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Flashcards in Malfi Context Deck (23):


James I persecuted Catholics & wanted to purify his parliament.
The Gunpowder plot caused the Catholic faith to be dragged further into disrepute.
The Duchess gives priority to an idea of marriage as a private contract outside the direct control of ecclesiastical authorities. The Duchess & Antonio subvert & by-pass religion.
Religion is used by Julia as an excuse to have an affair.
Catholics were told to use equivocation in court.


Martin Luther

95 Theses were to spark the Protestant Reformation.
Luther penned a document attacking the Catholic Church’s corrupt practices.
His writing changed the course of religious history.


French & Italian Courts

The French King allowed critical advisors.
Roman Catholic Italy = sophisticated corruption.
Juxtaposition of the French Court & Italy is exemplified by Ferdinand & the Cardinal whom epitomise corruption & evil.
Cardinal’s bribery (in order to become Pope) hints at the corruption in the Catholic Church.
Abuse of Power.


Aristotle's Theory of Tragedy

Anagnorisis = Ferdinand’s discovery of the marriage.
Peripetia = Bosola’s revenge of the Duchess.
Hamartia = The Duchess’ marriage & trust in Antonio.
Nemesis = Duchess had too much good (complete family with hierarchical standing intact).


John Lyly's Women in the Moon

Misogynistic allusion to another text.
Hints at the fact that women are crazy, inconstant & fickle.
Subsequently illustrates how negatively women were perceived.


Jerome as a Penitent

Stripping away all the things that would make your life comfortable.



Form of courtly entertainment.
Displays of Kingly power & authority.


Piers Plowman

Medieval test, an allegory for society.
Written as a dream poem.
Plowman vaguely represents Jesus.
Contrition forgets to weep.
Conscience must go on a pilgrimage – The Duchess wants to go on a pilgrimage in order to escape.
Debased & Devalued intentions.


The Prince - Machiavelli

Ruthless leadership.
Reflects the totally immoral character of the Cardinal.


Jacobean Patriarchal Society

A Jacobean audience would’ve seen widows as lustful as they already know what a man is. Remarriage was frowned upon, as women were expected to remain faithful to their dead first husbands.
They despised Machiavelli for his lack of principles.


The Lord of Misrule

Represents Ferdinand.
Used for inverting the normal hierarchy in the spirit of foolery, festive license & anarchy.


The Winter's Tale

Ferdinand’s misogyny manifests into madness.


2018 RSC Production

The Cardinal is seen physically straddling Julia, attempting to rape her.


Marquis de Sade

French Writer/Philosopher who influenced the ‘theatre of cruelty’, which aimed to shock the senses of its audience.
The Duchess of Malfi finds its echo in The Marquis de Sade, to show the extent of theatrical representation.



Women were challenging the Patriarchy.
Men assumed a dominant position in society; which was reflected in Jacobean theatrical plays.
Women lived as sub-ordinates.


Richard II

Acts as a parallel to the Duchess.
Loss of power.
Suggests that Kingship is empty.
Kingship debate & Queen’s 2 bodies.
Idea of the world as a prison.
Richard II = a link between Malfi & Chaucer.


The Blackfriars

Indoor Theatre.
Lit by candle lights.
Designed for spectacle – round.


Marie Axton

Gives rise to a contrast between the public & private divide.
Hints at the Duchess’ desire to be perceived as normal. (she’s subject to scrutiny due to her aristocracy) - & has to use equivocation.


The Malcontent - John Marston

Early Jacobean stage play.
Performed in the Blackfriars Theatre.
Bosola = The Malcontent. He acts as a tool of villainy & persecution.
Bosola is torn between an acute awareness of the social and moral deficiencies of the patronage system and a longing for social advancement that binds him to it.



Webster’s intention for his masque.
Used to alert his audience to the parodies of a Jacobean Court wedding masque & of a Charivari.


Ars Moriendi

The Art of Dying - Links to the Duchess’ artistic death.


Courtly Love

Love = Suffering.
Cardinal’s upset lured Julia in.
Corrupt courtly love.
The fickle stereotype of a wife is successfully controlled by her husband.
Cardinal makes the courtly images base & obscene.
Troilus & Criseyde acts as a segue between Malfi & Merchant as it shows that men can’t be responsible for their own suffering. Status which is conferred on women = God like.


Social Status

It’s not gender that victimises women, it’s social status.
The Duchess marries Antonio – whose of much lower social class.
Stereotypically, men propose. However, as the Duchess is of a higher social class, she proposes – she’s the eponymous character.