The Duchess of Malfi is one of the most famous plays of the Elizabethan period which bears an well-expressed indication of women’s position in that society by Webster. In this play, the Duchess is young and beautiful but unfortunately she has become widow very early. She wants to marry again but there were several objections in the society against her marriage. Remarriage was a thing of hatred at that time and it was customary believed that, “None wed the second but who killed the first”. By acting against this convention, Duchess became a subject of tragedy. Because of her will the Duchess is misinterpreted in the society.
Antonio describes her, sweet speech, charming look, divine and chaste face, Noble virtuous and meek behavior, whereas her brother, represent treachery, cruelty and corruption. Their shrewd behavior is reflected in their appointment of Bosola as a spy in the guise of a horse provisor. Her brothers threaten her by saying that if she marries secretly then her marriage will be executed than celebrated. Even Fardinand says that, he will use his father’s dagger if necessary. But Duchess secretly marries her own steward Antonio. Bosola, cunningly extracts the secrets of the Duchess and informs her brothers.
She then was arrested and imprisoned. At night she was tormented by the shoes of her dead husband and children. Her cruel brothers put wild madness in her lodging to howl and dance in a procession to torment her. This horrifying scene make long for death – “I account this a tedious theater, For I do play a part in it against my will. ” In the description above we can see the position of women described by Webster precisely. Women of that time used to be an object of entertainment and to be enslaved under man’s willed. Yet they were wishful about life to reform under any situation but they were bound to be lead under the rules of man.
As we can see the wish of the Duchess was only to reform her life, she wanted to live her life fulfilled in love but the so called man made customs of society were the obstacles to make her dreams come true but finally she did the thing what she felt to be right and followed the path of life but her brothers who were representing the ruler of the society intercept her and tortured in such amount that she was longing for her death as the salvation from tortures. “The Duchess of Malfi” surely is a great documentation of the male domination of the time of Webster in guise of literary art providing us the picture of the real position of woman.