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John Webster, The Duchess of Malfi


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This unit, on the first two acts of John Webster’s Renaissance tragedy The Duchess of Malfi, focuses on the representation of the theme of love and marriage in the Malfi court, and the social conflicts to which it gives rise. The unit guides you through the first part of the play and will help you to develop your skills of textual analysis.

This unit focuses mainly on Acts 1 and 2 of the play. You should make sure that you have read these two acts of the play before you read the unit.

The edition of the play that is used in this unit is the Pearson Longman (2009) edition, edited by Monica Kendall. However, there are free versions available online that you may prefer to use.

This unit is an adapted extract from the Open University course A230 Reading and studying literature [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] . It can also be found in the publication Anita Pacheco and David Johnson (eds) (2012) The Renaissance and Long Eighteenth Century, published by The Open University and Bloomsbury Academic.

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