Bill Kerwin's Reviews > The Duchess of Malfi

The Duchess of Malfi by John Webster
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's review
Feb 10, 15

bookshelves: 16th-17th-c-brit, stuart-drama
Read in January, 2010

This play, the finest Jacobean drama outside the Shakespeare canon, is not only a gem of poetry and wit, but also a meditation on the vanity of public life and the inevitability of death. The satiric prose is filled with such poetic imagery and the subtle verse is so sharp in its commentary that each individual use of language complements all the others.

The reader is surprised to find in such a merciless play so much goodness and such tender love scenes. Perhaps that is part of the reason why, in spite of the absurdities of the plot and the decadent horror of many of its incidents, this play leaves the reader--as I believe Hamlet does too--with a sweet feeling of sadness and an increased reverence for struggling humanity.
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