The Master Builder

Annotated Bibliography of Criticism

 

Crow, Brian. “Romantic Ambivalence in ‘The Master Builder.’” Studies in Romanticism, 2, (1981): 203–23. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/25600296.
Brian Crow analyzes the works of  Henrik Ibsen and his style of structured realism in his plays. It is evident that his works such as the play The Master Builder are psychologically motivated.  Written in 1894, The Master Builder is a representational balance of fantasy and delusion. The main character Solness’s egotism has distorted his judgment in corresponding to his guilt and fear. He feels guilty because of his relationship with his wife and the unfortunate death of their twins caused indirectly by a house fire. To avoid upsetting his wife he is forced to deal with his guilt in isolation. He exhibits a man in crisis who is unable to share his feelings of the traumatic experience and in addition fears losing his reputation as the Master Builder. He is also convinced he has somehow psychologically attracted women in his life that have caused him to act unscrupulously. In addition, he believes his fear of the next generation “knocking on his door” and being equivocal to his downfall is supported by the arrival of Hilda. He describes these events as situations that he has attracted by stating  “I must have willed it…wished it..desired it. Ibsen use of psychology displays the individual characters quest for imagination and self fulfillment.

—Wynesha James

 

Stokkeland, Jon. “The Poet and the Laws of Life: Narcissism and Object Relatedness in Ibsen’s Late Plays.” American Imago, 73 (2016): 314–17. doi:10.1353/aim.2016.0016.

In this article Stokkeland explores how Mr. and Mrs. Solness in Ibsen’s The Master Builder interact with one another. Stokkeland argues the difference between heroism and madness in both Mr. and Mrs. Solness’s actions, and how their lack of communications contributes to their deteriorating marriage. One of the main points of this section is Stokkeland’s idea that Solness is trying to relieve his guilt towards Mrs. Solness by purposely making her think he’s having an affair and by building her a new home. The author also points out certain areas of the play were the Solness is allowing Aline to falsely accuse him of wrongful actions to relieve his guilt towards her. The author also explains that it is impossible for both characters to heal because of their continuous lack of communication. Solness wants to build a house for Mrs. Solness to rid himself of his guilt, but Stokkeland points out that Mrs. Solness states her lack of interest for the house. There are a few examples of how the couple try to talk about their feelings and the tragic events of their lives, but often the conversations are shut down by either one of them being not willing to talk. Towards the end of the article Stokeland discusses Hilda’s power and importance to Solness. The last paragraph states that Hilda offers Solness a substitute for his guilt by focusing on building a castle in the air. Hilda’s power over Solness is so extreme that he is narcissistically memorialized by the idea of the castle, and he forgets everything else. Stokkeland ends the article by saying that grand projects can be delusions that we can’t rid ourselves of, and Ibsen’s way of capturing this idea is what makes him a great writer.

—Harmony Gilliard

Pelléas et Mélisande

Annotated Bibliography of Criticism

 

Attfield, N. “A Study on Hysteria: Reinterpreting the Heroine of Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande.” The Opera Quarterly 26 (2010) 499-525. Project MUSE, muse.jhu.edu/article/441623.

In this article Nicholas Attfield studies the character Mélisande and claims that she suffers from the medical condition known as hysteria. But this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. By using various scenes from Pelléas and Mélisande, Attfield constructs the argument that Mélisande is in fact a more complicated character than she appears and uses hysteria as an attractive force for personal gain.

Attfield begins his arguments with a collection of reviews in which many of them claim Mélisande to be a one-dimensional character with little to no depth. Attfield disagrees with these claims to a certain extent and states that Mélisande has appeared that way because directors and interpreters over the years have made Mélisande a blonde female stereotype. The blonde stereotype is when a beautiful blonde woman is often the damsel in distress in a film or play and is utterly useless, which is basically the same as saying she’s all looks and no brains. Nowhere in the play does it state Mélisande is blonde, yet she has appeared as a blonde woman in every single theater adaption. Because of this critics give little to no proper analysis of the Mélisande character because they interpret it through this mentality that she’s only there to keep the story moving.

