William Shakespeare 's The Duchess Of Malfi

1005 Words5 Pages
At the beginning of the The Duchess of Malfi, Antonio presents a terrible prophecy to his friend Delio, telling him that “a prince’s court/Is like a common fountain whence should flow/Pure silver drops in general; but if’t chance/Some cursed example poison’t near the head,/Death and disease through the whole land spread” (Webster 1.1.11-15). Death certainly spreads throughout the play, with the majority of the characters dying by the time curtain drops, but what “poison” engenders this doom? Initially, the audience might view the Duchess’ deception as the poison in the plot. After all, her secret marriage is the catalyst for her brother’s murderous actions. However, in reality, the poison that flows through the fountain is Ferdinand and…show more content…
When Bosola entreats Ferdinand to cease his torturing of the Duchess, Ferdinand rejects the idea, exclaiming “damn her! That body of hers” (Webster 4.1.118). His outburst demonstrates how he equates the Duchess herself with her physical material, her body. Furthermore, it delineates how specifically the Duchess’s body is the object of his anger and obsession. Ferdinand often directs his anger at just the Duchess body rather than her whole being. After receiving news of her pregnancy, he says that “she’s loose i’th’hilts” (Webster 2.5.3). The phallic metaphor in this exclamation, with a sword operating as a phallic symbol and the hilt (which the sword goes into) functioning as a symbol for female genitalia, demonstrates how Ferdinand’s intense fascination with his sister’s body is intrinsically sexual. He goes on to say “would I could be one,/That I might toss here palace ‘bout her ears/Root up her goodly forests, blast her meads,/And lay her general territory as waste” (Webster 2.5.17-20). This statement contains language that is both intensely violent and sexual in nature. Moreover, by equating his sister’s body with pieces of land, Ferdinand demonstrates how he views her body as something to possess, just as he possesses land. As he drives himself into more and more of a rage, Ferdinand’s rant about his sister becomes increasingly sexual. He tells his brother
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