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Inviting Destruction in Duchess of Malfi

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 – the Duchess is one such rebel. She refuses to accept the rules of society, instead choosing her own path to follow?an unpredictable and dangerous path, as is eventually seen with her capture, torture and death at the hands of her own brothers. For example, in Act I, Scene II, no sooner have Ferdinand and the Cardinal warned her against remarrying, than she and Antonio are arranging to be married – a perfect example of her headstrong attitude. She is also remarkably open towards Antonio about the whole affair; indeed, it is her who moves their relationship onwards from light-hearted ?irting to marriage itself, when she gives her wedding ring to Antonio, saying:

And I did vow never to part with it,

But to my second husband.

This forwardness would have shocked 17th century audiences, who would have expected the man to have been the most con?dent of the two, although it seems perfectly natural to us today.

This is her wilfulness – her rejection of standard pr…

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… accepted and what was not, and she chose to do things her own way. The assertion that she invited her own destruction is probably a valid one; however, her willfulness did not cause her destruction – the insanity of her brothers is responsible for that; her willfulness was simply the match that lit the fuse. It was not society’s fault, it is the Duchess and her brothers’ fault for not ?tting into that society. The Duchess would not adapt herself, so she expected everything else to adapt and, in doing so, invited her own destruction. Even to the very end she remains strong-willed and decisive, refusing to show any fear of her imminent death, or regret for her past actions:


Doth not death fright you?

DUCHESS Who would be afraid on’t?

Knowing to meet such excellent company

In th’other world.

Freedom from Male Oppression in Sylvia Plath’s Daddy

Freedom from Male Oppression in Sylvia Plath’s Daddy

Word Count includes Poem

Sylvia Plath?s poem “Daddy” describes her feelings of oppression from her childhood and conjures the struggle many women face in a male-dominated society. The conflict of this poem is male authority versus the right of a female to control her own life and be free of male domination. Plath?s conflicts begin with her father and continue into the relationship between her and her husband. This conflict is examined in lines 71-80 of “Daddy” in which Plath compares the damage her father caused to that of her husband.

The short stanzas containing powerful imagery overwhelm the readers forcing them to imagine the oppression that the speaker went through in her short life. The tone of this poem is that of an adult engulfed in outrage and who oftentimes slips into a childlike dialect; this is evident when the speaker continually uses the word “Daddy” and also repeats herself quite often. The last two stanzas of the poem, especially, portray a dismal picture of life for women who find themselves under a dominating male figure. The passage seems to show that the speaker has reached a resolution after being kept under a man?s thumb all her life.

In lines 71-80 the speaker compares her father and her husband to vampires saying how they betrayed her and drank her blood–sucking her dry of life. She tells her father to give up and be done, to lie back” (line 75) and in line 80, she says, “Daddy, daddy, you bastard,

Plath?s attitude towards men is expressed in this passage through her imagery of the villagers stamping and dancing on the dead vampire. The speaker says “If I?ve killed one man, I?ve killed two?” most likely meaning that all men are the …

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…to die

59 And get back, back, back to you

60 I thought even the bones would do.

61 But they pulled me out of the sack,

62 And they stuck me back together with glue.

63 And then I knew what to do.

64 I made a model of you,

65 A man in black with a Meinkampf look

66 And a love of the rack and the screw.

67 And I said I do, I do.

68 So daddy, I’m finally through.

69 The black telephone’s off at the root,

70 The voices just can’t worm through.

71 If I’ve killed one man, I’ve killed two?

72 The vampire who said he was you

73 And drank my blood for a year,

74 Seven years, if you want to know.

75 Daddy, you can lie back now.

76 There’s a stake in your fat black heart

77 And the villagers never liked you.

78 They are dancing and stamping on you.

79 They always knew it was you.

80 Daddy, daddy, you bastard, I’m through.

12 October 1962


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