The symbol of Blood in The Duchess of Malfi from LitCharts | The creators of SparkNotes

The Duchess of Malfi

Blood Symbol Icon

In The Duchess of Malfi, blood works classically as a multifaceted symbol. First and most simply, blood symbolizes violence. When an act is particularly violent or cruel it is described as bloody. Blood is also used to refer to both status and family; it represents rank and lineage. Thus when Ferdinand and the Cardinal kill the Duchess, they are spilling the noble blood of their own blood (i.e. family member). Finally, blood is used by Ferdinand to represent passion when he says, “Whether we fall by ambition, blood, or lust, / Like diamonds we are cut with our own dust.” In the Renaissance it was common to believe that people were ruled by the four humors, all of which run through the blood (blood itself was also a humor). Ferdinand’s dying words contain multiple meanings for the word blood, including family and violence, but they also seem to evoke notions of passion and the four humors.

Blood Quotes in The Duchess of Malfi

The The Duchess of Malfi quotes below all refer to the symbol of Blood. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Politics and Corruption Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Penguin Classics edition of The Duchess of Malfi published in 2015.
Act 1, Scene 3 Quotes

The misery of us that are born great!
We are forced to woo because none dare woo us;
And, as a tyrant doubles with his words,
And fearfully equivocates, so we
Are forced to express our violent passions
In riddles and in dreams, and leave the path
Of simple virtue, which was never made
To seem the thing it is not.

Make not your heart so dead a piece of flesh
To fear more than to love me. Sir, be confident.
What is't distracts you? This is flesh and blood, sir;
'Tis not the figure, cut in alabaster,
Kneels at my husband's tomb.

Related Characters: The Duchess of Malfi (speaker), Antonio Bologna
Related Symbols: Blood
Page Number: 1.3.350-364
Explanation and Analysis:
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Act 3, Scene 1 Quotes

Do you think that herbs or charms
Can force the will? Some trials have been made
In this foolish practice, but the ingredients
Were lenitive poisons, such as are of force
To make the patient mad; and straight the witch
Swears, by equivocation, they are in love.
The witchcraft lies in her rank blood.

Related Symbols: Blood
Page Number: 3.1.72-78
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Act 4, Scene 1 Quotes

Damn her! That body of hers,
While that my blood ran pure in't, was more worth
Than that which thou wouldst comfort, called a soul.

Related Symbols: Blood
Page Number: 4.1.120-122
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Act 5, Scene 2 Quotes

O poor Antonio! Though nothing be so needful
To thy estate as pity, yet I find
Nothing so dangerous.
… How this man
Bears up in blood, seems fearless! Why, 'tis well:
Security some men call the suburbs of hell -
Only a dead wall between. Well, good Antonio,
I'll seek thee out, and all my care shall be
To put thee into safety from the reach
Of these most cruel biters that have got
Some of thy blood already. It may be
I'll join with thee in a most just revenge.

Related Symbols: Blood
Page Number: 5.2.326-339
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Act 5, Scene 5 Quotes

MALATESTE: Thou wretched thing of blood,
How came Antonio by his death?

BOSOLA: In a mist - I know not how.
Such a mistake as I have often seen
In a play. Oh, I am gone!
We are only like dead walls, or vaulted graves
That, ruined, yields no echo. Fare you well.
It may be pain, but no harm to me to die
In so good a quarrel.

Related Characters: Daneil de Bosola (speaker), Count Malateste (speaker), Antonio Bologna
Related Symbols: Blood
Page Number: 5.5.95-103
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
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Blood Symbol Timeline in The Duchess of Malfi

The timeline below shows where the symbol Blood appears in The Duchess of Malfi. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1, Scene 3
Politics and Corruption Theme Icon
Love and Male Authority Theme Icon
Guilt, Death, and Suffering Theme Icon
Religion and Sin Theme Icon
...not a virgin), and that she should not let anything sway or taint her high blood. Marrying twice, they say, is lecherous. The Duchess quips back that diamonds that pass through... (full context)
Love and Male Authority Theme Icon
Class Theme Icon
...play and ride on wooden horses. The Duchess notes that one of Antonio’s eyes is bloodshot and she offers him her ring, which she claims has healing and royal power. She... (full context)
Love and Male Authority Theme Icon
Class Theme Icon
...he loves her. She tells him to be confident, and that she is “flesh and blood,” not an alabaster statue kneeling at her dead husband’s tomb. She cries out for him... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 3
Politics and Corruption Theme Icon
Guilt, Death, and Suffering Theme Icon
Religion and Sin Theme Icon
...bad omen, but he calls it mere chance that his handkerchief is now “drowned in blood.” Antonio tells Bosola that he is forbidden to even go near the Duchess until Bosola... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 5
Politics and Corruption Theme Icon
Love and Male Authority Theme Icon
Guilt, Death, and Suffering Theme Icon
Religion and Sin Theme Icon
Class Theme Icon
The Cardinal asks if their royal blood will be tainted, wondering who the father of the Duchess’s child might be, and Ferdinand... (full context)
Politics and Corruption Theme Icon
Love and Male Authority Theme Icon
Guilt, Death, and Suffering Theme Icon
...it’s “not your whore’s milk that shall quench my wild fire, / But your whore’s blood!” The Cardinal says that this rage is much too loud, and that it is deforming... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 1
Politics and Corruption Theme Icon
Love and Male Authority Theme Icon
Class Theme Icon
...poisons that drive people insane. The only witchcraft, he says, is in the Duchess’s “rank blood.” (full context)
Act 4, Scene 1
Politics and Corruption Theme Icon
Love and Male Authority Theme Icon
Guilt, Death, and Suffering Theme Icon
...and says that her body was once worth more than her soul, back when her blood was pure. He then outlines a plan to relocate a group of madmen from the... (full context)
Act 4, Scene 2
Politics and Corruption Theme Icon
Love and Male Authority Theme Icon
Guilt, Death, and Suffering Theme Icon
Religion and Sin Theme Icon
In the face of this horror, she says that she has obedience in her blood and explains that death does not frighten her. Bosola rings the bell, and then gives... (full context)
Politics and Corruption Theme Icon
Love and Male Authority Theme Icon
Guilt, Death, and Suffering Theme Icon
Religion and Sin Theme Icon
...if this causes him to weep, since, while other sins speak, “murder shrieks out” and “blood flies upwards” to heaven. Ferdinand says that she died young, but Bosola says he thinks... (full context)
Politics and Corruption Theme Icon
Guilt, Death, and Suffering Theme Icon
Religion and Sin Theme Icon
Class Theme Icon
...hearts, and that they are truly brothers since treason, like the plague, runs in the blood. Bosola says that he feels like he has woken up from a dream and is... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 2
Politics and Corruption Theme Icon
Guilt, Death, and Suffering Theme Icon
Religion and Sin Theme Icon
Class Theme Icon
...try to get him away from the brothers who have already spilled some of Antonio’s blood (in the form of Antonion’s family); Bosola even says that he might join Antonio in... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 5
Politics and Corruption Theme Icon
Guilt, Death, and Suffering Theme Icon
Religion and Sin Theme Icon
Class Theme Icon
...heaven). He then cries out for the Duchess, and says “whether we fall by ambition, blood, or lust, / Like diamonds we are cut with our own dust,” and dies. Bosola... (full context)
Politics and Corruption Theme Icon
Guilt, Death, and Suffering Theme Icon
Religion and Sin Theme Icon
...how the Cardinal prevented his own rescue, and Malateste calls Bosola a “wretched thing of blood” and asks how Antonio died. Bosola says Antonio died “in a mist,” as a way... (full context)