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ENGLISH LITERATURE: The Duchess of Malfi > ACT 3 > Flashcards

Flashcards in ACT 3 Deck (13):
1

How does the revelation that the Duchess has had more children heighten the tension seen in act 3?

We also find out that the Duchess has had two more children in the intervening time, suggesting that the brothers have not yet found out who the father is. This heightens tension because we know that their rage won't abate - this is similar to Williams' use of structure in Streetcar in the shift in time from the end of scene 4 where we see Stanley overhearing Blanche's monologue and scene 5 where he has yet to act upon his hatred of her. In both plays, therefore, the playwrights use gaps in time and silences to reinforce dramatic tension and dramatic irony, thus reinforcing the vulnerability of the victims of each play's antagonists.

2

What is significant about Ferdinand's calm persona when he suggests the Duchess should marry Count Malateste?

Although Ferdinand seems to be calm, the dramatic irony means that when he suggests his sister should marry `Count Malateste' (a name suggestive of sexual impotency through malfunctioning genitalia) the audience is immediately concerned about his actions. Indeed, it forces the Duchess into open deception (confirming Ferdinand's misogynistic attitude towards women).

3

At what point does the tension immediately rise at the beginning of scene two?

The relaxed domesticity in the first part of the scene (with tender proxemics and actions between Antonio and the Duchess) is a powerful dramatic contrast to the tension that immediately ensues on Ferdinand's entrance.

4

How does the relationship between Antonio and the Duchess contrast with the relationship between Julia and the Cardinal?

The light sexual innuendos between the Duchess and Antonio suggest a warmth and intimacy far removed from the aggression and misogyny seen between Julia and the Cardinal in Act 2, scene 4. (This may well contrast with Streetcar - the clumsy tenderness of Mitch in scene 6 contrasts with Stanley's behaviour towards Stella in scene 3).

5

How is the Duchess presented in the second scene and how does this compare to Blanche in Streetcar?

The Duchess is revealed at her best (and 'worst') here - loving, witty and human as well as courageous, authoritative and resourceful. Yet her marriage has led her into deception and destabilised the court, her trust in Bosola is naïve and her rejection of Cariola's advice is ungrateful. Nonetheless (like Blanche?) her 'worst' is not so bad - she is presented to us as a touching, flawed and believable character with whom we can empathise and for whom we can feel pity and fear (more so than Blanche?)

6

Why is the structure of the third scene significant?

The previous scene ended with the Duchess placing her trust in Bosola, causing great tension for the audience. Here, we encounter the brothers again - a reminder of the gathering forces against the Duchess and her family.

7

What does the Cardinal do at the beginning of scene three that is a prominent moment?

The Cardinal's prospective transformation into a soldier is another ironic reminder of the hypocrisy of the Church. This transition to a war setting also foreshadows the impending bloodshed later in the tragedy.

8

What does Delio reveal about Bosola in scene three?

What Delio reveals about Bosola further emphasises Bosola's complexity. We learn that he was a 'fantastical scholar' - a reminder that he is ambitious and longs for recognition.

9

How does scene three end?

The scene closes with a shift of focus back to Ferdinand and the Cardinal, with Ferdinand still obsessed with the Duchess' 'beauty' and apparent betrayal. His intention to write to her son by her first husband as a step towards restoring social order would have been correct at the time, but it is Antonio's son who is promoted at the end of he play instead.

10

How does scene four present two features of Jacobean dramtaturgy?

The two features are the theory and practice of dramatic composition in the use of the chorus and the dumb show. In dumb shows a key moment of narrative is acted out in mime, usually accompanied by music. Dramatists of the period used them sparingly, but effectively, at points where narrative and action are more important than character and psychology. The device of the chorus, represented here by the Pilgrims, derives from Greek tragedy. The pilgrims recognise the Duchess' faults, her socially unequal marriage and her 'looseness'. Her defiance of social propriety has undermined her authority. But there is also sympathy for her - through the Pilgrims' recognition of her 'cruel' treatment and through the seizing of her lands. (This is possible because Ancona is a papal state (belonging to the Pope) and so the Cardinal uses this to his advantage by informing the Pope of her behaviour and so ensuring her land will be taken from her in the name of the Church). Here, these two features help to convey how isolated and powerless the Duchess and her family are in light of the power of the state and her brothers, ensuring that we pity and fear for her as the tragedy develops.

11

How does the Duchess differ from Antonio in scene four and why is this significant?

Interestingly, whilst Antonio seems to get stronger away from harm, the Duchess gathers strength when things are at their hardest - she knows she is failing, but she remains dignified and determined to resist. An unconvential inversion of typical gender roles that reflect the underlying concept of the play which is the repercussions that can occur as a result of a woman with political power in early seventeenth-century Europe.

12

How can the Duchess and Antonio be compared to stanley and Mitch in scene four?

Like Streetcar, we see a male character (here Antonio, in Streetcar - Mitch) in thrall to someone of higher status (The Duchess and Stanley). The Duchess is presented with humanity, however, unlike Mitch, she is sceptical of Ferdinand's message, loving towards her husband and son and practical in ensuring their escape. She also shows great courage when she is taken. She is presented as critical of human society, suggesting people would be happier if they were free from the confines of societal judgement (another similar concern in Streetcar).

13

Why is it interesting that, in scene four, Bosola's contempt for Antonio's low social status becomes evident?

This is interesting since he, too, comes from 'base' roots. Perhaps his prejudice springs from jealousy and also reflects the value that the Renaissance society placed on class - a point bitterly understood by Bosola.