An Introduction to The Duchess of Malfi

The Duchess of Malfi is a popular choice as a set text, despite (or perhaps because of) the violence and horror of its later scenes. Generally considered to be the masterpiece of Jacobean playwright John Webster, it was first produced in around 1613. It’s a macabre tragedy, based on actual events, and tends to be either loved or hated by critics – while consistently captivating audiences across the centuries.

Set in Italy in the early fifteenth century, it starts out as a love story, with the Duchess marrying beneath her class. However, her two brothers, one cool and corrupt, the other secretly violent and warped, have other ideas. With incredible plot twists along the way, the play ends as an utter tragedy, as the brothers take revenge on her, destroying themselves in the process.

Dark, complex…and feminist?

The main themes of The Duchess of Malfi include revenge and corruption. It also looks at the status of women in society – Webster’s use of a strong, virtuous woman as the central character was rare for the time.

The play was originally written for and performed by The King’s Men, the same company which Shakespeare belonged to. Indeed, this Jacobean classic makes an interesting text to study in comparison to many of Shakespeare’s works.

The language is poetic, and subtle at times, but infinitely rewarding. Its complex characters are also rewarding to watch, as the play develops towards the highly dramatic climax.


The Duchess of Malfi 3 disc DVD pack contains:

  • The full length feature DVD, with optional subtitles.
  • The extras DVD, with in-depth interviews with cast and crew.
  • The Mastershot DVD showing all entrances/exits, and lighting and scenery changes.

NOT FOR RENTAL: This DVD is authorised for retail sale for private home use and for use within schools and educational organisations.

“The best spoken, most intelligently staged and thrillingly effective Malfi I’ve seen in years.”
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The Stage
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Cast & Crew

Directed by Elizabeth Freestone

The Company (in order of appearance)

Peter Bankolé
Edmund Kingsley
Tim Treloar
Mark Hadfield
Tim Steed
Castruccio / Malateste
Richard Bremmer
Silvio / Officer / Julia's Servant
Conrad Westmaas
Grisolan / Doctor / Pilgrim / Antonio's Servant
James Wallace
Aislín McGuckin
Harvey Virdi
Julia / Midwife / Pilgrim
Brigid Zengeni
Pescara / Second Officer
Maxwell Hutcheon

All other parts played by members of the company

The Creative Team

Elizabeth Freestone
Set and Costume Designer
Neil Irish
Lighting Designer
Wayne Dowdeswell
Sound Designer / Composer
Adrienne Quartly
Associate Director / Movement
Stuart Angell
Casting Director
Ginny Schiller
Fight Director
Terry King
Vocal Coach
Cathy Weate
Text Consultant
Richard Twyman
Wardrobe Supervisor
Sades Robinson
Costume Assistant
Kat Cruickshank
Pippa Mawbey, Kat Cruickshank
Hair and Make Up Designer
Caroline Silk
Production Manager
Peter Williams
Company Stage Manager
Jon Swain
Deputy Stage Manager
Ben Brayshaw
Assistant Stage Manager
Eleanor Bailey
Design Assistant
Ross Edwards
Props Buyer
Susy Payne
Technical Assistant
Daniel Leman
Production Carpenter
Rae George
Production Intern
Sennita Greene
ames Haddrell / Tim Sawers


3 Disc DVD Pack