The Presentation of love in The Duchess of Malfi
The Duchess of Malfi has a whole host of characters showing love in very different ways, some traditional and some controversial. Literature through the ages has presented love in many different forms; from friendship to lust or platonic love to romance. Be it love for another person, love for pleasure or love for power; love can be seen as an origin for a multitude of emotions and motivations. It is not uncommon in literature to show how love can be ultimately destructive. Ferdinand is a character with presumed incestuous desires and the jealousy of his sister's unknown lover drives him to murder.
However he only characters who appear to encapsulate any kind of true love are foremost Antonio and the Duchess, whose relationship is maintained for a substantial period before it is saddened by the corruption of their surroundings. The representation of love in The Duchess of Malfi begins with the Duchess’s courtship of and marriage to her steward Antonio. This is also a major dramatic climax, the event which drives the action of the rest of the play. Yet it does not take place until the end of Act 1. Indeed, the Duchess’s wooing of Antonio does not even begin until we are 365 lines into the play “Oh, you are an upright treasurer: but you mistook”. Webster is providing us with a dramatic context against which to respond to his representation of love and marriage. The Duchess goes against society’s norms of femininity and social conventions in the final episode of Act 1, as she takes the active role in the marriage, courting and proposing marriage to Antonio. She is considerably bolder than Desdemona, who only ‘hints’ to Othello that she would welcome his courtship. The Duchess speaks of her own sexuality with admirable common sense, saying to Antonio: ‘this is flesh and blood, sir, / ’Tis not the figure cut in alabaster / Kneels at my husband’s tomb’ showing their openness of their relationship. This is...
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