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English Literature   >   Webster: The Duchess of Malfi

The Gothic

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Webster: The Duchess of Malfi

In this course, Professor Lisa Hopkins (Sheffield Hallam University) discusses John Webster’s play The Duchess of Malfi. We begin by thinking about Gothic motifs in the play, focusing in particular on instances of double-ness or twinning. In the second module we discuss the play’s setting, which shows characteristics of both early modern Italy and post-Reformation England, before moving on in the third module to exploring the role of religion in Webster’s play. After that, we think about the portrayal of women in the play-text and in a recent theatre production by the Royal Shakespeare Company. The final module explores the play’s imagery, focussing in particular on Webster’s use of sententiae and motifs from the natural world.

Note: We use the Arden edition of the play. Students using a different version of the play may encounter slight differences in either the text and/or line numbers.

The Gothic

In this module, we think about the relationship between The Duchess of Malfi and the Gothic. We will see that although the Gothic did not emerge as a literary genre until the eighteenth century, Webster’s early seventeenth-century play contains many instances of double-ness and twinning that can be usefully read as ‘Gothic’ motifs.

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Hopkins, L. (2019, January 07). Webster: The Duchess of Malfi - The Gothic [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Hopkins, L. "Webster: The Duchess of Malfi – The Gothic." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 07 Jan 2019,

Image Credits

"Romulus and Remus being suckled by she-wolf" by Larry Koester, licensed under CC BY 2.0

• "Ferdinand" by Helen Maybanks © RSC

• “Iyalode and Oloye Olorogun” by Anthony Robling © Utopia Theatre


Prof. Lisa Hopkins

Prof. Lisa Hopkins

Sheffield Hallam University