The character of the Duchess in John Webster‘s (1578-1632) play “The Duchess of Malfi” is often portrayed as a sympathetic figure whose personality is glorified through the untold sufferings she endures. Here are some points for the discussion on how the Duchess’s personality is glorified through her sufferings.
Defiance against Patriarchal Norms:
The Duchess defies the societal norms of her time, which dictated that widows should not remarry without the consent of their male relatives. Her rebellion against these patriarchal norms is portrayed as a brave and righteous act, as she insists on her right to choose her own husband based on love, rather than succumbing to the pressures of her brothers or society. This defiance is glorified, presenting the Duchess as a feminist symbol and a trailblazer for female agency.
More Notes: The Duchess of Malfi
Her love for her children:
The Duchess’s deep love for her children is evident throughout the play. Despite knowing that her decision to marry Antonio may put her children’s lives in danger, she still chooses to go ahead with the marriage, demonstrating her selflessness and devotion to her family.
Despite facing numerous challenges and adversities, the Duchess is depicted as a resilient and courageous character. She stands up against her oppressive brothers, the Cardinal and Ferdinand, who try to control her and restrict her freedom to remarry. Her unwavering determination to pursue her own desires and live life on her own terms is glorified, showcasing her strength of character.
The Duchess is shown to be a compassionate and empathetic character, who is deeply concerned about the welfare of her subjects. She uses her power and influence to help those in need and is shown to be a caring and just ruler.
Her courage in the face of death:
Even as the Duchess is being led to her execution, she remains dignified and composed. She accepts her fate with courage and grace, refusing to show any signs of fear or weakness.
The play portrays the Duchess as a strong, independent, and compassionate woman, who is willing to stand up for what she believes in, even if it means going against the norms of her time. Her sufferings serve to highlight her admirable personality traits and emphasize her strength and resilience in the face of adversity.