The Duchess of Malfi

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The Duchess of Malfi

Webster’s Tragedy of Blood

sous la direction de Pascale Drouet et William C. Carroll

This collection of essays represents new scholarly work on John Webster’s great tragedy, The Duchess of Malfi. The critical methodologies range from historical contexts to feminist read- ings of agency and identity, to social analyses of Jacobean culture. The play has rightly taken its place as one of the greatest of the early modern period, and the Duchess is now seen as one of the great tragic figures of the time—and along with Shakespeare’s Cleopatra, one of the most powerful representations of a strong female character in control of her own sexuality and her own destiny. The play also offers an unusual range of villainous characters, from the Duchess’s two brothers—the Machiavellian Cardinal and the deranged Ferdinand—to Bosola, who at first seems to be a conventional Vice-like villain. Bosola commits terrible acts in the play, and though he ultimately surrenders to his conscience and tries to do good, this trans- formation comes too late, and the final set of murders takes place in darkness—an apt symbol of the play’s disturbing moral universe.

Professor of Early Modern British Literature at the University of Poitiers, Pascale Drouet is the author of Le Vagabond dans l’Angleterre de Shakespeare;

Mis au ban et abus de pouvoir : essai sur trois pièces tragiques de Shakespeare; De la filouterie dans l’Angleterre de la Renaissance and Shakespeare’s Love’s Labour’s Lost.

William C. Carroll, Professor of English at Boston University, has published The Great Feast of Language in ‘Love’s Labour’s Lost’; The Metamorphoses of Shakespearean Comedy; Fat King, Lean Beggar: Representations of Poverty in the Age of Shakespeare; and editions of Macbeth, The Two Gentlemen of Verona and Love’s Labour’s Lost.

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The Duchess of Malfi W ebster ’s T rag edy of Blood sous la dir ection de P ascale Dr ouet et W illiam C. Carr oll

M

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The Duchess of Malfi

Webster’s Tragedy of Blood

sous la direction de Pascale Drouet et William C. Carroll

Réussir l’agrégation

d’anglais

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9791035804367_major_cned_malfi.indd Toutes les pages 14/09/2018 15:33

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I I

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Yan Brailowsky, Devin Byker, Christophe Camard, Guillaume Coatalen, Claire Guéron, Aurélie Griffin, Richard Hillman, Cecilia Istria-Dorland, Agnès Lafont, Michael Neill, Mickaël Popelard, Rachel Prusko, Estelle Rivier-Arnaud, Nathalie

Rivère de Carles, Nathaniel Amos Rothschild & Laura Tosi

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The Duchess of Malfi

Webster’s Tragedy of Blood

Pixellence - 20-09-18 14:21:11 - © Humensis PU0575 U000 - Oasys 19.00x - Page 3 The Duchess oF Malfi - Dynamic layout 145 x 200x

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ISBN: 979-1-0358-0431-2 ISSN: 1242-4935

Dépôt legal – 1 re édition : 2018, octobre © Éditions Belin/Humensis, 2018

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C ONTENTS

Introduction,Pascale Drouet... 11

A | John Webster (1580?-1638?)... 11

1. Merchant Taylors’ School and Inns of Court, 11 • 2. Early Collabora- tive Works, 12 • 3. Three Single-Authored Tragedies, 13 • 4. Later Career: Back to Collaborative Writing, 15 B | The Duchess of Malfiin the Jacobean Context... 17

1. Unequal Matches, 17 • 2. Court-life and Corruption, 18 • 3. A Fierce Criticism of Catholicism, 20 C | Webster’s Literary Sources forThe Duchess of Malfi... 21

1. Italian Bandello, French Belleforest and English Painter, 21 • 2. Bor- rowings and Intertextuality, 23 D | The Genre and Structure of Webster’s Tragedy... 24

1. Revenge Tragedy and its Three Different Styles, 24 • 2. A Radical Departure from Aristotelian Norms, 25

W EBSTER AS AN A RTIST “CRABBED WEBSTERIO”: THE DUCHESS OF MALFI AND THE CHARACTER OF A DRAMATIC POET

, Michael Neill... 31

A | “Much Possessed by Death”: Webster’s Personality... 31

B | Playwright or Dramatic Poet?... 36

C | Poetry as Monument... 38

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6 | The Duchess of Malfi

P ART ONE . W EBSTER ’ S L ITERARY

S OURCES AND C REATIVENESS

1.

