The Complete Text with Notes and Commentary 

by Larry A. Brown, professor of theater, Nashville, Tennessee


These pages are dedicated to one of the greatest achievements of English Renaissance drama, John Webster's The Duchess of Malfi. Here you will find the complete text of the play with links in each scene to notes and commentary. 

In researching for notes, several editions of the play were consulted including those edited by John Russell Brown, Jonathan Dollimore, David Gunby, Dennis Huston, F. L. Lucas, and Trevor Millum. The most recent edition consulted was by Leah Marcus (Arden, 2009). The production history by Kathleen McLuskie and Jennifer Uglow (Plays in Performance series, Bristol Classical Press, 1989) was also helpful.


Table of contents


Act I, scene i
Act I, scene ii
Act II, scene i
Act II, scene ii
Act II, scene iii
Act II, scene iv
Act II, scene v
Act III, scene i
Act III, scene ii
Act III, scene iii
Act III, scene iv
Act III, scene v
Act IV, scene i
Act IV, scene ii
Act V, scene i
Act V, scene ii
Act V, scene iii
Act V, scene iv
Act V, scene v


For an introduction to Tragedy, see my Aristotle and Greek Tragedy and Tragedy after Aristotle.

A note on the text: The first quarto of The Duchess of Malfi published in 1623 does not carefully distinguish between lines of poetry and prose. Webster's verse is very irregular and not always easy to recognize. This webtext does not attempt to make these fine distinctions; for a modern edition which does, see the Arden version edited by Leah Marcus (2009).

Photos are from a 1998 production at David Lipscomb University in Nashville, TN directed by Dr. Larry Brown with Laura Brewer as the Duchess, Jason Miller as Bosola, Wes Driver as Ferdinand, Andrew Talbert as the Cardinal, Chris Hughes as Antonio, Rachel Holman as Julia, Duff Harris as Death.

“Webster was much possessed by death and saw the skull beneath the skin.” -- T. S. Eliot

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See my home page for other academic studies of
King Lear
Ovid's Metamorphoses 
the Hindu epic Mahabharata 
Wagner's The Ring of the Nibelung
Stephen Sondheim

since December 2000

Latest revision: June 2012


Winner of the Swan Award 2003 given by Internet Shakespeare Editions


How to cite this page for use in a paper or electronic report:

Brown, Larry A. The Duchess of Malfi. (today’s date)