Edexcel A Level Duchess & Othello Guide

A Level Edexcel ‘The Duchess of Malfi’ & ‘Othello’ Revision Guide

-includes critic quotes
-insight into the roles and personalities of characters. Also includes comparisons to Aberg’s Royal Shakespeare production of ‘Duchess’ at the Swan Theatre 2018.
-key quotes which broadly cover all themes
-the significance and reasoning behind Webster and Shakespeare’s settings, especially parts of Italy.
-context of ‘Duchess’ in particular the importance of doubles and shrines
-shared Jacobean context especially how storms are created in Jacobean and modern theatres, and the body politic.
-context of ‘Othello’ especially comparisons to Cinthio and accounts of the exotic at the time.
-key quotes from Othello critics and explanations of what they mean.

The default preview is not working so here is a sample of the contexts of ‘Duchess’ and ‘Othello’:
Overbury scandal
howard -> carr w frances -> james i. poisoned overbury to avoid him gaining power again. court case revealed their corruption to meddle w james i and were sentenced to death. james I claimed he was impartial to the law but later pardoned both.

Marriage
-duchess marries an inferior man, which is much more controversial than ennobling an inferior woman, like in ‘all’s well that end’s well’. in ‘twelfth night’ the servant in love with his mistress is treated as comical. -secrecy makes it more open to condemnation, like in ‘romeo and juliet’. -courts could make women destitute and children into bastards if there was not proof of the union by the church. -second marriage considered inadvisable e.g. in ‘hamlet’.

Dissections
fascinated and at the same time disgusted, like when f wants to cover and also look at d’s dead face; could be preparing eng society for charles i’s execution in 1649

popish recusants Act 1605
banned caths from jobs of law and medicine. allowed searches of their houses for arms. mass was also forbidden and would be fined for not attending ch. Pope had forbidden Catholics from oath of allegiance to james i, which would prevent the pope from power of deposing the king and made it high treason to obey the pope instead of the king.

Shared context
storm props
bareness of the stage allowed for flexibility and split scenes, where action could shift from one place to the next. ensured that the verbality held the greatest influence and control over the audience’s imagination. Actors would need a slow, ponderous rhythm charged with stops. if it did rain outside then it could add to the scene. Instead, torchers, tapers and candles would be used to signify night to the audience. characters entered wet onstage. cannon balls which were rolled over low wooden slats to produce a noise like thunder. used swivels which released a rocket from one stage to the other, quickly, whilst making a hissing noise. characters rush frantically in and out, indicating the general level of chaos and confusion. Cries from off-stage create the illusion of a space below-decks.

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Created: May 27, 2019

Updated: Jul 11, 2019

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