Attfield argues that Mélisande is actually an intelligent woman and claims that Mélisande exerts the men around her for her personal gain. She knows what she has and knows how to work it: “From this perspective, Mélisande is not so much a victim as a source of bewilderment and pervasive influence. She is the character at the heart of the work, who drives Golaud and Pelléas to distraction and still manages, as all critics of the opera agree, to remain an enigma.” (7) There would be no Pelléas and Mélisande without Mélisande, so critics shouldn’t be so quick to dismiss the Mélisande character. Rather, they should respect her for the character she is and not who has been portrayed to be.

—Eduardo Guzman

 

Goehr, Lydia. “Radical Modernism and the Failure of Style: Philosophical Reflections on Maeterlinck-Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande.” Representations 74 (Spring 2001): 55-82. JSTOR. Web. 15 Nov. 2017.

Lydia Goehr’s essay discusses how Claude Debussy’s Pelléas—a music-drama based on Maeterlinck’s play titled Pelléas et Melisande—compares with Richard Wagner’s Tristan. But as the bulk of the essay may have discussed the similarities and differences of the two works—Debussy’s Pelléas being compared more to Wagner’s Tristan due to its success and precedence—the essay uses Maeterlinck’s ambitions for his play and his own philosophies regarding theatre to support the essay. In the beginning of the essay, Goehr introduces the idea of the play—and music-drama—to be all about Mélisande’s beauty and the symbol it represents. Goehr explains that Mélisande’s complex personality could be considered as the catalyst for the “entire tragic action of the work.” Furthermore, she describes Mélisande as having “the legendary double nature of la femme inconnue, of aggressor and victim.” Goehr further expands this idea by stating how Mélisande’s beauty corresponds to Wagner’s Tristan, yet “her beauty means more.” Using an argument by Paul Valéry, ““The beautiful’’ implies effects of unsayability, indescribability, ineffability. And the word itself says nothing…” Goehr expresses how Mélisande’s beauty could have been “more.” She argues that as audience, as humans, “we do not like to be struck dumb” and “this is what Pelléas does. It renders us mute as Mélisande is symbolically mute.” For the rest of the essay, Goehr explores the idea of how the Debussy’s music-drama could have been a “failed masterpiece” and how the word ‘failure’ becomes the “key word of choice for the work’s reception”, partly due to Maeterlinck’s public announcement of “his wish that Debussy’s work be an “immediate and utter failure”” which is fueled by a personal annoyance to Debussy’s choice of actress for Mélisande.

—Kristine Anne Perez

 

Kosove, Joan Pataky. “Maeterlinck’s Pelléas et Mélisande.” French Review 40,(1967): 781-84. MLA International Bibliography, go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?p=MLA&sw=w&u=cuny_ccny&v=2.1&id=GALE%7CN2811942550&it=r&asid=a3c34e04ceb072e7e7f4db7fbfb72af6. Accessed 14 Nov. 2017.

In Joan Pataky Kosove’s analysis of Maeterlinck’s play Pelléas and Mélisande, she describes the main theme of the play as embodying the philosophy that one cannot fight the events that are inevitable in life. She describes this by pointing out that the main characters of the play, “passively await the inevitable consequences of life” (783). The main characters try to delay the inevitable in diverse ways. Golaud fears growing old and that is why he wants the young Mélisande so much, to make him appear younger. Mélisande does not want to grow up and assume the responsibilities of life, hence why she acts like a child. She believes that by growing up she will be subject to abuse and that is why she will not let anyone touch her at the beginning and acts juvenile. The play seems simplistic at first and lacking action, but that is the point. It is revealed that, “the efficacy of action leads to an acceptance of responsibility just as failure to believe in action negates responsibility” (783-84). As hard as the characters try to oppose what is inevitable, growing old and death, they cannot and in turn it leads to their own downfall. They try to control their circumstances, but they can’t combat the forces of life. Maeterlinck is brilliant at relaying this philosophy of life in his work by creating symbolism and not spoon-feeding the reader with his view. It is his subtle tactics that make the piece artistic.

