The Revenger’s Tragedy

The Duke Character Analysis

The Duke is the ruler of the court when the play commences. He has two sons from a marriage prior to the Duchess: his heir Lussurioso, and his bastard son, Spurio. He’s extremely corrupt and abuses his power to satisfy his overbearing lust. In fact, he even killed Vindice’s fiancée, Gloriana, because she refused his advances. As the head of a court full of immorality and thirst for vengeance, the Duke is especially vulnerable to attack—the play is less a question of if he will die, but by whose hand and when. Ultimately, it’s Vindice who has that honor, using the Duke’s sexual obsession against him by tricking him into kissing the poison-laden skull of Gloriana. The only mildly redeeming feature of the Duke is that he is self-aware enough to see the extent of his own corruption, confessing to the audience that he is “like a monster” in his singular pursuit of sex.

The Duke Quotes in The Revenger’s Tragedy

The The Revenger’s Tragedy quotes below are all either spoken by The Duke or refer to The Duke. 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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[To the skull] Thou sallow picture of my poisoned love,
My study’s ornament, thou shell of death,
Once the bright face my betrothed lady,
When life and beauty naturally filled out these
These ragged imperfections,
When two heaven-pointed diamonds were set
In those unsightly rings […]
Thee when thou wert appareled in thy flesh
The old duke poisoned,
Because thy purer part would not consent
Unto his palsy-lust

Related Characters: Vindice (speaker), The Duke
Related Symbols: Gloriana’s Skull
Page Number: 14-34
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
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

It well becomes that judge to nod at crimes
That does commit greater himself, and lives.
I may forgive a disobedient error
That expect pardon for adultery,
And in my old days am a youth in lust.
Many a beauty have I turned to poison
In the denial, covetous of all.
Age hot, is like a monster to be seen:
My hairs are white, and yet my sins are green.

Related Characters: The Duke (speaker), Lussurioso
Page Number: 124-133
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Act 3, Scene 5 Quotes

VINDICE: Look you brother,
I have not fashioned this only for show
And useless property, no — it shall bear a part
E'en in it own revenge. This very skull,
Whose mistress the duke poisoned with this drug,
The mortal curse of the earth, shall be revenged
In the like strain and kiss his lips to death.

Related Characters: Vindice (speaker), Hippolito, The Duke
Related Symbols: Gloriana’s Skull
Page Number: 98-104
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Act 5, Scene 2 Quotes

My lords, be all of music;
Strike old griefs into other countries
That flow in too much milk and have faint livers,
Not daring to stab home their discontents.
Let our hid flames break out, as fire, as lightning
To blast this villainous dukedom vexed with sin:
Wind up your souls to their full height again […]
And when they think their pleasures sweet and good,
In midst of all their joys, they shall sigh blood.

Related Characters: Vindice (speaker), The Duke, Lussurioso
Related Symbols: Natural Phenomena
Page Number: 1-22
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Act 5, Scene 3 Quotes

ANTONIO: Bear 'em to speedy execution. […]

VINDICE: May not we set as well as the duke's son?
Thou hast no conscience: are we not revenged?
Is there one enemy left alive amongst those?
When murderers shut deeds close this curse does seal 'em:
If none disclose 'em, they themselves reveal 'em!
This murder might have slept in tongueless brass
But for ourselves, and the world died an ass.
Now I remember too; here was Piato
Brought forth a knavish sentence once:
No doubt, said he, but time
Will make the murderer bring forth himself.
'Tis well he died, he was a witch.—
And now my lord, since we are in for ever:
This work was ours, which else might have been slipped;
And if we list we could have nobles clipped
And go for less than beggars. But we hate
To bleed so cowardly: we have enough—
I'faith we're well: our mother turned, our sister true,
We die after a nest of dukes! Adieu.
Exeunt [Vindice and Hippolito, guarded)

ANTONIO: How subtly was that murder closed! Bear up
Those tragic bodies; 'tis a heavy season.
Pray heaven their blood may wash away all treason.

Related Characters: Vindice (speaker), Antonio (speaker), Hippolito, The Duke, Lussurioso, Gratiana, Castiza
Related Symbols: Natural Phenomena
Page Number: 106-130
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
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The Duke Character Timeline in The Revenger’s Tragedy

