The Duchess of Malfi

Britland (Editor), K. The Duchess of Malfi. Bloomsbury, 2020.

Webster’s play is a classroom favorite, with its heroine, the Duchess of Malfi, standing out as one of the most compelling female characters on the early modern stage. This macabre masterpiece, like Shakespeare’s Hamlet, muses on the nature of the human condition, asking what, if anything, differentiates humankind from beasts; what drives some people to murder; and what comes after death. As in Hamlet, the dramatic strength of the play’s protagonist overwhelms the action; in this case, however, that protagonist is a powerful and compelling woman.