Date of Award


Document Type

Honors Thesis



First Advisor

L. Monique Pittman


The title character in John Webster's The Duchess of Malfi resists patriarchal authority by marrying against her brother's will, provoking a violent and repressive response from a state that embodies Michel Foucault's "spectacle of the scaffold." However, before her murder, the Duchess deconstructs the theatrical nature of her brothers' power. By exposing it as dependent on theatrical deceptions, she destabilizes and invalidates their authority. Deploying a direct critique of her brothers' power jeopardizes her own aristocratic identity, and thus the speech and actions of the servant Cariola complement the Duchess' internal critique with an external condemnation from a lower-class perspective.

Subject Area

English literature--History and criticism