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Duchess of Malfi (New Mermaids)by John Webster
Synopses & Reviews
One of the most haunting tragedies written in the Jacobean period, The Duchess of Malfi (1614) adapts the true story of a noble Italian widow who secretly marries her steward and has children with him. Her two brothers, enraged by this act of female self-determination, begin to spy on the happy family, entrap them and subject their sister to fiendish psychological torture before they have her strangled. Unlike his sources, Webster does not condemn the Duchess for lasciviousness, nor does he allow her brothers to live. As the introduction to this edition shows, the play is replete with reverberations of earlier tragedies, most prominently Hamlet and Othello, and has few equals as a skilful and stirring rendition of Jacobean dramatic fashions.
Universally considered Webster's masterpiece, this violent play presents a dark and disturbing portrait of the human condition. The play's heroine is imprisoned by her brothers because she bore a commoner's son.
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