Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Ferdinand: A Real Animal

In John Webster’s The Duchess of Malfi one sees various descriptions of the story’s characters. These descriptions, however, become interesting when the reader starts seeing that Webster uses animals to portray his characters. At first, he uses the more common creatures like spiders, crows and leeches to describe the Duchess’s brothers. Soon though, one begins to see in more detail the true character of the brothers Ferdinand and The Cardinal, especially that of Ferdinand, and with this new view one can understand why Webster uses his creature descriptions.

One begins to see that Ferdinand is a predator who preys upon others with no regard to anything but his own grasp of the situation. He shows a strange feral nature in his fascination/obsession with the sexual and procreation. This animal nature is only amplified by the fact that his obsession is linked incestuously with his sister. Ferdinand also yearns for complete control like a territorial creature. Finally, the reader also sees Ferdinand’s selfishness exhibited like a dying animal who only cares for itself.

Seemingly to make a final point on how corrupt Ferdinand’s existence is Webster decides to diagnose him. In Act 5 the Doctor tells Pescara that Ferdinand has “lycanthropia” or that that he is a werewolf - “Said he was a wolf, only the difference/ Was, a wolf’s skin is hairy on the outside,/ His on the inside.” This final emphasis makes Ferdinand seem utterly inhuman making him an ultimate antagonist.

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