Breakfast illustration of bacon, eggs, and coffee with the silhouetted images of the Duchess' evil brothers, one on each side

The Duchess of Malfi

by John Webster

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Act 5, Scene 1 Summary and Analysis

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Antonio and Delio, who had opened the play, open the fifth act as well, but they are now in Milan, which serves as the setting for the entire act. Delio informs Antonio that the marquis of Pescara has seized Antonio’s lands and distributed them to the marquis’s own relatives. Delio sees the marquis and asks to be given some of Antonio’s land, but his request is rejected. The marquis instead gives Julia some of the land and the citadel of Saint Bennet, to Antonio’s dismay. The marquis justifies his actions by saying since the cardinal has told him to seize Antonio’s lands, they are “a gratification only due to a strumpet: for it is injustice.” The marquis leaves after noting that a sick Ferdinand has arrived in Milan. Antonio proclaims to Delio his plan to visit the cardinal’s chambers around midnight to seek an end, whether good or bad, to his travails.


Pescara, who not only enjoys royal status but has a “noble nature” as well, sees clearly that the lands taken from Antonio by disreputable means should be given to those who are disreputable. So, he advises Delio “to ask noble things of me, and you shall find I’ll be a noble giver.” Antonio, willing to seek a clear resolution of his fate and preferring that clarity to the murk he currently lives in, resolves to visit the cardinal privately and hopes to spark the cardinal’s genuine, gentle sentiments.

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Act 4, Scene 2 Summary and Analysis


Act 5, Scene 2 Summary and Analysis