The Duchess of Malfi

“I am Duchess of Malfi still”: How the Duchess Redefines the Role of a Woman College

In British literature of the 16th and 17th centuries, plots often center on romance, royalty, and the battle for power. With this emphasis come stories that feature the stereotypes of the damsel in distress, the powerless princess, and the haughty heiress. Although women of this era may have been born into nobility and unending wealth, society and expectations of the time period placed limitations on many of the women in such literature. However, this rarely stopped some of the fictional female characters from bending the rules in the best interests of themselves and those they cared for. In the Duchess of Malfi, the main protagonist, the Duchess, steps beyond societal boundaries by destroying the image of herself as a powerless widow and instead recreating herself as a powerful political figure, a mother, and a wife; since society worried about giving women too much power or control, the Duchess took matters into her own hands and showed her ability to make her own decisions while still excelling at her “feminine roles” as a mother and wife. Instead of hiding in the shadows of her husband or other male leaders, the Duchess does it all. Through her actions, she demonstrates an early glimpse of feminism and of “the modern woman”...

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