The Duchess Of Malfi Theme Analysis

1370 Words6 Pages
The Significance of Madness in Webster's The Duchess of Malfi The Duchess of Malfi by John Webster is a Jacobean play which comments on a multitude of themes like the distinction between reality and unreality, identity, presence, deception and dementia. The following essay is going to approach the matter of madness from a deeper angle, focusing on the traits of characters and hidden signs they represent. One of the themes that is touched upon in the play is undoubtedly madness, which is commonly used in three ways in dramas – as a material for comedy, as a supreme trial for mankind, and finally as an image of unrelieved and terrible chaos. An author who uses madness in the latter way might have problems with faith in divine goodness, believing that there are certain humiliations which not even the promise of heaven can atone for. Furthermore a…show more content…
The dance in The Duchess of Malfi can be seen as an embodiment of the discord and the incoherence of the world of the Duchess. We can also observe the increasingly aberrant state of mind of Ferdinand. Namely it is he who has conceived this grotesque scheme to unsettle the Duchess. To Elizabethan-Jacobean audience, the display of madmen would have seemed horrifying and unsettling in a play that detailed revenge and murder. Surprisingly, the dreadful spectacle gets related to the new professional middle classes in England. The state of women is also represented through the episode of madmen as it is well known that opposition to second marriages were still steadfast in the 17th century. The general demeanor to the remarriage of a widow was to see the deed as a form of ‘lawful adultery’. While it was permitted by the law, society was unsettled by it. It was said that ‘to wed a second time was no better than to cuckold the
Open Document