Bosola as a Machiavellian character or villain in The Duchess of Malfi


In the famous play “The Duchess of Malfi” by John Webster (1580-1632), the character of Daniel de Bosola is so much complicated and complex among all of the characters. In other words, he works as a Machiavellian villain in this drama. He spread his evil spell among other characters to begin quarrel among them.

More Notes: The Duchess of Malfi

Villainous tool:

In the play, Bosola acts as a tool-kit of Ferdinand and Cardinal. The two brothers hired him as a spy in the guise of the care-taker of the horses. But actual reason behind hiring Bosola is to keep eyes on the Duchess to prevent her from second marriage. Because, the Royal family is not allowed to have second marriage. As Ferdinand says to the Duchess-

You live in a rank pasture, here, the court;

There is a kind of honeydew thats deadly;

It will poison your fame; look to it: be not cunning

Meanwhile, he become succeed to find out that the Duchess had a secret marriage with Antonio and give birth three children. He also reveals the secret of the Duchess by betraying her.


Bosola is called displeasing-meditator for some suspicious deeds he did for Cardinal. The malcontent may be a certain character sort that develops in Jacobean exact retribution catastrophe. A malcontent can be recognized by the number of characteristics he has. He may be unhappy individual, offended, humorous and melancholic. Like one of the key characters of this play, Bosola can effectively said to have these features. The introduction of Bosola in the first scene of the play certainly does concur with the description of the malcontent. Antonio addresses him as a “black malcontent” whose “foul melancholy will poison all his goodness.”

A realist:

Bosola considers himself as a realist, self-aware with a genuine evaluation of his nature and condition, but actually he demonstrates to be more of a frustrated visionary. Even though he plays the faithful servant in murdering for the brothers, neither of them shows any gratitude towards him.

An avenger:

Bosola is a perfect avenger of this play. He kills the Duchess by choking her throat as her brothers ordered him. He says about the sufferings of the Duchess as-

Shes sad as one long usd to it, and she seems

Rather to welcome the end of misery

Then shun it; a behavior so noble

As gives a majesty to adversity.

But instantly, after the refusal of his reward, he vows to take revenge on the brothers. Though he enters to Cardinal’s to kill him, but accidently he kills Antonio. But Bosola does not stop. When Bosola finds Cardinal, he tells him that he has come to kill him. Meanwhile, he stabs him. He cries out for help. Hearing his cry, Ferdinand enters the room. He gives mortal wounds both of them and in return Bosola stabs him-

Whether we fall by ambition, blood or lust,

Like diamonds, we are cut with our own dust.”

Slightly better than bad:

In spite of having a number of bad sides, Bosola has some goodness in him. When he observes the terrible death of the Duchess, his goodness awakes in him. He killed the two brothers to take revenge because the death of the duthchess gives him extreme blow. He wanted to save Antonio’s life, but he accidently killed him. The following lines expresses his goodness in him-

O, this gloomy world!

In what a shadow, or deep pit of darkness,

Doth womanish and fearful mankind live?”


In conclusion, we can say that the character of Bosola is a Machiavellian villain, at a time a slight Goodman too. But, if he had not been refused to gold, he would not be changed. In this way he is a Machiavellian character with a distinction.

Rashedul Islam
Rashedul Islam

Hi, This is Rashedul. Researcher and lecturer of English literature and Linguistics.

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