—Colby Levin

The Wild Duck

Annotated Bibliography of Criticism

 

Foster, V. A. “Ibsen’s Tragicomedy: The Wild Duck.” Modern Drama 38 (1995): 287-97. Project MUSE, doi:10.1353/mdr.1995.0004

Verna A. Foster’s article Ibsen’s Tragicomedy: The Wild Duck published by University of Toronto Press discusses the complexity of the tragicomedy genre and how it can have multifaceted variables. It describes The Wild Duck to be the first tragicomedy; the play works through the character of Hjalmar to demonstrate tragic instances while containing a comic flare throughout. Foster goes on to describe Hjalmar as a comical character who experiences tragic events. Foster also adds that the tragicomedy genre can dip in the melodrama territory by displaying comical reactions from the characters even at the direst times. Hedvig’s death for instance, is a melodramatic scene in which Hjalmar says right before the off stage shot is heard “Hedvig, are you willing to give up life for me?” Foster goes on to say that, although Hedvig’s death is in no way comical, it serves shows its absurdity through the initial reactions of the central characters. Hjalmar’s ironic line, Gina mournfully yelling “Oh, my child, my child!,” and Relling’s stoic and emotionless expression compared to Hjalmar’s emotional grief share a comical melodrama that juxtaposes with the tragedy of the situation. Foster concludes that although The Wild Duck is the first modern tragicomedy, it is the bleakest of its genre due to the tragic death of Hedvig. Ibsen weaves comical elements throughout the tragic circumstances of the melodramatic play.

—Donna Ramirez

 

Lorentzen, Jørgen. “Ibsen and Fatherhood.” New Literary History, 37 (2006): 817–36. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/20057980.

Jørgen Lorentzen explores the roles that fathers take and how men are impacted by their relationship to their father in Henrik Ibsen’s The Wild Duck. Showing the underlying theme of fatherhood within the scenes, Lorentzen explains that the father-son relationship between Werle and Gregers mirrors the father-son relationship between Ekdal and Hjalmar because both sons’ lives were affected by their father’s parenting. Lorentzen explains three forms of fatherhood: the patriarchal father, that old Werle represents; the fallen father, that Ekdal exemplifies; and the loving but helpless father, that Hjalmar embodies. Old Werle was willing to do anything that benefitted him, including putting all the blame on Ekdal and abandoning his son for 15 years, with only business being the topic of conversation. By the end of the play, however, he changes his attitude toward his son and the truth, and is open within his new marriage, but his son Gregers ruins a loving family while attempting to restore his father’s morale. Ekdal attempted to kill himself when he lost everything and never restored his masculinity, though his son Hjalmar attempts to restore his honor. Hjalmar likes to be perceived as the father of his home but doesn’t act like it and never takes responsibility. He also is easily influenced by others’ suggestions, which in turn dictates his life, although he does express his love for Hedvig by the end of the play. Lorentzen makes the point that the two families are now extinct and with no heir.

—Genesis Linan

 

Moi, Toril. “‘It Was as If He Meant Something Different from What He Said: All the Time’: Language, Metaphysics, and the Everyday in ‘The Wild Duck.’” New Literary History 33 (2002): 655–86. JSTOR, JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/20057750.

