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Blood-filled vengeance, murder and madness

This September we’re presenting a brand-new version of The Duchess [of Malfi] written and directed by multi-award winning Zinnie Harris. In this blog, we explore the 17th century original, its author John Webster and why, 400 years since it was first published, his theatrical tale remains as powerful as ever. 
The dramatist was a contemporary of Shakespeare (though 16 years younger) and appears in the 1998 film Shakespeare In Love. He is depicted as a macabre young boy who relishes feeding live mice to cats. When asked about Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus, Webster replies:
I like it when they cut their heads off. And the daughter mutilated with knives… Plenty of blood. That’s the only writing.
This fictional portrayal of the budding playwright nods to Webster’s real reputation for dark and violent plays, and his habit of writing particularly gory endings for his characters.
Webster is best known for his two ghoulish dramas based on real-life events in Italy: The White Devil and The …

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