historical sources for the duchess of malfi l.
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Historical Sources for ‘The Duchess of Malfi’. Background. Duchess’ story based on actual events from Italian history Webster borrowed elements from multiple sources – ‘The Palace of Pleasure’ by William Painter; ‘Arcadia’, a romance by Sir Philip Sydney

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background
Background
  • Duchess’ story based on actual events from Italian history
  • Webster borrowed elements from multiple sources – ‘The Palace of Pleasure’ by William Painter; ‘Arcadia’, a romance by Sir Philip Sydney
  • Adapted his own themes to suit his own purposes.
  • Many writers covered real events in fictional form – Webster ‘used’ elements from these sources.
  • Revenge tragedy traditions employed.
the real duchess of malfi
The Real Duchess of Malfi
  • Born in Giorvanna d’Aragon
  • Brothers Carlo, Marquis of Gerace (Webster’s Ferdinand) and Lodovico, a cardinal
  • 1490 – married at age of 12 to Alfonso Piccolomini
  • Piccolomini – heir to the first Duke of Amalfi, succeeded him in 1493
  • Duchess widowed @ 19 and left with daughter, Caterina.
  • Son born after husband’s death in 1499 – succeeded him as Duke
  • Lived prosperously for many years
slide4
Fell in love with Antonio Bologna, formerly served in the Duchess’s household
  • Feared wrath of brothers – married in secret
  • Had two children together – caused brothers to send spies – suspicion – Antonio leaves
  • Duchess follows to Ancona – reveals marriage to household – renounces her title
  • One maid tells Cardinal (brother Lodovico) – other maids desert to Amalfi
slide5
Life in Ancona – Cardinal puts on pressure to banish Antonio, who leaves
  • Duchess taken back to Amalfi in 1512 – murdered with two youngest children
  • Antonio killed in Milan in 1513
  • No historical evidence to suggest guilt of Aragonian brothers.
webster s play
Webster’s Play
  • Gathered information from a wide range of sources
  • Speeches, themes and lines
  • Sometimes altered names or events for dramatic effect
  • Common place to borrow from other writers – ‘a way for the writer to draw together various associations in a reader’s or the audience’s mind’.