hint of self-promotion, arrogance or snatching at the moral high ground. Indeed, Antonio is a man of much humility and wisdom - his summing up is precise and he sees through to hidden aspects of people's agendas. After Bosola leaves at the end of the first scene, Antonio sapiently notes that "this foul melancholy will poison all his goodness" (I, i, l.77-8), and the reader has a sneaking suspicion his prophecy may just turn out to be realised. Antonio is usually honest and says what he thinks, unlike the other more conniving and duplicitous courtiers.

The only other characters that attract a semblance of esteem are
Delio, for his kindly politeness, and non-judgmental lack of presumption; the Duchess; and Bosola, for his mastery of language.
Delio listens carefully to his friend's descriptions then comes to his own conclusions of the people he sees. The "right noble Duchess" (I, ii, l. 112) is a breath of fresh air - astute, witty, unintimidated and she speaks with such wisdom one would think she has lived to twice her years. Antonio is so keen in his praise of her that Delio warns him that he has almost become like a "wire-drawer" (I, ii, l. 131).
Bosola is an insightful realist with a good understanding of the use of analogies and
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