The Duchess of Malfi

Disease Symbol Analysis

Disease Symbol Icon

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

The The Duchess of Malfi quotes below all refer to the symbol of Disease. 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 1 Quotes

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.

Related Characters: Antonio Bologna (speaker), Delio
Related Symbols: Poison, Disease
Page Number: 1.1.11-18
Explanation and Analysis:

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Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui

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Act 2, Scene 1 Quotes

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.

Related Characters: Daniel de Bosola (speaker), Castruccio, Old Lady
Related Symbols: Disease
Page Number: 2.1.45-51
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

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Disease Symbol Timeline in The Duchess of Malfi

The timeline below shows where the symbol Disease appears in The Duchess of Malfi. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1, Scene 1
Politics and Corruption Theme Icon
Guilt, Death, and Suffering Theme Icon
Class Theme Icon
...it is properly functioning, but if the fountain is poisoned near the head, death and disease flow to the country. The king is also surrounded by council and people who are... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 1
Guilt, Death, and Suffering Theme Icon
Class Theme Icon
...closet must be filled with items used for witchcraft, and that he’d rather eat a plague-ridden pigeon than kiss a woman who was fasting. (full context)
Guilt, Death, and Suffering Theme Icon
...we see anything resembling humans in other animals, but in our own bodies we have diseases that are named for animals. Even though we are covered in a rotten and dead... (full context)
Love and Male Authority Theme Icon
Guilt, Death, and Suffering Theme Icon
Class Theme Icon
...ask him if he’s trying to become wise. Bosola then compares wisdom to a skin disease running all over a body. Simplicity, he says makes happiness, and even the slightest wisdom... (full context)
Act 4, Scene 1
Politics and Corruption Theme Icon
Love and Male Authority Theme Icon
Guilt, Death, and Suffering Theme Icon
Religion and Sin Theme Icon
...which she can never recover. The Duchess replies that this knowledge consumes her like a disease, and she asks to be tied to the dead body so she can freeze to... (full context)
Politics and Corruption Theme Icon
Love and Male Authority Theme Icon
Guilt, Death, and Suffering Theme Icon
Class Theme Icon
...going on to curse the stars, the seasons, and the whole world. She calls for plague and disease to consume families, and for those families to be remembered only for 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
...and he responds that he does, and that it’s all the more dangerous since the disease is unfelt and therefore undetectable to her. She asks if he knows her, and he... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 2
Politics and Corruption Theme Icon
Guilt, Death, and Suffering Theme Icon
Religion and Sin Theme Icon
...a Doctor discuss the condition of the Duke. The doctor says that Ferdinand has the disease lycanthropia, which causes people to imagine that they are transformed into wolves and to dig... (full context)