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Webster: The Duchess of Malfi

2. A Study in Brothers: The Cardinal and Ferdinand

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About this Lecture


In this module, we focus on the characters of the Cardinal and Ferdinand—possibly the most unlikeable and dishonest brothers in any Jacobethan play. In particular, we think about the contrasts between Cardinal and Ferdinand, a contrast that is most apparent when the two men discuss their sister, the Duchess, in Act Two Scene 5.


In this course, Professor John Lennard explores John Webster’s masterpiece, the Duchess of Malfi. The course begins by thinking about John Webster himself, about whom we know very little, and the historical context for the play itself. After that, we think about five key characters in the play—the Cardinal and Ferdinand, Antonio and the Duchess, and Bosola. In the final module, we think about the staging of the Duchess of Malfi, focusing in particular on four recent productions—including the 2014 production at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, starring Gemma Arterton.


Born in Bristol, and educated at Oxford and St Louis, Dr John Lennard has taught English, American, and Commonwealth Literature in Cambridge, London, and Jamaica over more than twenty years. He has written two widely used textbooks (on poetry and drama) and monographs on Shakespeare, Paul Scott, Nabokov, and Faulkner, as well as two collections of essays on contemporary genre writers in crime, science fiction and fantasy, and romance. Enthusiastic, discursive, widely knowledgeable, and a demon for punctuation (on which he has also published extensively), he has been a popular Summer School Course Leader and lecturer for the Institute of Continuing Education since 1992.

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Lennard, J. (2018, August 15). Webster: The Duchess of Malfi - A Study in Brothers: The Cardinal and Ferdinand [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Lennard, J. "Webster: The Duchess of Malfi – A Study in Brothers: The Cardinal and Ferdinand." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 15 Aug 2018,