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English Literature - The Duchess of Malfi Watch

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    Please can someone explain the ways in which women are presented in the Duchess of Malfi and how society influences this.

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    That's pretty vague!
    Basically, there are two main female characters in the play, the Duchess and Julia, and then there's Cariola as well. There are loads of contrasts between the ways in which the Duchess and Julia are presented throughout the play - the Duchess is much more of a sympathetic character, and is described variously as a 'jewel', an 'angel', 'pure', etc. Julia is the stereotypical 'loose woman', and acts as a foil for the Duchess more than anything else. Despite the Duchess having an illegal secret marriage, she is presented as faithful and pure, while Julia is a bit more wanton, as we see from the sexual jokes etc. in her scenes.
    The Duchess is viewed very differently now to how she would have been at the time the play was first written and performed, which is important to remember: now, with the advent of feminism, the Duchess is portrayed sympathetically, because it is deemed 'unfair' for her not to be allowed to marry whomever she wants. At the time, however, second marriages were not very socially acceptable -men liked women to fit into one of the three categories of wife, maiden or whore, so women who were marrying after being widowed were intimidating because they knew about sex, basically. People also thought that the Duchess partly deserved her fate for disobeying her brothers, as women were inferior citizens and should obey their relatives, especially male ones.
    The Duchess is sometimes presented as a good submissive wife to Antonio and a good mother to her children- before her death she talks about making sure that they say their prayers and take their medicine - but at other times she is shown as the dominant one in their relationship, commanding Antonio to marry her for example. She could be described as the 'tragic hero' of the play, being the title character, and before her death and at other points in the play she is presented as very heroic and more 'masculine' than submissive and feminine.
    Julia is also usually a dominant character, but male characters regain their control over both the women by killing them.
    Hope that helps and PM me if you have any more questions!
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    (Original post by NickyJWatkinson)
    Julia is also usually a dominant character, but male characters regain their control over both the women by killing them.
    Please can you tell me a bit more about Julia and how her role as a woman is affected/influenced by society

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    umm.. well she's kind of an 'unusual' woman in that she's not the stereotypical Elizabethan wife that men would want - she clearly cheats on Castruchio ("'tis one of my old suitors", "cuckold", etc.) - and she doesn't obey him, but does what she wants. The fact that the Cardinal kills her could be seen as restoring order, as he is a man who reasserts his dominance by killing her, and, in contrast to the Duchess, Julia's not a very sympathetic character and her death doesn't invite as much pity as the Duchess' - one could say she brought it on herself.
    Sorry, can't think of any more at the moment (I did the exam last year and seem to have misplaced my copy of Malfi) but SparkNotes should have some useful info, and just googling 'Duchess Malfi women' or something will probably help you. If you have any more questions I will do my best to answer them!
 
 
 
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