Home > Catalogue > English Literature > 1 | 1 | 2014 > Webster’s Geometry; or, the Irreducible Duchess

Webster’s Geometry; or, the Irreducible Duchess

Benjamin Bertram    University of Southern Maine, USA    



This study of geometry, gender, and skepticism in John Webster’s The Duchess of Malfi argues that the play leaves us in a hall of mirrors, a horror show of optical tricks, delusion, narcissism, and perspectivism from which there seems to be no escape, no masterpiece of God’s creation upholding reality beyond sensory images. In the absence of a transcendental referent, the Duchess’ willful and fearful journey «into the wilderness» – the life she leads as a result of her furtive marriage to her steward Antonio – becomes an alternative to both the public sphere mapped by divine patterns of order and – on the other extreme – the nihilistic, private court culture mapped by the ‘mad’ geometry of her brothers and their henchman Bosola. 

Dec. 1, 2014
Copyright: © 2014 Benjamin Bertram. This is an open-access work distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction is permitted, provided that the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. The license allows for commercial use. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.