The Jew of Malta and The Duchess of Malfi

9 plays down…7 to go! It has taken me until Week 5 of the term but I am finally over half way with my reading and making good progress.

These two latest reads were not as enjoyable as some of the others on my list. Hopefully a few of the others will be better.

The Jew of Malta

A play that says it discusses the tragedy of a Jew but is it really a tragedy?Yes, he dies a horrible death but the question is does he deserve it or doesn’t he? He is motivated by greed, wealth and power and destroys anyone in his way who tries to stop him, even his own daughter. The play is full of death and deception and for me, it was a bit confusing to follow at times. Marlowe manages to use the audience’s opinion very well within this play as they get to decide what they really think without being manipulated or persuaded too much. The play questions state religions and it could be suggested that it promotes Christian superiority. The play offers the reader several answers to the motives that the characters demonstrate…Is the play based on God’s will? Is it simply Marlowe’s ideas of Machiavellian tactics? Or is this him satirizing a Machiavellian view?  I really need to re-read this play to try and understand it better. The play does contain some significant speeches, especially by Barabas, but at the moment this play is not a favourite of mine and gets 4/10 overall.

Jew-of-Malta

The Duchess of Malfi

This play was more enjoyable than Marlowe’s Jew of Malta but in this play I felt that I was pretty distant from the plot and the characters in it. The play is set in Italy and focuses around a widow, her lover and her two brothers. The widow, The Duchess of Malfi, remains distant throughout the play and I think this is why the audience can’t really connect to her. She is treated unfairly and you do feel sympathy for her but she keeps secrets and believes that what she is doing is wrong, so does she arguably deserve it?We discussed this in my seminar today and talked about whether it could be seen as a sort of feminist play or even a cautionary tale. It turns out that it really isn’t either, yes it shows a strong woman who is ahead of her time but she does face the consequences, mainly death, and it does give a warning to the audience but this is overshadowed by death and madness. This play has a good plot and it stays interesting throughout. This play earns a 5/10 on the scale and more connection with the audience and/or reader would make this play better. (This is totally my opinion and would probably be difficult to achieve seeing as it is based on a real event. Down to personal preference I guess though, being involved in a play helps me understand it much better.)

Does anyone agree? Or have you read either of these plays? As always I’d love to hear from anyone who has an opinion, agreeing or disagreeing!

duchess-malfi-john-webster-paperback-cover-art

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