John Webster’s play The Duchess of Malfi is historically significant for a number of different reasons, including the following:
- It exemplifies the emergence of Webster as an important successor to Shakespeare as a writer of tragedies in the history of the English theater. Just as Shakespeare might be considered a kind of successor to Marlowe, so might Webster be seen as a kind of successor to Shakespeare.
- It exemplifies how relatively quickly the professional English theater had developed in a few short decades. Professional English theater (and theaters) hadn’t really existed before the final quarter of the sixteenth century. By the time Webster wrote his play, however, theater (and theaters) in London had long since been well established.
- It exemplifies the darkening tone of English tragedy
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