In “It Was As If He Meant Something Different,” Toril Moi goes into the symbolism of the wild duck in Ibsen’s play of that name and what the use of the duck can mean further. Moi points out several critiques of The Wild Duck and just how people felt about the use of the duck throughout. Some critics utterly didn’t enjoy the use of the duck and had a hard time understanding what it could possibly symbolize, or really its importance at all. Francisque Sarcey said “Oh! That wild duck, absolutely nobody ever, no, nobody, neither you who have seen the play…no one will ever know what that wild duck is, neither what it’s doing in the play, nor what it means.” Durbach on the other hand argues that Ibsen was a symbolist and that the duck symbolized Gregers. Moi extends Durbach’s point and interprets the duck to symbolize not only Gregers but humanity. “There are people in this world who plunge to the bottom when they get a couple of shots in the body, and then they never come up again,” emphasizing the strength and will power in the duck for fighting and living, like Old Ekdal did after being released from prison and living with his ruined reputation in the community, as well as Hjalmar as his son in this very “in the know” community. We also see everyone in the Ekdal home strive through their struggles. We see a lot of fight in Gina and Hedvig, especially through their hard work and persistence in making money, staying within a budget and working with whatever they had in their poverty.

—Tanya Morales

 

Reinert, Otto. “Sight Imagery in The Wild Duck” The Journal of English and Germanic Philology 55 (1956): 457-62. Print.

The overall main point about this journal article is about the imagery of sight in The Wilde Duck, but it also demonstrates that blindness is also portrayed throughout this play. Reinert expresses that throughout the play that Old Werle and Hedvig’s sight leads up to Werle’s blindness but it doesn’t stop him from doing what he does. Reinert explains that the characters are blind to see the truth but the characters do not stop from achieving things that they get done. He uses the symbol of blindness to show that you need to see reality for what it is and open your eyes. There are a lot of examples when it comes to the imagery of sight because they don’t want to face the facts that they are going to see all darkness, but also Hedvig, Hjalmar’s daughter, is blind as well and she can’t do everyday things but it just means that she is devoted more to her father and she does not want to let him down. This article shows that just because you have a disability that should not stop you from doing what you want to do in life and achieving your goals. It just makes you want to keep going, stay positive and be happy. He explains in this article that even though you are blind you have senses and could use your imagination to the fullest.

—Tiffany Ahmed

 

 

 

A Blot in the ‘Scutcheon

Annotated Bibliography of Criticism

 

Clarke, George Herbert. “Browning’s ‘A Blot in the ‘Scutcheon’: A Defence.” The Sewanee Review 28 (1920), 213–27. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/27533311.

In his critical analysis, Clarke addresses the criticism of the play from those who found problems with it. He begins his essay on a positive note, citing the better reviews that the play received in its earlier renditions. These include ones from Charles Dickens, Arthur Symons, and Mary Russell Mitford. Through each of their testimonies, Clarke highlights a central reason for the play’s limited success during the middle of the 19th century: the audience loved it. Clarke then moves on to some of the criticism that the play received. The first comes from playwright Henry Jones, generally stating that the character of Mildred is not attached to the play like the rest of the characters (220). He argues that she exists an a different plain of sorts, and that her death, due to those circumstances, is not as emotional. Clarke responds to this criticism stating that Jones watched the play with an Elizabethan lens, meaning he was expecting something more along the lines of Shakespeare, rather than Browning (221-22). Another criticism that he discusses came from W. J. Rolfe and Heloise Hersey. Together, the two point out it is not believable that Mildred is only 14, and being married off by her brother, partly because of the part of England the play is supposedly set in (222). Clarke argues that this is unfair to Browning, since there were many other characters in previous works of literature that were married off at a young age. He also argues that age was not Browning’s primary concern in the character (222-23). Overall, Clarke is coming to the rescue of A Blot In The Scutcheon, something that could have been inferred by the title of the essay.

—Curtis Ashley

 

Crochunis, Thomas C. “Literary Homosociality and the Political Science of the Actor’s Closet.” Victorian Studies 49 (2007): 258–67.

 

In his journal article, titled “Literary Homosociality and the Political Science of the Actor’s Closet”, Thomas C. Crochunis writes about Browning’s play, A Blot in the ‘Scutcheon. Crochunis discusses the tense relationship of Browning and William Macready, who reluctantly produced Browning’s play in 1843. Crochunis discusses Browning’s work within the confines of this strained relationship. He goes on to state that Browning’s work is the story about a man who refuses to forego his preconceived notions about what love ought to look like. Crochunis explains that Browning was aware of the inner conflict that the audience would feel in terms of character development. Browning’s intent was to confuse the audience and leave them questioning the character’s morality in regards to their class. Crochunis admires the reality that the characters like Mildred have to face – choosing love and disregarding expectations for women of her class.

