The Duchess of Malfi

Theatrical devices

The play makes use of various theatrical devices, some of them derived from Senecan Tragedy which includes violence and bloodshed on the stage. Act III, Scene IV is a mime scene, in which a song is sung in honour of the Cardinal, who gives up his robes and invests himself with the attire of a soldier, and then performs the act of banishing the Duchess. The whole scene is commented upon by two pilgrims, who condemn the harsh behaviour of the Cardinal toward the Duchess. That the scene is set against the backdrop of the Shrine of Our Lady of Loretto, a religious place, adds to its sharp distinction between good and evil, justice and injustice.

Act V, Scene iii, features an important theatrical device, echo, which seems to emanate from the grave of the Duchess, in her voice. In its totality, it reads: "Deadly accent. A thing of sorrow. That suits it best. Ay, wife's voice. Be mindful of thy safety. O fly your fate. Thou art a dead thing. Never see her more." The echo repeats the last words of what Antonio and Delio speak, but is selective. It adds to the sense of the inevitability of Antonio's death, while highlighting the role of fate.

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