“YOUR MERY BOOKES OF ITALIE”: FROM THE PASSION FOR THE NOVELLA TO JOHN WEBSTER’S DRAMA

,

Christophe Camard... 47

A | Bandello and Antonio Bologna: An Italian Moral Tale Based on a Real Story... 48

B | William Painter and the New Taste for Tragic Italian Tales... 50

C | From Painter to the Stage: Webster’s “Italianate” Additions to The Duchess of Malfi ... 56

2.

“I AM TRULY MORE FOND AND FOOLISH THAN EVER NARCISSUS WAS”: WEBSTER’S DUCHESS OF MALFI AND OVIDIAN RESONANCES

, Agnès Lafont... 60

A | A Misogynistic Story in Line with a Clerical and Vernacular Ovidian Reception... 62

1. French and English Sources, 62 • 2. Elizabethan Receptions of Ovidian Metamorphoses, 64 B | From the Duchess’s Defamation to her Websterian Defense as a Tragic Love Heroine... 66

1. Webster Stages Whetstone’s Ovidian Intertextuality, 66 • 2. Ovidian Mythology as a Site of Debate, 68 C | Ovidian Intertextualities Dramatising the Duchess’s Selfhood... 69

1. Monumentalising versus Dispersal, 69 • 2. Dispersal and Erotic Echoes, 71 • 3. The Duchess as Narcissus, 72 • 4. The Duchess as Power- less Echo, 74 3.

DISCURSIVE PRESENCE AND ABSENCE IN THE DUCHESS OF MALFI

, Richard Hillman... 78

A | FromHistoire tragiqueto Tragedy... 78

B | Webster’s Catalytic Tragic Villains... 82

C | The Dynamics of Revenge... 86

D | Bosola... 89

E | Words and Deeds, Conscience and Consciousness... 90

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Contents | 7

P ART TWO . C ONTEXTUAL

A PPROACHES : S OCIO - POLITICAL , M EDICAL AND M ETAPHYSICAL

1.

YOUNG WIDOWHOOD IN THE DUCHESS OF MALFI

,

Rachel Prusko... 97

A | Youth and Early Modern Widowhood... 98

B | “I have youth / And a little beauty”: The Threat of the Duchess 102 C | “I am Duchess of Malfi still” ...106

2.

LEARNED SERVICE AND THE (IN)HUMANISM OF WEBSTER’S INTELLIGENCER

, Nathaniel Amos Rothschild... 110

A | The Ideal of Learned Service...112

B | Intelligencers and the Instability of Learned Service...114

C | A Speculative Man in Malfi...119

D | Coda: Poet-Intelligencer... 126

3.

THE MELANCHOLY BODY POLITIC IN THE DUCHESS OF MALFI

, Aurélie Griffin... 128

A | The Circulation of Melancholy... 130

B | The Politics of Melancholy...134

C | Melancholy and Lycanthropy...138

4.

MADNESS IN THE DUCHESS OF MALFI

, Pascale Drouet... 142

A | Dealing with Madness, Exposing Jacobean Practices (Webster’s Topical Criticism)...144

1. Curing Madness? Or Taming, Infantilising and Misinterpreting?, 144 • 2. Exhibiting and Exploiting Madmen, 145 B | Madness in the Economy of Punishment (Webster’s Dramatic Appropriation)... 147

1. From Perverse Instrument of Torture…, 147 • 2. … to Divine Retribu- tion, “Madness of Just Punishment”, Poetic Justice, 149

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8 | The Duchess of Malfi

C | An Exploration in Madness (Webster’s Clinical Insight)... 150

1. Showing the Process at Work: from Choler to Lycanthropy, 150 • 2. Hallucination as Displaced Resurgence of (double) Guilt, 152 5.

“DEATH HATH TEN THOUSAND SEVERAL DOORS”: THE DUCHESS OF MALFI’S ARTS OF DYING

, Devin Byker... 156

A | Conceptual Tools for Dying Well: Doors, Shapes, and Creatures 157 B | Ferdinand as Wolf...164

C | The Duchess as Stone... 167

P ART THREE . V ARIETY AND H YBRIDITY

1.

