The Revenger’s Tragedy

The Duchess Character Analysis

The Duchess is the Duke’s wife and the mother of Ambitioso, Supervacuo, and Junior Brother (who are not the Duke’s children). When the Duke refuses to show leniency to her son, Junior Brother, who is imprisoned for the rape of Antonio’s wife, the Dutchess decides to seek her own revenge by “cuckolding” her husband—that is, by having an affair. To make it that little bit more illicit she chooses Spurio as her partner, the Duke’s own bastard son. When Lussurioso later ascends the throne, he has the Duchess exiled, angry at her treatment of his father, the Duke.

The Duchess Quotes in The Revenger’s Tragedy

The The Revenger’s Tragedy quotes below are all either spoken by The Duchess or refer to The Duchess. 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:
Revenge and Justice Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Bloomsbury edition of The Revenger’s Tragedy published in 2009.
Act 1, Scene 1 Quotes

Duke—royal lecher! Go, grey-haired adultery;
And thou his son, as impious steeped as he;
And thou his bastard true-begot in evil;
And thou his duchess that will do with devil;
Four ex’lent characters.

Related Characters: Vindice (speaker), The Duke, Lussurioso, The Duchess, Spurio
Page Number: 1-5
Explanation and Analysis:
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Act 1, Scene 2  Quotes

Duchess, it is your youngest son, we’re sorry,
His violent act has e'en drawn blood of honour
And stained our honours,
Thrown ink upon the forehead of our state
Which envious spirits will dip their pens into
After our death, and blot us in our tombs."

Related Characters: The Duke (speaker), The Duchess, Spurio , Junior Brother, Antonio
Page Number: 1-6
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

DUCHESS: Who would not be revenged of such a father,
E'en in the worst way? I would thank that sin
That could most injury him, and be in league with it.
Oh what a grief 'tis that a man should live
But once i'th’ world, and then to live a bastard,
The curse o' the womb, the thief of Nature,
Begot against the seventh commandment
Half damned in the conception by the justice
Of that unbribed everlasting law.

SPURIO: O, I’d a hot-backed devil to my father.

Related Characters: The Duchess (speaker), Spurio (speaker), The Duke, Junior Brother
Page Number: 154-163
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Act 2, Scene 3 Quotes

O, take me not in sleep; I have great sins.
I must have days—
Nay, months, dear son, with penitential heaves,
To lift 'em out and not to die unclear;
O, thou wilt kill me both in heaven and here.

Related Characters: The Duke (speaker), Lussurioso, The Duchess, Spurio
Page Number: 8-13
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Act 4, Scene 2 Quotes

Has not heaven an ear? Is all the lightning wasted?

Related Characters: Vindice (speaker), Lussurioso, The Duchess, Spurio , Gratiana, Castiza
Related Symbols: Natural Phenomena
Page Number: 155
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
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The Duchess Character Timeline in The Revenger’s Tragedy

