Essay on Inviting Destruction in Duchess of Malfi

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Inviting Destruction in Duchess of Malfi

It has been asserted that, through her willfulness, the Duchess invites her own destruction. However the assertion has to be looked at from a 17th century point-of-view, as well as a modern one. The assertion is firmly rooted in the issue of human rights, and that issue has changed and evolved an enormous amount over the past few centuries, since Duchess of Malfi was written.

Society in the early 17th century was very different from ours today; then, women were far below men in stature and respect - they had no rights, and husbands and other male family members treated them more like possessions than human beings. While most women accepted this, there were, as always, those who rebelled -
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It could quite easily be said that her destruction is entirely her own fault, due to her own headstrong attitude - she is not ignorant or stupid; she does not do what she does because she does not understand the consequences (although I doubt she expected things to go quite so far). Every step she takes, she takes knowing that she is treading a tightrope, and that she could fall at any moment.

However, there are other factors that play a part in her ultimate fate, in particular her brothers. Ferdinand and the Cardinal are both very unpleasant people, and Ferdinand becomes (or, perhaps, was from the beginning) completely insane. Both care little for their sister in the way that brothers usually do; the Cardinal dislikes her and does not appear to have any qualms about killing her and Ferdinand has a disturbingly incestuous attitude towards her throughout the play. It is these two characters that bring about her actual death, although it could be argued that her actions did indeed invite her destruction.

It is also possible to blame society itself for her downfall, although not necessarily her death. The very structure of society made life for a person like the Duchess impossible; the rigid tracks that women were supposed to keep to throughout

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