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In this instance, the Duchess is literally raising Antonio, but metaphorically raising his social status to her level, although this does still not comply with her brothers’ standards or the conventions of that society. Overall, the opening scene of the play does not look particularly promising as although there are signs of hope in the love between Antonio and the Duchess, the corruption of the other characters makes it seem inconsequential. Webster has thus introduced a court in which malevolence appears to prevail, contributing to the idea that Webster has a similar view of his own society.
The concluding occurrences in the play, as in any play, are important in demonstrating the points that the author is trying to convey to the audience. In this case, the characters that are killed and the nature in which they are killed all contribute to certain aspects of the points Webster is trying to convey, including his view of the world. The murder of both the Duchess and Antonio, the only characters who showed significant love and honesty, shows a lack of any hope for good to survive in a world of corruption.
Moreover, the way in which Webster challenges social and gender inequalities through these two characters raises considerable political points, and the murder of these characters also gives the sense that Webster feels that these political points will remain unjustified. Another instance that presents the idea of lack of hope in good overcoming evil is shown in the change of character that Bosola goes through.
After the murder of the Duchess, Bosola appears to feel guilty and regrets what he has done, showing signs that he may turn out heroic to a certain extent in fighting the battle against the other corrupt characters.
Bosola too, however, becomes tangled further in a web of murder, and ultimately is killed himself. Throughout the play, Webster explores many themes which appear to be relevant to his society at the time, whether it be the nature of the court, or the general conventions in society. It is arguable that ‘The Duchess of Malfi’ to a certain extent is based upon the world in which Webster lived in; it can therefore be argued that as Webster chooses to create a world in which evil prevails over good whether people are alive or dead, he too sees his own world as “utterly bleak”.
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