Study Guide

The Duchess of Malfi Act 3, Scene 1

By John Webster

Act 3, Scene 1

  • Antonio is welcoming Delio back to the Maltese court, and it looks like we've fast-forwarded a bit: Delio's been chillaxing in Rome long enough that the Duchess has had another child.
  • Things aren't so hunky-dory, though: Antonio and the Duchess's secret marriage has taken a toll on her political standing.
  • The Duchess's people think she's a "strumpet" (their word, not ours), and, since they can see that Antonio's definitely living larger these days but have no idea that the two are married, they assume that he's taking advantage of her in some way.
  • Oh, yeah, and Ferdinand just arrived. Great. Just great.
  • The Duchess comes in with Ferdinand, who's telling her that he's going to choose a husband for her.
  • She dismisses his suggested suitor—some dude named Count Malateste—and moves onto more pressing matters: "Ferdinand, I gotta tell you, people have been spreading some nasty rumors about me."
  • Ferdinand pretends he doesn't care at all about what people say and claims that he's totally certain of her innocence; people are always talking trash at the court anyways.
  • The Duchess, relieved because she thinks Ferdinand doesn't suspect her, bids him goodnight.
  • Wrong. Ferdinand, left alone with Bosola, immediately tells him that he's sure the Duchess is guilty. He wants an update on Bosola's spying.
  • Bosola's doesn't have a whole lot to tell him—he's heard that she's had as many as three illegitimate children by now, but has no idea who the father might be.
  • Ferdinand, crafty sucker that he is, intends to force a confession from her tonight.

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