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    "The best spoken, most intelligently staged and thrillingly effective Malfi I've seen in years." The Stage

    An Introduction to The Duchess of Malfi

    'I loved the production and it really helped the students understand parts of the play and the extreme nature of some of the scenes.' AISLING HAMILTON, GARTH HILL COLLEGE, BRACKNELL

    The Duchess of Malfi is a popular choice as a set text, despite (or perhaps because of) the violence and horror of its later scenes. Generally considered to be the masterpiece of Jacobean playwright John Webster, it was first produced in around 1613. It’s a macabre tragedy, based on actual events, and tends to be either loved or hated by critics – while consistently captivating audiences across the centuries.

    Set in Italy in the early fifteenth century, it starts out as a love story, with the Duchess marrying beneath her class. However, her two brothers, one cool and corrupt, the other secretly violent and warped, have other ideas. With incredible plot twists along the way, the play ends as an utter tragedy, as the brothers take revenge on her, destroying themselves in the process.

    Dark, complex…and feminist?

    The main themes of The Duchess of Malfi include revenge and corruption. It also looks at the status of women in society - Webster’s use of a strong, virtuous woman as the central character was rare for the time.

    The play was originally written for and performed by The King’s Men, the same company which Shakespeare belonged to. Indeed, this Jacobean classic makes an interesting text to study in comparison to many of Shakespeare’s works.

    The language is poetic, and subtle at times, but infinitely rewarding. Its complex characters are also rewarding to watch, as the play develops towards the highly dramatic climax.

    The Duchess of Malfi is now available to purchase on DVD or as paid downloads on YouTube 

    Current plays available: The Duchess of Malfi, Doctor Faustus, Volpone and The School for Scandal.

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