The Duchess of Malfi

Issues of Wealth and Agency in 'The Duchess of Malfi' and 'Oroonoko' College

Issues of wealth are addressed as central concerns of the texts The Duchess of Malfi (Webster, 2012) and Oroonoko; Or, The Royal Slave (Behn, 2012). The exploration of character portrayal within different social standings and how the implementation of class highlights a definitive division revolving primarily around this idea of wealth. The main emphasis of wealth regarding Webster’s The Duchess of Malfi (2012) is the relationship between the Duchess and Antonio, particularly Antonio’s social inferiority compared to the Duchess herself, and her adamance to keep their marriage a secret. However, Oroonoko is premised on an ironic interplay between the acquisition of wealth and the pursuit of freedom.

Throughout the entire play, the Duchess is a testament to the subversion of not only patriarchal authority, but also the traditional roles of female and male courtship that the audiences in the 16th century would have expected to witness; ergo, she defies the status her late husband’s wealth ensured to pursue her own needs and desires. For example, in Act 1, Scene 3, Webster utilises the technique of a metaphor within the Duchess’s language to highlight how she attempts to deconstruct the imagery of patriarchy differently to how...

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