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The Duchess of Malfi

The Duchess of Malfi

Written by John Webster
Performed in English

First performed in 1614, John Webster’s The Duchess of Malfi is one of the greatest examples of Jacobean revenge drama, and paved the way for the stage spectacle, dark humour and horrifying violence characteristic of drama of this period.

The Duchess herself is an incredibly complex figure in her independence and defiance of the accepted social norms of an aristocratic widow. She disobeys her corrupt and manipulative brothers by choosing to remarry, selecting her steward Antonio as her second husband.

 In the dark world of Jacobean drama, Webster’s play tells of how the Duchess’s two brothers stop at nothing to control, and ultimately destroy, their sister and her family. The love story that begins this dark play gives way to intense jealously, spying, madness and incest that leads to immense suffering and horrific revenge…

Produced by Cheek by Jowl. The first performance of The Duchess of Malfi was at the Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds on 19th September 1995.

“Extraordinary, bordering on the astonishing”

The Times
Cast and creative team


Matthew MacfadyenAntonio Bologna
Shaun ParkesDelio
George AntonBosola
Paul BrennenCardinal
Scott HandyFerdinand
Anastasia HilleDuchess
Avril ClarkCariola
Nicola RedmondJulia
Matthew Bowyer
Sean Hannaway
Christopher Kell
Terence Maynard
Guy Moore
Peter Moreton
The Court / Officers / Madmen / Executioners

Creative Team

DirectorDeclan Donnellan
DesignerNick Ormerod
LightingJudith Greenwood
MovementJane Gibson
MusicCatherine Jayes
Previous performances

Previous Performances

Date (first performance)LocationNo. of performances
24 April 1996Krakow, Stray Theatre, Poland2
18 April 1996Prague, Archa Theatre, Czech Republic5
11 April 1996Moscow, Vahtangov Theatre, Russia3
23 March 1996Bogota, Teatro Colon, Columbia5
19 March 1996Mexico City, Teatro Jimenez Rueda, Mexico2
1 March 1996Hong Kong, Arts Centre, Shouson Theatre, China6
21 February 1996Vienna, Odeon Theatre, Austria5
16 February 1996Ljublijana, Cankarjev Dom, Slovenia2
9 February 1996Budapest, Katona Jozsef Theatre, Hungary4
1 February 1996Valletta, Manoel Theatre, Malta3
27 December 1995London, Wyndhams Theatre, UK37
6 December 1995New York, Majestic Theatre, USA10
28 November 1995Blackpool, Grand Theatre, UK6
22 November 1995Bucharest, Nottara Theatre, Romania2
14 November 1995Coventry, Coventry Arts Centre, UK5
26 October 1995Melbourne, Althenaeum, Australia11
17 October 1995Oxford, Oxford Playhouse, UK6
10 October 1995Dublin, Gaeity Theatre, Ireland6
5 October 1995Rome, Teatro Valle, Italy3
26 September 1995Cheltenham, Everyman Theatre, UK6
19 September 1995Bury St Edmunds, Theatre Royal, UK6
Awards and reviews


Ian Charleson Award 1997

Commendation – Scott Handy for The Duchess of Malfi


“Extraordinary, bordering on the astonishing”

The Times

“Declan Donnellan’s enthralling production is a true and graphic re-evaluation of the play for our own Times.”

London Evening Standard

“Revelatory…Diagrammatic beauty and a stinging psychological penetration. Simply electrifying.”

The Independent

“Declan Donnellan’s production taps into the play’s dark heart…Chillingly captures the moral wasteland of the human soul.”

The Daily Telegraph
Production photo
Photograph: John Haynes
Production photo
Photograph: John Haynes

“Declan Donnellan’s enthralling production is a true and graphic re-evaluation of the play for our own Times.”

London Evening Standard

She’s a young widow,
I would not have her marry again

Act I, scene ii

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