The Duchess of Malfi

Flying of Fate: the Echoes of “The Duchess of Malfi”

The main themes of “The Duchess of Malfi” are expertly demonstrated by Webster throughout many of the play’s intriguing scenes and dialogues. One particular instance occurs in the famous echo scene (5.3.1-55) between Antonio and Delio. As they are discussing the nature of fate in the lives of men, their words are met with a ghostly echo, presumably the voice of the Duchess’ from beyond the grave. The echo, a definitively gothic element, is important in exploring the limitations of death and the power of fate as themes in this classic tragic tale.

The idea of female power and its limitations is uniquely crafted by Webster in the character of The Duchess. In life, she is depicted as a definite figure of female heroism and a bold and fearless woman of power. Due to the many stigmas surrounding her behavior as a female, the Duchess is consequently met with scorn and is faced with limitations upon her power to make decisions. These hindrances, however, often do not deter her from giving up her independence or bold spirit. The famous line “I am Duchess of Malfi still” (4.2.134) relays the power, duty, and above all, heroism the Duchess possesses even at the brink of death.

The echo scene marks a complete shift in the Duchess’s...

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