The Duchess of Malfi

John Webster's Characterization of Bosola as a Machiavellian Prototype 12th Grade

The Duchess of Malfi is a Jacobean revenge tragedy play written by the English dramatist John Webster in 1612–1613. The play begins as a love story, when the Duchess marries beneath her class, and ends as a nightmarish tragedy as her two brothers undertake their revenge, destroying themselves in the process. Jacobean drama continued the trend of stage violence and horror set by Elizabethan tragedy. The complexity of some of the play's characters, particularly Bosola and the Duchess, and Webster's poetic language, have led many critics to consider The Duchess of Malfi among the greatest tragedies of English renaissance drama.

The Duchess of Malfi is known for its critical discourse mainly for Bosola who embodies the typical Jacobean aspect of human behaviour, a motivation strongly influenced by evil. However, the character of Bosola cannot be considered merely on a surface level and has to be understood in the intricacies under which the character functions. The ambiguity is made clear in the very beginning of the play itself where Bosola starkly critiques the corruption of the royal court and the depraved power structure that exists in the court- however, on the other hand he accepts the empty title as the “provisor of the...

Join Now to View Premium Content

GradeSaver provides access to 1335 study guide PDFs and quizzes, 9977 literature essays, 2512 sample college application essays, 474 lesson plans, and ad-free surfing in this premium content, “Members Only” section of the site! Membership includes a 10% discount on all editing orders.

Join Now

Already a member? Log in