The timeline below shows where the character The Duchess appears in The Revenger’s Tragedy. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1, Scene 1
Revenge and Justice Theme Icon
Death Theme Icon
...holding the skull of his deceased fiancée, Gloriana. He watches from afar as the Duke, the Duchess , Lussurioso (the Duke’s eldest son by an earlier marriage), and Spurio (the Duke’s bastard... (full context)
Revenge and Justice Theme Icon
Lust Theme Icon
...given that Hippolito is closer to the court than Vindice—a side effect, Hippolito says, of the Duchess ’s attraction to him. Hippolito explains that there has indeed been an interesting development: Lussurioso... (full context)
Revenge and Justice Theme Icon
Lust Theme Icon
Gratiana asks Hippolito for news from the court. Hippolito informs her that the Duchess ’s youngest son (and the Duke’s stepson), Junior Brother, is rumored to have raped the... (full context)
Act 1, Scene 2 
Revenge and Justice Theme Icon
Lust Theme Icon
The Duke, Lussurioso, the Duchess , Spurio, and Ambitioso and Supervacuo, the Duchess’s other two sons, enter. Junior Brother is... (full context)
Revenge and Justice Theme Icon
Lust Theme Icon
The Duke apologizes to the Duchess for the fact that Junior Brother, her youngest son, must be punished for his crime.... (full context)
Revenge and Justice Theme Icon
Lust Theme Icon
Death Theme Icon
The Duchess pleads on her knees for Junior Brother to be shown mercy. Lussurioso says that mercy... (full context)
Revenge and Justice Theme Icon
Women and Misogyny Theme Icon
Much to the Duchess ’s dismay, the judge starts to pronounce the death sentence for Junior Brother. But before... (full context)
Revenge and Justice Theme Icon
Lust Theme Icon
Women and Misogyny Theme Icon
The Duchess is furious with the Duke for not freeing Junior Brother. She vows to get her... (full context)
Revenge and Justice Theme Icon
Lust Theme Icon
Women and Misogyny Theme Icon
Spurio greets the Duchess , who makes it obvious that she wants a kiss on her “lip” and not... (full context)
Revenge and Justice Theme Icon
Lust Theme Icon
Women and Misogyny Theme Icon
...angry toward the Duke for his bastardy, and assents to have an illicit affair with the Duchess in order get “the vengeance that my birth was wrapped in.” They kiss, and the... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 2
Revenge and Justice Theme Icon
Lust Theme Icon
Death Theme Icon
Hippolito comes back with news—he has heard about the affair between Spurio and the Duchess . Spurio enters with his servants; Vindice and Hippolito hide in order to eavesdrop. Spurio... (full context)
Revenge and Justice Theme Icon
Lust Theme Icon
Death Theme Icon
...toy with the idea of killing Lussurioso immediately, but instead inform him of Spurio and the Duchess ’s sexual relationship. (full context)
Act 2, Scene 3
Death Theme Icon
Vindice (still in disguise) leads Lussurioso to the Duchess ’s chamber. Lussurioso draws his sword, hoping to kill Spurio, but discovers that the Duchess... (full context)
Death Theme Icon
...assailant; the Duke’s guards seize Lussurioso. Some noblemen, Ambitioso, and Supervacuo enter. The Duke and the Duchess express their surprise that Lussurioso had come to assassinate his own father. Sensing it best... (full context)
Revenge and Justice Theme Icon
Spurio enters with his servants. Lussurioso tries to tell the Duke about the Duchess ’s affair with Spurio but is silenced and taken to prison. On his way out,... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 5
Revenge and Justice Theme Icon
Lust Theme Icon
...which point Vindice will kill the Duke and make him bear witness to Spurio and the Duchess ’s affair. (full context)
Revenge and Justice Theme Icon
Lust Theme Icon
Women and Misogyny Theme Icon
Death Theme Icon
...the Duke when he kisses her. The dying Duke will then die witnessing Spurio and the Duchess together—Vindice has arranged the Duke’s sexual liaison to take place at the same location as... (full context)
Revenge and Justice Theme Icon
Lust Theme Icon
Women and Misogyny Theme Icon
Death Theme Icon
...will become a “renowned, high and mighty cuckold” by witnessing his bastard son, Spurio, and the Duchess together. The Duke pleads with them not to force him to see that. Vindice and... (full context)
Revenge and Justice Theme Icon
Lust Theme Icon
Death Theme Icon
Spurio and the Duchess enter, kissing. The Duchess says, “there’s no pleasure sweet but it is sinful.” The Duke... (full context)
Act 4, Scene 1
Lust Theme Icon
...“knave.” Lussurioso recounts how Piato’s misinformation led him to burst in on the Duke and the Duchess in bed, thinking he would find the “incestuous sweets” of Spurio and the Duchess instead. (full context)
Revenge and Justice Theme Icon
...comes in but is sent away immediately by Lussurioso for his misinformation about Spurio and the Duchess . Lussurioso asks Hippolito if he has a brother, and, learning that he does, requests... (full context)
Act 4, Scene 3
Revenge and Justice Theme Icon
Women and Misogyny Theme Icon
The Duchess and Spurio enter, arm in arm and behaving “lasciviously.” Supervacuo runs after them with his... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 1
Revenge and Justice Theme Icon
Death Theme Icon
...gets around, more nobles, guards, and court attendees enter, along with Ambitioso, Supervacuo, Spurio, and the Duchess . Ambitioso wonders “over what roof hangs this prodigious comet / In deadly fire?” Supervacuo,... (full context)
Lust Theme Icon
Death Theme Icon
...revels” to welcome Lussurioso to his new supremacy. In another aside, he vows to exile the Duchess . Lussurioso, the Duchess, and the nobles exit. (full context)
Act 5, Scene 3
Revenge and Justice Theme Icon
Death Theme Icon
In an aside, Lussurioso states that he has banished the Duchess , and plans to kill Spurio, Supervacuo, and Ambitioso. Lussurioso looks to the star, thinking... (full context)