Tragedy and Trauerspiel: John Webster's "The Duchess of Malfi" - Université Paris Nanterre Access content directly
Journal Articles Connotations : a journal for critical Year : 2022

Tragedy and Trauerspiel: John Webster's "The Duchess of Malfi"


Webster’s "Duchess of Malfi" has received over time a variety of generic labels ranging from tragedy to anti-tragedy and from tragicomedy to satire. The tragic journeys of the Duchess and Bosola are actually traceable to conflicting generic backgrounds ingeniously brought together. Bosola is a classically tragic figure divided between conflicting loyalties who undergoes a moral transformation and a dramatic conversion from hitman to avenger after acknowledging his mistakes. The stoic determination and resistance of the Duchess point to the heroic martyr described by Benjamin in his "Ursprung des deutschen Trauerspiels". Envisaged historically, Webster’s counterpoint of tragedy and Trauerspiel is evidence both of the crisis of revenge drama detected by Fredson Bowers and of the generic readjustments that were taking place on the Jacobean stage. As an instance of generic readjustments, "Malfi" reflects the historical moment when drama began addressing the social emergence of bourgeois figures, increasingly shifting from male, heroic subjects to female, domestic ones. As a response to the generic crisis of revenge drama, the play challenges the system of norms supporting tragic discourse, inviting instead a recognition of the Duchess as the martyr and her brothers as the tyrants of Trauerspiel.
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hal-04069948 , version 1 (14-04-2023)


  • HAL Id : hal-04069948 , version 1


Anny Crunelle Vanrigh. Tragedy and Trauerspiel: John Webster's "The Duchess of Malfi". Connotations : a journal for critical, 2022, 31, 160-189 ⟨hal-04069948⟩
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