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The Purpose Of Act One (Duchess Of Malfi)

761 words - 4 pages

Sophie Bryan
It has been argued both that Act One is chaotic and pointless, and that it is a clever introduction to the play. How far do you agree?

The role of Act One of the Duchess of Malfi is argued to have many different functions, as the introduction to the play. It introduces the audience to the characters, and gives them the opportunity for formulate their own opinions. It has also been argued that the opening act creates tensions and a sense of foreboding, through the use of foreshadowing.
The opening act gives the audience the opportunity to create their own opinions of the main characters, aided by Antonio who acts as a honest narrator to the audience. Webster uses Antonio as ...view middle of the document...

..' (174-180). The difference in tone used when describing the Duchess, compared to her brothers, suggests that Antonio thinks highly of her, and as a good person. 'Noble' has connotations of honor and charity, implying that the Duchess is a welcoming and gracious character. On the contrary, religious imagery is used to describe the Cardinal as the 'devil'. This infers that the Cardinal is a wicked and deceitful man, strikingly different to his 'noble' sister. Antonio goes on to inform the audience that 'You never fixed your eye on three fair medals/ Cast in one figure, of so different temper' (181-182). This solidifies the concept that the Duchess and her brothers are extremely different, suggesting that this is an idea that Webster wants to highlight to the audience very early in the play.

However, it has also been argued that the function of Act One is to create a sense of foreboding for the audience, through the use of foreshadowing. Once again, Antonio is used to relay information to the audience, concerning one of the main characters of the play, in this case, Bosola. Antonio narrates ' 'Tis great pity/ He should be thus neglected. I have heard/ He's very...

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