The Duchess of Malfi

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Title page of The Duchess of Malfi, 1623

The Duchess of Malfi (originally published as The Tragedy of the Dutchesse of Malfy) is a macabre, tragic play written by the English dramatist John Webster in 1612–13. It was first performed privately at the Blackfriars Theatre, then before a more general audience at The Globe, in 1613-14.[2] Published for the first time in 1623, the play is loosely based on true events that occurred between about 1508 and 1513, recounted in William Painter's The Palace of Pleasure (1567).


  • We are merely the stars' tennis balls, struck and bandied
    Which way please them.
    • Bosola, to Antonio after accidentally stabbing him. Act 5, Sc.4.
  • A Spanish fig for the imputation
    • Bosola, to Antonio after being accused of poisoning the Duchess. Act 2, Sc.3.
  • Do you not weep?
    Other sins only speak; murder shrieks out.
    The element of water moistens the earth,
    But blood flies upwards and bedews the heavens.
    • Bosola, to Ferdinand upon gazing on the dead body of the Duchess. Act 4, Sc. 2.
  • Cover her face. Mine eyes dazzle. She died young.
    • Ferdinand, after looking at the dead body of his sister the Duchess. Act 4, Sc.2.
  • She and I were twins;
    And should I die this instant, I had liv'd
    Her time to a minute.
    • Ferdinand, after looking at the dead body of his sister the Duchess. Act 4, Sc.2.
  • It seems she was born first:
    You have bloodily approv'd the ancient truth,
    That kindred commonly do worse agree
    Than remote strangers.
    • Bosola, in response to Ferdinand. Act 4, Sc. 2.
  • Whether we fall by ambition, blood or lust,
    Like diamonds we are cut with our own dust.
    • Ferdinand's dying words. Act 5, Sc.5.
  • The Duchess: Diamonds are of most value
    They say, that have pass'd through most jewellers hands
    Ferdinand: Whores, by that rule, are precious.
    • The Duchess speaks of remarrying. Act 1, Sc. 2, l.262-264.

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