Crochunis also comments on the action in the play. He believes that this highlights Browning’s capability of creating an effective drama. He explains that Browning wanted to create a space for his actors to showcase their “dramaturgical strategies” (260).

—Kate Sanchez

 

Gertrude, Reese. “Robert Browning and A Blot in the ‘Scutcheon.” Modern Language Notes 63 1948): 237–40. http://www.jstor.org/stable/2908564.

In Gertrude Reese’s journal article “Robert Browning and A Blot in the ‘Scutcheon” Gertrude sought to emphasize and explain the truth that Charles Dickens’s opinion of the play indeed reached the public’s eye earlier than has been believed. Robert Browning wrote the play A Blot in the Scutcheon and sent manuscripts to the actor William Charles Macready in 1840. Macready unmistakably overlooked the play before, persuaded by John Forster, ultimately reading it. Macready ensured no interest to perform in it at that time since he did not find the play to be appealing. Forster sent the manuscripts to Charles Dickens, a renowned novelist, who to the contrary thought the play to be pure genius. Dickens believed the play displayed such love, rightly unparalleled, and deemed the play to be a masterpiece of a passionate tragedy. Forster received the letter in 1842 with the admired review of the play and never informed Robert Browning, the author. According to Browning, he never heard of this prized review till thirty years after and, gravely displeased, believed that the public had no access to Dickens’s rich perspective. However, in reality, the public knew of Dickens’s criticism. Two distinguished magazines of the time, one English and one American, mention Dickens’s criticism. Reviews in 1848 and 1849 shed light on the fact that Forster no longer needs be condemned for withholding the letter till 1873. Gertrude speculates that due to the play’s lack of stage success Browning retained the false notion that the public lacked influence as a defense for the play.

—Madelin DeJesus

 

 

 

 

 

Widowers’ Houses

Annotated Bibliography of Criticism

 

Afrozuddin, Mohamad. “The Face Behind the Mask: Selected Plays of George Bernard Shaw.” Shodhganga.com, Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University, 13 Aug. 2015, http://hdl.handle.net/10603/47017.

George Bernard Shaw, once having worked for a firm of estate agents collecting their tiny sums of rent from slum dwellers in Dublin, wrote Widowers’ Houses in correlation to the idea of social realism that emerged in the Europe. Social realism, an artistic movement during the industrial revolution, focused on the everyday conditions of the working class and the poor. Social realists are critical of the social structures that maintain these conditions, as we see in Widowers’ Houses with Mr. Sartorius’ tenements. The essay shows us how Shaw intended to implicate every member of the audience about exploitation of the destitute and homeless as well as the upper classes.

—Rachel Rosario

 

Dukore, B. F. “Widowers’ Houses: A Question of Genre.” Modern Drama 17 (1974): 27-32. Project MUSE, doi:10.1353/mdr.1973.0033

