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Assignment. Question: Compare and Contrast John Webster's "The Duchess of Malfi" and Aphra Behn "The Rover as a Jacoban Revenge Tragedy and a Restoration Play Respectively"?

By Chioma Esther

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Assignment
Assignment. Question: Compare and Contrast John Webster's "The Duchess of Malfi" and Aphra Behn "The Rover as a Jacoban Revenge Tragedy and a Restoration Play Respectively"?
 
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Abstract

Name: Enete Chioma Esther.  
Department: English and Literary studies.
Reg No: 2015/200034.

Question: Compare and contrast John Webster's "The Duchess of malfi" and Aphra Behn "The Rover as a Jacoban Revenge Tragedy and a Restoration Play Respectively"?

     Revenge Tragedy or Revrnge Play is a dramatic genre in which the protagonist seeks revenge for an imagined or actual injury. The term, revenge tragedy, was first introduced in 1900 by A.H. Thorndike to label a class of plays written in the late Elizabethan and early
Jacobean eras (circa 1580s to 1620s).

     Jacobean era started from 1603 to 1625 after   Elizabeth, James 1 ascended the throne. Jacobean is the Hebrew version of the name James . Jocabean revenge tragedy is a tragedy written during the reign of King James 1 of England and these works  are often rely on false starts, sudden changes of motivation of which the duchess of malfi is a typical example and gratuitous accidents.    
    How effective is "The Duchess of Malfi" as a Jacobean Revenge Tragedy?
"The Duchess of Malfi" by John Webster holds the typical stereotype of a Jacobean Revenge Tragedy. A 'typical' Jacobean Revenge Tragedy contains conventions. The play should be set into five acts as laid down by Seneca in his original rules of tragedy:
  There should obviously be a desire for revenge hence the term "revenge tragedy."
  There should be murders within a Jacobean revenge tragedy.
  The narrative should involve complex plotting. The story should centre on characters of noble birth.
There should be Italianate or Southern European settings.
  The narrative should incorporate ghosts, skulls and madness. Lust should be a strong motivation.
The plot should involve physical horrors, such as poisoning and torture. Order should be restored at the end of the play.

     All of the conventions set out by Seneca are relevant to the Duchess of Malfi.
The "Duchess of Malfi" is set out into five acts. Ferdinand tries to mentally torture the Duchess. She is forced to view a tableau that displays the seemingly dead bodies of Antonio and her eldest son. The bodies are wax images.
The poisoning convention if fulfilled when the Cardinal poisons the bible so when Julia kisses it she dies. The fact that the Cardinal poisons the bible it could symbolise that he has lost his religious beliefs and has become secular again.
      At the time this play was written it was not uncommon to use mad people as entertainment. This is a Jacobean tragedy convention. England was a superstitious society.
Many people believed in omens and portents. Witches and witchcraft were the object of morbid and fevered fascination throughout the rein of Queen Elizabeth. Most people believed that witches existed, and persecution of those accused of witchcraft. The dominant mood of the period was melancholic and sombre. Out of the melancholic mood came the malcontent.
   
     The heroic figure in this play is undoubtedly the Duchess. She stoically accepts her fate and constantly takes the lead in her relationship with Antonio. Her strong character is typical of Jacobean tragedies. The tragedies of Shakespeare, Webster, Middleton and others reflected characters, emotions, actions and issues that were familiar to the London audiences.
      In "The Duchess of Malfi", Bosola, when he is about to have the Duchess murdered, speaks words which refer to the custom of a bell being toiled at Newgate prison just before the execution of a condemned criminal. "I am common Bellman That usually is sent to condemned persons, The night before they suffer".
     Contemporary audiences witnessed scenes of violence, revenge and forgiveness. They heard all kinds of direct and indirect comments on affairs of state, law and belief. Whether the drama supported or subverted religious beliefs, traditional values or social organisation, it held attractions that pulled in audiences.
    The Duchess of Malfi" is very effective as a Revenge Tragedy as it features all the conventions put down by Seneca. Another aspect of a revenge tragedy is that the persons involve in the revenge ultimately feels remorse for what they have done and in most cases it leads to their damnation. In the play Ferdinand goes mad, the Cardinal sees images, Bosola repents for his evil-doings and ultimately they face death in an unnatural way.

     The Restoration on the other hand can be explained to mean Restoration comedy refers to English comedies written and performed in the Restoration period from 1660 to 1710.
The  Restoration drama did not follow the rules of neo-classical decorum and presented life as it was. In that sense, they only show the “closed and charmed world” of the high society in England. It depicts the life of the idle upper classes.
      Romantic intrigue, scandal and gossip form the basis of the plots of the Restoration drama. The characters, including the main protagonists are shown scheming and plotting, with eavesdropping, lying and concealing information playing an important role in the plot of the play. The Rover has several moments of averted tragedy and violence but these violent scenes, still remain comic unlike the Jacobean tragedy the duchess of malfi " the apparent change in society becomes more explicit as we look at the play the rover.
The play begins with florinda discussing about her love life and whom she loves when her brother Don Pedro enters to inform her about her marriage to Don Vincentio but florinda having found her love in Belvie who rescued her  rejects the marriage to Don Vincentio. Don Pedro blocking florinda from a marriage of love, she decided to take situation into her own hand deciding what she want of which is also seen in the jocabean tragedy "the Duchess of malfi " when Duchess 's brother ls, cardinal and Ferdinand warned Duchess of remaining single after her first husband died.
The both plays are based on the struggle between love, marriage, and honour and there was also a Revenge.
There are two instances of revenge in two plays in "The Rover"; both plans are stymied before they have a chance to be carried out. The first instance occurs when Blunt plans to seek revenge on the female sex for what Lucetta has done to him, and the second occurs when Angellica hunts down Willmore with a pistol for lying to her and the aspect of revenge in Duchess of malfi are first Ferdinand and cardinal revenging on the sister for disobeying them and Bosola after repenting avenging on the cardinal and Ferdinand's wrong doings, hero in the two play and a villian, the villain was a dominating character as seen in the case of Bosola and Will more in the both plays.

 In conclusion, Marriage and honour, fortune, Wealth or lack thereof, plays an undoubtedly central role in the two plays Don Pedro and his family are noble descendants of a very wealthy family likewise Duchess and her brothers.
The major difference between the two plays is that while "the jocabean tragedies were  written in acts, the restoration tragedies were  written in a classical model of rhythm heroic couplet and later in black verse tragedy.
Another major difference in the two plays is that while the Duchess of malfi is full of bloodshed and murders of different crimes, there was no such in the play "The Rover",instead there is deceit of different types .

References:
* Esther Lomardi Feb 26 2017; The evolution of the restoration drama.www.thoughtco.com.       ; * www.gradesaver.com: The revenge tragedy Jacobean drama.
* The Duchess of malfi by john Webster.
* The Rover by Alfra Benh.

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