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Who Is the Most Courageous Character in the Duchess of Malfi?

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Who is the most courageous character in the play? Defend your choice.

The most courageous character in the Duchess of Malfi is the Duchess as she defies the Jacobean expectations and ideologies of women being mentally and physically weak. The Duchess’ courageousness is presented through her interactions with the male characters in the play, Webster also Cariola to emphasize and contrast the Duchess’ noble manors.

Webster presents the Duchess as powerful through her interactions with her brother, Ferdinand and the Cardinal. The Duchess states that she “winked and chose a husband”, this demonstrates her valiant behaviour, as she was warned by her brothers that “such wedding may more properly be said/ To be executed than celebrated.” The Duchess’ disregard of Ferdinands’ warning is a clear display of her courageous behaviour, as she challenges the male authority. During the time of which the play was set, it was expected of women to obey male authority, however, the Duchess refuses to give into social pressure and disobeys her brothers.

Furthermore, the Duchess’ courageous nature is exemplified through her dialogues with Antonio, her husband. In the Jacobean era it was expected of men to be wooing the women, however the Duchess also challenges this as she proposes to Antonio as “[she puts her ring upon his finger]”, this highlights the Duchess’ courageous behaviour as she does not give into social expectations.

The Duchess’ brave and noble behaviour is highlighted during her death scene. Bosola, who is a misogynistic malcontent, describes the Duchess has been acting “nobly”, this verb praise evidently shows that Bosola is impressed with the Duchess’ behaviour and reinforces that she is a brave character as she is unfazed and calm despite the fact she is being punished to death. Furthermore, the Duchess supporting the fact that she is not intimidated by death as she commands “come violent death”, the imperative verb “come” demonstrates her acceptance of death. In contrast, Cariola is defiant and states that “I am not prepared for’t!/ I will not die”. Webster uses Cariola, who behaves hysterically upon her death sentence, to further illustrate the Duchess as a strong character. The Duchess being able to stay calm and noble during and prior to her death scene shows she is bold.

In conclusion, the Duchess is the most courageous character as she constantly challenges the social expectations of women.



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