Widowers’ Houses by George Bernard Shaw was very poignant in the period of its initial release and production due to the changing socio-economic climate of the fin de siècle. Despite being published 80 years after the release of the play, this article by Bernard. F. Dukore critically engaged with the question of genre with respect to this play that seamlessly embodies many of the common literary techniques and trends of the end of the Victorian period while also inverting some of the norms. Dukore writes about the borderline melodramatic, romantic, well structured, and comedic elements of this play. Through “blending the humor and the hurt, [this] Shavian tragicomedy reveals the one through the other” according to Dukore (27). Dukore highlights the Shavian aspects of Widowers’ Houses. He exults in the way Shaw refuses to simply write to entertain audiences. “Widowers’ Houses both flatters spectators with an apparently amusing entertainment and at the same time turns them into guilty creatures” (32). Being identified as a “guilty creature” speaks to the way in which audience members were captivated by the social realism and cultural commentary present in Shaw’s work. The realism of Shaw’s characters is what makes his play difficult to classify. Dukore points out in his article that Dr. Henry Trench is perhaps the hero because he is described as a handsome young well-to-do gentleman; however, Sartorius is not an obvious or straightforward foe or obstacle and neither is Blanche. Blanche’s conversation with her father on the status of the poor who live in the tenement houses is also divergent from the formula of popular fin de siècle works; thus, Shaw’s work was a perfect choice for the Independent Theatre Society. Sartorius’s sympathy for the poor but inability to justify offering more humane treatment at an affordable price add complexity and depth to this character and bring the play into the real world. Changing class structures, gender relations, and demographics help to make Widowers’ Houses the tragic romantic comedy that traverses genres.

—Deeandra Williams

 

Morikawa, Hishahi. “Widowers’ Houses: Shaw’s Spin on Das Rheingold.” Shaw: The Annual of Bernard Shaw Studies. Vol. 31. Ed. Michel M. Pharand. Penn State University Press, 2011, 46-58. Print.

Hishashi Morikawa’s essay “Widowers’ Houses: Shaw’s Spin on Das Rheingold” describes the similarities between Richard Wagner’s Das Rheingold and Shaw’s Widowers’ Houses, and the clear influence of Das Rheingold, an allegorical music drama that criticizes capitalism, on Shaw’s depiction of a corrupt nineteenth-century capitalist society. Morikawa explains that the original title of Widowers’ Houses was to be “Rhinegold,” and despite Shaw changing this title, the new ending of Widowers’ Houses was more similar to Das Rheingold than the ending portrayed in his first draft that he worked on with William Archer, still titled Rhinegold. A happy ending was originally planned, in which Trench does not marry into a family that is a part of the corrupt capitalist system. Instead, Shaw ends his play by reestablishing the power dynamic of the rich above the poor, in a way that parallels Das Rheingold. Morikawa cites many of these parallels, both in characters and plot, to Das Rheingold. Both Blanche from Widowers’ Houses and Freia from Das Rheingold are “pawns in business transactions” (48) as opposed to brides in marriage for true love. Another general parallel mentioned is that no character pursues justice for the wrongs incurred. Morikawa then draws more direct parallels, naming the exact characters from Das Rheingold that these characters in Widowers’ Houses would be. Sartorius is Alberich, Lickcheese is Mime, Trench and Cokane are “ lesser gods” (53), and Sartorius and Lickcheese can also be paralleled to Wotan and Loge respectively.

Morikawa does concede some differences between these characters and notes that Shaw does deviate slightly from the plot of Das Rheingold at the end of the play. While Blanche and Freia may be similar in their position as business transactions in the world of marriage, Blanche actively pursues what she wants, while Freia is more passive. Morikawa also finds that Blanche is not quite the developed “New Woman” character that she could be (55). Finally, in plot structure, Widowers’ Houses does not predict the “downfall of the gods” (56) that Das Rheingold does, despite sharing the similarity that the ending benefits the upper class characters onstage, but not the poorer characters offstage. Morikawa concludes his essay about the similarities and influence of Das Rheingold on Widowers’ Houses by offering that despite this, Shaw’s first work isn’t the “mature” (57) play his later works turn out to be. Morikawa says, “It is a good, realistic Socialist play, but not yet a fully Shavian play in which one or more characters, full of vitality or the Life Force, clash with each other or with the System.” (57)

—Aurora Soriano

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Duchess of Malfi

Annotated Bibliography of Criticism

 

Callaghan, Dympna. “The Duchess of Malfi and Renaissance Women.” 31 March 2017.

https://www.bl.uk/shakespeare/articles/the-duchess-of-malfi-and-renaissance-women

