The Duchess of Malfi

Forbidden Tastes are the Sweetest: Motivations and Desires 12th Grade

John Webster explores the attraction of that which is forbidden in a plethora of ways. The nature of the attraction, and the powers that determine that which is forbidden vary throughout. However, the theme remains manifest in all the instances discussed in this essay. It is clear that a strong comparison can be drawn between ‘The Duchess of Malfi’ and John Milton’s ‘Paradise Lost’ concerning the theme of attraction to the forbidden.

One of the first allusions to the theme of attraction to the condemned is that of Bosola discussing the corrupted and morally repulsive nature of Ferdinand and the Cardinal. He states that “He and his brother are like plum-trees that grow crooked over standing pools; they are rich, and o’erladen with fruit, but none but crows, pies, and caterpillars feed on them.” This demonstrates how he is aware that their actions within the court are utterly reprehensible and therefore arguably morally forbidden. However, later in his discourse he mentions how he “would hang on their ears like a horse-leech till I were full, and then drop off.” Despite being aware of the moral bankruptcy of the brothers, he is prepared to submit himself to an internally self-destructive moral conundrum in the pursuit of monetary...

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