What are the similarities between The Duchess of Malfi and Macbeth?

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The main similarity between The Duchess of Malfi and Macbeth is that they are both very bloody plays that deal with the catastrophic consequences of ambition.

Macbeth comes to grief due to his overweening ambition. Had he remained satisfied with the numerous honors showered on him by a grateful King...

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The main similarity between The Duchess of Malfi and Macbeth is that they are both very bloody plays that deal with the catastrophic consequences of ambition.

Macbeth comes to grief due to his overweening ambition. Had he remained satisfied with the numerous honors showered on him by a grateful King Duncan, then all would've been well. But once the seed of ambition is planted in his soul, whole new vistas open up to him, and he sees himself as the undisputed King of Scotland.

In order to achieve this goal, he stoops to regicide, the killing of a king, the most serious act of homicide in Shakespeare's day. Once ensconced on the Scottish throne, Macbeth turns into a tyrant, ready and willing to wipe out anyone he perceives as a threat, including Macduff's family. In due course, Macbeth's ambition will come back to haunt him and he will pay for it by losing his head—quite literally—after Macduff kills him in a duel.

Ambition also rears its ugly head in The Duchess of Malfi. In this play, the title character's wicked brothers, the Cardinal and Duke Ferdinand, are keen to ensure that the Duchess doesn't marry again, as they want to get their greedy hands on her title and estates.

When they find out that she has indeed been married, they swing into action and banish the Duchess, her husband, Antonio, and their children. Not content with sending the Duchess and her family into exile, Duke Ferdinand arranges for them to be murdered. In the event, the Duchess and her younger children are strangled to death.

As with Macbeth, the dangers of overriding political ambition are laid bare. And just as Macbeth and his wife end up dying as a direct result of their ambition, so too do the Duchess of Malfi's evil brothers.

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