The author of this article wanted to illuminate the fact that the Duchess was once the protagonist of the play but was met with tragedy and her demise in the end of act four. From reading the article and the play itself it seems like it was forbidden for any woman to remarry. From the article it sounds like men felt that women were not capable of making decisions. The Duchess, despite her status in the patriarchy, made decisions on her own without consulting with her brothers. The Duchess decides to marry someone who wasn’t on the same social status as her. She ended up choosing Antonio who was on a lower social status. Although society would not condone her actions the Duchess showed she was capable of making decisions on her own and she also showed that she was not inferior like everybody expected her to be. During this time period widowed women were expected to stay unmarried or consult with their family before thinking about remarrying.The males, the antagonists of the play, believe that women are immoral and weak-minded and this shows as the Duchess’s own brothers played mind games by tricking the Duchess into believing that her family was dead when they really weren’t. As a result of tricking the Duchess she no longer cared about anything or her life because she felt like everything was gone that she cared about. Her brothers again try to prove their point that women were weak minded.

—Louie Lewis

 

Jankowski, Theodora A. “Defining/Confining the Duchess: Negotiating the Female Body in John Webster’s ‘The Duchess of Malfi.’” Studies in Philology 87 (1990): 221–45. JSTOR, JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/4174360.

Theodora A. Jankowski’s thesis regarding “The Duchess of Malfi” consists of tackling three concepts that the play develops: the concept of politics with the portrayal of the Duchess as a public figure, the portrayal of the Duchess’s brothers throughout the play, and the portrayal of the Duchess as a new woman in her secret marriage (224). The first concept Jankowski writes about describes the necessity of the Duchess’s role as a woman in an authoritative position. This position of power brings into question all of her actions as describe throughout the play, which includes her choices to have a secret marriage, have multiple children, and display said children without disclosing her marriage, thus portraying her as an authoritative woman who has sinned by having multiple children out of wedlock. Addressing the second concept of the play, Jankowski mentions the portrayal of Ferdinand and The Cardinal and their interpreted intentions throughout the play before their true intentions are revealed. For example, Jankowski points out the interpretation of whether they wished to protect their sister, the widow, in a private manner by forbidding her to remarry versus the control they attempted to impose upon her as a public figure (229). This concept is concluded once it is revealed that the Duchess’s brothers were after her fortune. The last concept Jankowski writes about addresses her portrayal as a new woman once she secretly marries Antonio. While Antonio is noble and trustworthy, he is not up to the social class standards that would usually be suited to marry royalty such as the Duchess. By doing so, the portrayal of the Duchess’s virtuousness remains intact, as she has chosen to marry because of compassion as opposed to wealth and stature (232-33).

—Derrick Martinez

 

“An introduction to The Duchess of Malfi.” The British Library, The British Library, 13 Apr. 2017, www.bl.uk/shakespeare/articles/an-introduction-to-the-duchess-of-malfi.

The reception of The Duchess of Malfi over the last 200 years is interesting especially in the modern setting because of the debate over the status of the tragedy. It was initially performed in 1614 and was adapted many times throughout the years. The nature of the play that makes it one that is great is that it can have different interpretations throughout different time periods; it can be viewed as a serious play or it can be viewed as a play that is a “gory melodrama.” This play’s ability to portray a chaotic world makes it relatable and timeless. The paradox of the play that is particularly interesting is that in spite of painting a vivid picture of chaos within the play, the play at the same time manages to “resist” the chaos by forming its own art. The characters are all strung together with a complex set of motifs. This play could also be based upon actual events, there was a real-life duchess of Amalfi who was widowed at the age of 19. The play also has great roles that touch upon the complexity of morals. The duchess herself is a unique character who is “unorthodox” and “courageous,” some may even view her as being overly sexual for showing her love for Antonio. Bosola isn’t just a murderer but a man who can be in some ways viewed as a philosopher. Conclusively The Duchess Of Malfi is a play that portrays the uncertainty of human nature in a manner that requires one to take it seriously.

—Suriya Ahmed