SPATIAL UNIFORMITY AND NATURAL VARIETY IN THE DUCHESS OF MALFI

, Mickaël Popelard... 173

A | “I account this world a tedious theatre” (4.1.81): Spatial Unifor- mity... 174

B | “My pillow is stuffed with a litter of porcupines” (4.2.74): Natural Diversity ...178

C | Unity-within-diversity: A Polymorphous World... 183

2.

“WHEN WERE WE SO MERRY?”: COMEDY IN THE DUCHESS OF MALFI

, Guillaume Coatalen... 189

A | Satirical Comedy...190

B | Gender and the Body: the Stuff of Comedy ...195

C | Comic Geometry...198

D | Metaphysical Madness... 201

3.

AUTHORISING LAUGHTER IN THE DUCHESS OF MALFI

, Claire Guéron... 204

A | The Politics of Laughter... 205

B | The Decorum of Laughter...208

C | The Ethics of Laughter... 216

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Contents | 9

4.

“TRUE SUBSTANTIAL BODIES” IN THE DUCHESS OF

MALFI

, Yan Brailowsky... 220

A | Division... 221 1. A Morganatic Marriage, or the Divorce of the Duchess’s Two Bodies, 222 • 2. Dismemberment and the “dead man’s hand” (4.1.54), 224 B | Duplication...226

1. “Plagued in art” (4.1.108): Vincentio Lauriola and Michelangelo, 227 • 2. Real and Spiritual Presence: Theology and Vengeful Iteration, 233

C | Mortification and Dramatization... 235 1. Mortification of the Flesh, 236 • 2. “Things Printed, that […] would not beare in the Presentment”, 240

P ART FOUR . O N S TAGE : T RADITION AND E XPERIMENT

1.

PERFORMING VIOLENCE IN THE DUCHESS OF MALFI:

FROM PAGE TO STAGE

, Estelle Rivier-Arnaud... 247

A | Violence as a Structural Device... 248 1. Verbal Violence, 248 • 2. Structural Violence, 250 • 3. Physical Vio- lence, 252

B | Performing Violence...253 1. Blood on Stage, 253 • 2. The RSC Duchess of Malfi, 254

C | The (Ir)relevance of a Bloodless Duchess... 256 1. Webster as a “Genre”, 256 • 2. The Power of Metaphors, 257

2.

CHANNELLING THE TRAGIC THROUGH THE ARRAS IN THE DUCHESS OF MALFI

, Nathalie Rivère de Carles... 260

A | An Erotic Comedy Gone Dark: The Arras as Locus of Tragic Reversals...262

1. The Tragic Redefinition of Comic Conventions, 263 • 2. The Tragic Reinvention of Love: From the Arras to Deadly Winding-Sheets, 266 B | “Subtler than Vulcan’s engine”: Textile Agency and the Arras as

Mode of Writing... 267

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10 | The Duchess of Malfi

1. The Remanence of the Arras: The Fabric of Characterisation, 268 • 2. “Vulcan’s engine” or Ferdinand’s Textile Plot, 269 • 3. Webs of Resis- tance, 272

C | The Arras as Articulation of Convention and Realism for a New Revenge Tragedy...273

1. Bridging Gaps: Double Vision and Cohesive (Im)materiality, 274 • 2. Increasing the Spiral of Cruelty, 276 • 3. A Revenge Tragedy Born Out of Its Own Metatheatricality, 279

3.

“FIX[ING] A GENERAL ECLIPSE”: REFLECTIONS ON

STAGING THE DUCHESS OF MALFI

, Cecilia Istria-Dorland... 282 A | “Ten thousand several doors”: Entering the Stage-World of

Malfi... 285 B | “A perspective that shows us hell”: A Triangle of Religion,

Madness and Death... 287 C | “Plagued in art”: Bells, Props and Histrionics... 290 Conclusion. “Such a mistake as I have often seen in a play”: Roun- ding the Dance of Death... 302

Postface. Remodelling the Skull Beneath the Skin:

Websterian Echoes in Contemporary Fiction, Laura Tosi 305

A | Webster of His Age, Webster of All Time ... 305 B | Echoes in/of Webster... 307 C | Webster and Detective Fiction... 309 D | From “Strategic Opacity” to “Filling the Gaps”: F.L. Lucas and

David Stacton... 312 Bibliography... 319 Notices on contributors... 337

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Introduction

“To move a horror skilfully, to touch a soul to the quick, to lay upon fear as much as it can bear, to wean and weary a life till it is ready to drop, and then step in with mortal instruments to take its last forfeit: this only a Webster can do.”1

A | JOHN WEBSTER (1580?-1638?)

