The Duchess of Malfi Questions and Answers
by John Webster

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Is The Duchess of Malfi a revenge tragedy?

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Maud Scarbrough eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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A revenge tragedy, made popular in Elizabethan and Jacobean Britain, typically tells the story of a protagonist seeking revenge against the murderous actions of an antagonist. Shakespeare's Hamlet is probably seen as the most typical revenge tragedy of those times and the play that popularized many of the genre's conventions, including soliloquies, madness, action-packed scenes, bloody murders, important noble figures, suicide, and the use of disguise.

The Duchess of Malfi is also seen as a revenge tragedy, just not a typical one.

It is a revenge tragedy because, firstly, it features a character, Bosola, who seeks revenge for the murders of the play's most noble characters. Secondly, it features some of the genre's most typical characteristics: soliloquies, sensational murders, madness, and Machiavellian characters.

Soliloquies

Bosola is the only character in the play who gives the audience insight into his true state of mind by speaking his thoughts aloud. For example, at the end of act 4, he...

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