References to disease, both figurative and literal, are made throughout the play. In an early speech, Bosola seems to indicate that disfigurement and disease signify a perversion and animalization of humanity. Two clear examples of the way disease is used are the Duchess’s pregnancy and Ferdinand’s Lycanthopia. When the Duchess is pregnant, it’s her morning sickness that alerts Bosola to her pregnancy. And when the Duke is driven insane by his guilt, it manifests in what the Doctor diagnoses as Lycanthropia (werewolf syndrome). In both cases, disease is an outward manifestation of some inward guilt, sin, or secret.
Disease Quotes in The Duchess of Malfi
A prince's court
Is like a common fountain, whence should flow
Pure silver drops in general; but if't chance
Some cursed example poison't near the head,
Death and diseases through the whole land spread.
And what is't makes this blessèd government
But a most provident council, who dare freely
Inform him the corruption of the times.
What thing is in this outward form of man
To be beloved? We account it ominous
If nature do produce a colt or lamb,
A fawn or goat, in any limb resembling
A man, and fly from't as a prodigy.
Man stands amazed to see his deformity
In any other creature but himself.