The Duchess of Malfi (1612-13): John Webster

The Duchess of Malfi: Webster


(Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, Shakespeare’s Globe, until 16 February 2014)

I studied this at school and it has stuck in my mind ever since: indeed, it’s the kind of thing that’s hard to forget. The Duchess of Malfi was the historical Giovanna d’Aragona, traditionally – though no longer – thought to be the sitter in the gorgeous portrait by Giulio Romano in the Louvre. Widowed young, she falls in love with her overseer, the urbane but lowborn Antonio and marries him secretly. As the years pass, she has three children with him and savours the bliss of her married life, but their match remains a secret.

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Henry IV: Parts 1 and 2 (c1597): William Shakespeare

Henry IV: Part 1

In the wake of Henry V, I ventured back to the two instalments of The Hollow Crown which I should have watched before: Henry IV Parts 1 and 2. These were entirely new to me: I had never seen them before, either on the stage or on screen, and never read them either. I’ve always felt a little daunted by the history plays in general, and I steered particularly clear of anything with multiple parts (Henry VI Parts 1, 2 and 3 remain to be tackled on a future occasion). As the two plays form two halves of the same story and have the same cast, I wanted to deal with them together – and yet to consider each separately.

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