1.

Merchant Taylors’ School and Inns of Court

The playwright still famous today for his tragic masterpiece entitled The Duchess of Malfi was born in the London middle class between 1578 and 1580. His father (also named John Webster) lived in the parish of St Sepulchre and had a flourishing transport enterprise: he built and hired out coaches and wagons—including the “caroches” (1.1.215)2that are referred to in the Malfi tragedy. In Jacobean London, these stately coaches were newly fashionable and “elaborately fitted out with uphol- stery”.3So John Webster the elder was also “a prominent member of the guild of Merchant Taylors, to which coach makers, with no guild of their own, were admitted on the ground of community of interest”.4

1. Charles Lamb, “A Note on The Duchess of Malfi (iv ii)”, Specimens of the English Dramatic Poets Who Lived about the Time of Shakespeare, 1808, in G.K. and S.K. Hunter (eds.), John Webster, Middlesex, Penguin Books, “Penguin Critical Anthologies”, 1969, p. 57.

2. In this introduction as in the whole collection of essays, the quotations of The Duchess of Malfi are from Michael Neill’s edition (John Webster, The Duchess of Malfi, ed.

M. Neill, New York, Norton, “Norton Critical Editions”, 2015).

3. Leah S. Marcus, “Introduction”, in John Webster, The Duchess of Malfi, ed. L.S. Marcus, London/New York, Bloomsbury, “Arden Early Modern Drama”, 2017, p. 3.

4. See David Gunby, “Webster, John (1578x80–1638?), poet and playwright”, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford,OUP, 2004. Date of access 24 Apr. 2018, http://

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12 | The Duchess of Malfi

It thus comes as no surprise that John Webster attended the prestig- ious Merchant Taylors’ School between 1594 and 1598. His plays would later echo this early experience, with their sartorial references and metaphors such as, in The Duchess of Malfi, when Ferdinand tells Bosola to keep his “old garb of melancholy” (1.1.271), or when the Cardinal asks his rhetorical question: “Doth she make religion her riding hood / To keep her from the sun and tempest?” (3.3.60-61), or when he says, still having the Duchess in mind: “sorrow makes her look / Like to an oft-dyed garment” (5.2.108-109). And among the madmen used by Ferdinand to torture the Duchess, there is, humor- ously enough, “an English tailor, crazed i’th’brain / With the study of new fashion” (4.2.49-50). A decade or so later, Webster would confirm his attachment to the powerful London livery company, signing the printed version of his civic pageant Monuments of Honour: “by John Webster Merchant-Taylor”.

Webster then probably spent two years in legal study, at the Middle Temple, one of the Inns of Court; his legal knowledge may have proved useful to him to run the family office, while his father and his brother built coaches. As David Gunby surmises:

Such involvement in the family business would explain how Webster made a living, given his slowness of composition. It may also help to explain that slow- ness, if office duties occupied a good deal of his time.1

His relatively good command of law is particularly reflected in his plays The White Devil and The Devil’s Law-Case, in which there are trial scenes “among the finest in Jacobean drama.”2 The Duchess of Malfi also testifies to his mastery of technical legal terms, as when the Duchess tells Antonio: “I sign your Quietus est” (1.1.452) or “a con- tract in a chamber / Per verba de presenti is absolute marriage”

(1.1.463-464).

2.

Early Collaborative Works

Webster also had an interest in letters and drama. He was neigh- bour to William White, the stationer who printed Shakespeare’s early

www.oxforddnb.com.ezproxy.bu.edu/view/10.1093/ref:odnb/9780198614128.001.0001/

odnb-9780198614128-e-28943.

1. Idem.

2. Elli Abraham Shellist, “John Webster”, in Arthur F. Kinney (ed.), A Companion to Renaissance Drama, Oxford, Blackwell, 2002, p. 554.

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Introduction | 13

comedy Love’s Labour’s Lost, and it is not impossible that he met the actor Edward Alleyn, for whom his father provided wagons.1 Since collaborative working was standard practice in early modern drama, Webster turned to the band of dramatists who were in the service of the theatrical manager Philip Henslowe. In 1602, he joined them in co-writing four plays for the stage: Caesar’s Fall (with Michael Drayton, Thomas Middleton and Anthony Munday); Two Harpes (with Michael Drayton, Thomas Middleton, Anthony Munday and Thomas Dekker);

Lady Jane (with Henry Chettle, Thomas Dekker, Thomas Heywood and Wentworth Smith); and Christmas Comes but Once a Year (with Henry Chettle, Thomas Dekker and Thomas Heywood).2 None of these earliest plays survived.

