Approaches to different interpretations

Unpacking quotations from critics

AO5 – Explore literary texts informed by different interpretations.

The exploration could involve:

  • engagement with published critical opinion
  • reference to wider critical theory
  • responding to specific critical quotations (including question focuses); sometimes these might be paraphrased rather than used in their original form
  • debating possible alternative ideas about texts and multiple readings of them - including your own
  • debating potential changes of meaning when quotations are taken in isolation or considered as part of the wider text
  • consideration of different interpretations across time so there is the opportunity to engage with a critical tradition
  • different productions of drama texts might present different interpretations of characters and situations.

Fill in the table. Click on each title to reveal the instructions for each box.

Once you have completed the table click on the eyes at the bottom of each box in the table to reveal suggestions.

Summarise the quotation

  • The Duchess is theoretically powerful and free
  • Her position reflects changes in Jacobean society such as the social and political (women’s status, court corruption)
  • Her situation is both inspiring and disappointing
  • The Duchess’ circumstances reflect the difficulties faced by seventeenth century women
  • She can be seen as both a role model and a warning.

Supporting Evidence

  • Attitude towards Antonio – proposal
  • Controlled by her brothers – marriage, women in C17th England – patriarchal society
  • Duchess is objectified by Ferdinand – ‘and those eyes’
  • Her courage presents her as a role model – I am Duchess of Malfi still.

Evidence Against

  • The Duchess is never truly free
  • Cannot reflect C17th women – extreme example and in an exceptional position of power and status which is not reflective.

The Duchess of Malfi is a study of an emancipated widow that reflects the great social and political transitions found in Jacobean England. The Duchess's fight for autonomy and self-determination is, on the one hand, inspiring, yet given her ultimate failure, disheartening on the other. That the Duchess's life mirrors the plight of real seventeenth century women cannot be ignored, thus she serves not only as a role model, but also as a tragic reminder of the world in which she had to function. - Nanci Lamb Roider

Five quotations from the text named in the quotation

  • “…Raise yourself, of if you please my hand to help you”
  • “I am to bespeak a husband for you”
  • “You are in this line too strict, and were you not my princely brother I would say too wilful. My reputation is safe.”
  • “and those eyes”
  • “she’s loose i’ th’ hilts, grown a notorious strumpet”

Three quotes from the other text

  • Stella stands up to Stanley – give me some money
  • Stanley rapes Blanche
  • Meat throwing
  • Stage Blanche at the end

Contextual links

  • Women’s welfare in men’s control – Bosola, Ferdinand, Cardinal, Stanley, Mitch
  • Corruption in Jacobean court – social injustice
  • Male appetites – Cardinal’s behaviour, Stanley’s behaviour
  • Family – dynasty/personal ideas of family/duty