Other Books 2013/14

Other Books – The Duchess of Malfi, John Webster Read 17/5/14

Affiliate Link:The Duchess of Malfi: Fifth Edition (New Mermaids)

I only ever read plays if I am forced to for school and I completely disagree with the practice of reading and studying plays as a written text. A play needs to be heard, it needs to be seen. When you read a play you miss nine tenths of its meaning and impact. Therefore, this review is going to be comparatively short because there is much less to discuss. This may be the only play I ever review on Bernie and Books. Hang on that makes it sound like I actually saw the play, which I didn’t. The only script I shall review (much better).

I shall start by quoting the review I wrote on Goodreads,

“Not quite so good as Shakespeare, a little easier to understand, everybody dies.”

That sums up in a sentence my experience with this script. It is much more accessible than Shakespeare because Webster doesn’t seem to have the flare for language that Shakespeare had. There is less figurative imagery making it easier to follow but also obvious; there aren’t the layers of meaning that almost need decoding in Shakespeare.

In terms of plot this play is a feminist nightmare. The only women in the play are all murdered by men. It is a story about power and control as two jealous brothers conspire to steal the wealth of their sister, the Duchess of Malfi. It is also about corruption, one of the brothers is a Cardinal, and incest, the other has the crazed desire for his sister. When the Duchess marries beneath her, they murder everybody. I shan’t spoil the ending but seriously George R.R. Martin would love this play.

Now I come to the part where I can’t really comment because whilst reading this script my impression of the play was “yeah it’s all right.” But that’s the thing, I don’t know this play at all I have only read the script. It could be incredible live, tense and gory and heart breaking but I can’t get that from a list of dialogue. All I can say is I think that it would be a good play.


Would recommend to: see live.