Although Webster maintained friendly connections with his fellow playwrights, he gradually slowed down the practice of writing in co- operation with them. Two years later, in 1604, he worked for the King’s company of actors who asked him to revise and make additions to John Marston’s satirical play The Malcontent—it comes as no sur- prise that, in The Duchess of Malfi, Bosola should appear as an ever- frustrated “Tantalus” (1.1.56) and a “black malcontent” (1.1.78). The same year, Webster and Thomas Dekker collaborated on the city comedy Westward Ho, which was followed by the more satirical North- ward Ho in 1605. Both were printed in 1607. Then, from 1607 to 1612, Webster seems to have put aside his drama activities, perhaps to join the family transport business.

3.

Three Single-Authored Tragedies

Webster resurfaced in early 1612 with The White Devil, the first play he wrote single-handedly, performed by Queen Anne’s Men and produced at The Red Bull. Although the unsophisticated audience of this public playhouse did not appreciate the play, it was printed shortly after with an address “To the Reader” in which Webster “made his authorial ambitions clear”.3He did intend “to redeem his work from a poor performance at the Red Bull, where it was deprived of a ‘full and

1. Ibid., p. 553.

2. All these plays are now lost. Only parts of Lady Jane survived in a play entitled Sir Thomas Wyatt, under the names of Thomas Dekker and John Webster.

3. Michael Neill, “Introduction”, in John Webster, The Duchess of Malfi, ed. M. Neill, New York, Norton, “Norton Critical Editions”, 2015, p. xvi.

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The Duchess of Malfi

Webster’s Tragedy of Blood

sous la direction de Pascale Drouet et William C. Carroll

This collection of essays represents new scholarly work on John Webster’s great tragedy, The Duchess of Malfi. The critical methodologies range from historical contexts to feminist read- ings of agency and identity, to social analyses of Jacobean culture. The play has rightly taken its place as one of the greatest of the early modern period, and the Duchess is now seen as one of the great tragic figures of the time—and along with Shakespeare’s Cleopatra, one of the most powerful representations of a strong female character in control of her own sexuality and her own destiny. The play also offers an unusual range of villainous characters, from the Duchess’s two brothers—the Machiavellian Cardinal and the deranged Ferdinand—to Bosola, who at first seems to be a conventional Vice-like villain. Bosola commits terrible acts in the play, and though he ultimately surrenders to his conscience and tries to do good, this trans- formation comes too late, and the final set of murders takes place in darkness—an apt symbol of the play’s disturbing moral universe.

Professor of Early Modern British Literature at the University of Poitiers, Pascale Drouet is the author of Le Vagabond dans l’Angleterre de Shakespeare;

Mis au ban et abus de pouvoir : essai sur trois pièces tragiques de Shakespeare; De la filouterie dans l’Angleterre de la Renaissance and Shakespeare’s Love’s Labour’s Lost.

William C. Carroll, Professor of English at Boston University, has published The Great Feast of Language in ‘Love’s Labour’s Lost’; The Metamorphoses of Shakespearean Comedy; Fat King, Lean Beggar: Representations of Poverty in the Age of Shakespeare; and editions of Macbeth, The Two Gentlemen of Verona and Love’s Labour’s Lost.

9:HTLANF=]UYX[\:

ISBN 979-1-035-80436-7 collection-major.com

03580436 21 € CetouvrageestlefruitduneétroiteCoopérationentre Belin ÉduCation

etle CentrenationaldenseignementàdistanCe, étaBlissementpuBliCqui dispensedesformationsdetousniveauxàplusde 320000 insCritsrépartis danslemondeentier.

The Duchess of Malfi W ebster ’s T rag edy of Blood sous la dir ection de P ascale Dr ouet et W illiam C. Carr oll

M

major

m

The Duchess of Malfi

Webster’s Tragedy of Blood

sous la direction de Pascale Drouet et William C. Carroll

Réussir l’agrégation

d’anglais

M

9791035804367_major_cned_malfi.indd Toutes les pages 14/09/2018 15:33

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