The Duchess of Malfi, whose name is Giovanna (also known as Joanne or Jane), is one of the central characters in John Webster’s “The Duchess of Malfi.” She is a complex and multifaceted character with several distinctive traits and qualities:
Courage and Independence: The Duchess is a strong and independent woman. She defies the social norms and expectations of her time by choosing to marry Antonio, her steward, despite her brothers’ disapproval. This decision demonstrates her courage and determination to follow her heart and desires.
Sensuality and Passion: The Duchess is a sensual and passionate character. She revels in her love for Antonio and is not afraid to express her desires and emotions. Her passionate nature is one of the reasons her brothers disapprove of her marriage, as they view it as inappropriate for a woman of her status.
Maternal Love: The Duchess is a devoted mother to her children, whom she loves dearly. Her love for her children, especially her son, becomes a central theme of the play. She is willing to go to great lengths to protect them from the machinations and treachery of her brothers.
Tragic Heroine: The Duchess can be seen as a tragic heroine. Her noble qualities, including her love, courage, and integrity, ultimately lead to her downfall. Her brothers, the Cardinal and Ferdinand, conspire to imprison and ultimately murder her in their quest to maintain control over her wealth and power.
Resilience: Throughout the play, the Duchess displays remarkable resilience in the face of adversity. Even as she is unjustly imprisoned and subjected to psychological torment, she maintains her dignity and strength. Her resilience makes her a sympathetic character, and her suffering is a central element of the play’s tragedy.
Symbol of Defiance: The Duchess represents defiance against the oppressive patriarchy and the abuse of power. Her choice to marry for love and her resistance to her brothers’ attempts to control her life symbolize a challenge to the societal norms of her time.
Tragic Fate: The Duchess meets a tragic end, which is a defining characteristic of her role as a tragic heroine. Her brothers’ conspiracy results in her murder, along with her husband, Antonio, and their children. Her death is a culmination of the play’s themes of corruption, betrayal, and the abuse of power.
The Duchess of Malfi is a complex and compelling character in the play, embodying qualities of courage, passion, maternal love, and resilience. Her tragic fate and the injustices she faces underscore the themes of power and corruption that run throughout the play.