Critical views of
Webster and Donne.
Great poems read us as
much as we read them
What does this poet mean by this comment?
Critical perspectives on
Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Admired his:
Intellectual complexity
Dramatic situations and rhythmic energy
New Criticism (1940s)
Meaning is self contained within each poem.
Context and biography not significant
Authors intention was not relevant
‘Intentional fallacy’ – Wimsatt and Beardsley
John Carey (1981) Donne, Life Mind and
Making sense of the poems through and
understanding of the life of the poet. e.g.
Guilt at his apostasy fuels the religious
To his mistress going to bed is a
masculine reassertion in the face of
emasculation of catholic priests
Thomas Healy (1992) New Latitudes
Imagery is patriarchal (e.g. in To his
Mistress Going to bed )
Women are silent and objectified
Helen Gardner suggests a focus on
contexts and historical accurac y
Notions of normal reader and enlightening
poet are questioned (ref Auden quote)
Donne’s attempts to make sense of his
world are reflected in our own
Emotional and philosophical connection
with modern readers.
The work as a whole
Helen Gardner (1965)
Attempts to create some sense of order
to his poems and his development as a
poet and person.
The work as a whole
Tilottama Rajan (1982)
Deliberately randomized and the sequence
not so significant as the moment.
We impose structures and beliefs on the art
we enagage with.
What was Donne doing with his work in his
Critical perspectives on
TS Eliot (1920)
WEBSTER was much possessed by death
And saw the skull beneath the skin;
And breastless creatures under ground
Leaned backward with a lipless grin.
Daffodil bulbs instead of balls
Stared from the sockets of the eyes!
He knew that thought clings round dead limbs
Tightening its lusts and luxuries.
Rupert Brooke (1916)
Webster was a great writer; and the way in
which one uses great writers is two-fold.
There is the exhilirating way of reading
their writing; and there is the essence of the
whole man.
Leonora Brodwin (1972)
Love and harmnoy in a contradictory world.
Self sacrifice – all the wealth of Europe is
nothing compared to love.
Revenge is proved meaningless when moved
by justifiable anger
Nicholas brooke (1979)
‘evil of preposterous grandeur ….. the logic
of definition in death, at horrid laughter at
Tragedy < - > Comedy.
Catherine Belsey (1980)
Tension when opposites attempt to
coalesce, when evil and power fuse, when
love encounters betrayal etc
Uncertain moment in time (between
Medieval -> Restoration)
Johm Selzer (1981)
More written about play than almost any
other non-shakespearean renaissance
Webster daringly suggests a focus on merit
rather than class.
Badendyck (1985)
Woman are the positive construction in the
play contrasting with a range of failing men.
‘no denying that the luminous figure of the
duchess is perfectly capable of dominance’
The strength of women ‘functions to
support their sagging superiors’
Eva Cruz Garcia (1998)
Explores class and gender.
‘how effortlessly the language of service
becomes the language of love’
The duchess’ class outweighs Antonio
being a man
You must also make reference to the plays
you have seen and some of the reviews of
those versions.
BBC Production (1972)
On Youtube
Sober recognition of anger, confusion and
violence, the ridicule or ritual ‘muderously
destructive of isolated appetities’
Greenwich Theartre
production (2010)
‘Amongst the flattery and paranoia of the
Italian Court … set against the backdrop of
an escalating European War, the Duchess
of malfi is a thrilling portrayal of a family torn
apart by lust and lies’
Old Vic Theatre
Production (2012)
See your sheet with the four contrasting