John Webster’s “The Duchess of Malfi” is a voice against the patriarchal authoritative corruption, hypocrisy, oppression and a voice against the dominant power over the woman community. It may be said that it is Webster’s noble attempt to make a society where woman would be placed at their proper place and would be bestowed with equality, liberty and legal rights. The play gives enthusiasm and fuel female voice against oppression. Webster presents a society where women are tormented, tortured to death and the victims invoke death proved better than living. “The Duchess of Malfi” pacts with such universal problems and plights faced by the female community by the ages. It is very much a play for today which is revolutionary in its tone. It is essentially feminist play about a woman who is fighting for her autonomy. It is a document of women’s position in early modern society and also of emancipation of woman. The play exemplifies the legal subordination of one sex to another; social codes and orders which always victimize woman.
Under the veil of court, Webster draws a domestic life and relations between man and woman. The head of the family, either father or in his absence his surrogate, a male, controls the social, political and economic lives of those in his charge- his kins and dependents. Male controlling power over woman is explicitly visible in this drama. The two brothers of Duchess namely Cardinal and Ferdinand, representation of patriarchy, influence and control the life of Duchess. Her brothers’ interference in her life and in her decision of remarriage indicates male authority in domestic life. Women are even unable to plan their life; they could not live their lives at their own consent. Patriarchalism always becomes hindrance in women’s action and way of living. Ferdinand and Cardinal are the pure products of patriarchy hinder Duchess in her decision to remarriage. They terrorize her with fearful and cruel speeches.
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