The timeline below shows where the character The Duke 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
...on stage, 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... (full context)
Revenge and Justice Theme Icon
Lust Theme Icon
Women and Misogyny Theme Icon
Death Theme Icon
...beautiful she was when alive and states the reasons for her death, making clear that the Duke poisoned her because she refused to have sex with him; Vindice promises to get his... (full context)
Revenge and Justice Theme Icon
Women and Misogyny Theme Icon
Death Theme Icon
Vindice says he isn’t surprised to hear Lussurioso’s request, because the Duke ’s eldest son is notoriously lusty. He doesn’t think there’s any woman that Lussurioso wouldn’t... (full context)
Revenge and Justice Theme Icon
Lust Theme Icon
...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 wife of Lord Antonio, a... (full context)
Act 1, Scene 2 
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The Duke , Lussurioso, the Duchess, Spurio, and Ambitioso and Supervacuo, the Duchess’s other two sons, enter.... (full context)
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The Duke apologizes to the Duchess for the fact that Junior Brother, her youngest son, must be... (full context)
Revenge and Justice Theme Icon
Women and Misogyny Theme Icon
...to pronounce the death sentence for Junior Brother. But before he can finish his statement, the Duke intervenes, instructing that the verdict will be deferred—and that Junior Brother should be merely imprisoned... (full context)
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Women and Misogyny Theme Icon
The Duchess is furious with the Duke for not freeing Junior Brother. She vows to get her own back on him by... (full context)
Revenge and Justice Theme Icon
Lust Theme Icon
Women and Misogyny Theme Icon
...his father’s wife. The Duchess tries to persuade Spurio to think otherwise, pointing out that the Duke paid little attention to morals in fathering a bastard child and denying Spurio the usual... (full context)
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Lust Theme Icon
Women and Misogyny Theme Icon
Spurio becomes increasingly angry toward the Duke for his bastardy, and assents to have an illicit affair with the Duchess in order... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 1
Lust Theme Icon
Women and Misogyny Theme Icon
...the ear—Castiza says she had promised herself she would do so to the next person the Duke ’s son sent “to be his sins’ attorney.” She instructs Vindice to tell Lussurioso “my... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 2
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Spurio and his servants exit. Vindice relishes the thought of the Duke being made a “cuckold.” Lussurioso comes back, requesting Piato’s (Vindice’s fake identity) presence on his... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 3
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...his sword, hoping to kill Spurio, but discovers that the Duchess is in bed with the Duke instead. The Duke frantically begs for his life, saying he has days’ worth of prayers... (full context)
Death Theme Icon
The Duke realizes that Lussurioso is his assailant; the Duke’s guards seize Lussurioso. Some noblemen, Ambitioso, and... (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... (full context)
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Death Theme Icon
Ambitioso and Supervacuo speak to the Duke . Though their intention on the surface is to bring about Lussurioso’s release, they deliberately... (full context)
Revenge and Justice Theme Icon
Lust Theme Icon
Women and Misogyny Theme Icon
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With Ambitioso and Supervacuo gone, the Duke tells his noblemen that he will pardon Lussurioso. Left alone on stage, the Duke reasons... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 1
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Ambitioso and Supervacuo discuss taking the Duke ’s order for death directly to the prison guards (rather than the judges) to bring... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 2
Lust Theme Icon
Women and Misogyny Theme Icon
On the Duke ’s orders, Lussurioso is freed from prison. He thanks the noblemen who have come to... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 3
Revenge and Justice Theme Icon
Death Theme Icon
...Supervacuo meet with the prison officers and present the order for the execution of “ the Duke ’s son.” The two brothers feign sadness and regret for Lussurioso’s impending death and ask... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 4
Revenge and Justice Theme Icon
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...be released, but prison officers enter and make it clear that they have orders from the Duke to execute him there and then. Junior Brother tries to argue, but the officers tell... (full context)
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Lust Theme Icon
Women and Misogyny Theme Icon
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The officers tell Junior Brother that his own brothers delivered the Duke ’s judgment to them, confusing Junior Brother, who says he is waiting for “trick” to... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 5
Revenge and Justice Theme Icon
Lust Theme Icon
...Vindice is clearly excited about something, and Hippolito wants to know what. Vindice explains that the Duke has asked him—or “Piato” the pander—to find a woman for him. Vindice has arranged for... (full context)
Revenge and Justice Theme Icon
Lust Theme Icon
Women and Misogyny Theme Icon
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...explains he will place poison on her lips—or where her lips would be—that will kill the Duke when he kisses her. The dying Duke will then die witnessing Spurio and the Duchess... (full context)
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Vindice and Hippolito hear the Duke approaching, and Vindice instructs his brother to hide with the skull. The Duke arrives with... (full context)
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Women and Misogyny Theme Icon
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Vindice, still disguised as Piato, explains to the Duke that the woman he has found for him is a “country lady, a little bashful... (full context)
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...back away with the torch and give him the skull. Vindice moves the skull towards the Duke , who plants it with a kiss. The Duke instantly realizes that something is terribly... (full context)
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Vindice gleefully reveals to the Duke the identity of the skull (that is, Gloriana). Hippolito stamps on the Duke as the... (full context)
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Lust Theme Icon
Women and Misogyny Theme Icon
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The Duke ’s tongue starts to dissolve from the poison. Vindice isn’t finished with the Duke yet,... (full context)
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...so Vindice stabs him to death. Exiting the stage, Vindice says to Hippolito that “the dukedom wants a head” and that they should “cut down” everyone that tries to claim it. (full context)
Act 3, Scene 6
Death Theme Icon
...much to Ambitioso and Supervacuo’s surprise. They pretend to have aided his release by convincing the Duke to be gentle in his judgment. Lussurioso thanks them and exits. (full context)
Act 4, Scene 1
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...to be a “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... (full context)
Revenge and Justice Theme Icon
...Piato the pander (who is also Vindice). Some noblemen enter, asking whether Lussurioso has seen the Duke recently. Answering that he hasn’t, Lussurioso and the noblemen wonder where the Duke has gone. (full context)
Act 4, Scene 2
Revenge and Justice Theme Icon
...offer him some “employment.” They agree Vindice should change his voice and demeanor so that the Duke ’s son won’t suspect Vindice is one and the same as Piato. Vindice decides to... (full context)
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...beat Piato up in anger at his actions. Vindice, unable to believe the audacity of the Duke ’s son, asks in an aside: “Has not heaven an ear? Is all the lightning... (full context)
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...to kill himself to kill Piato, Vindice and Hippolito hatch a plan: to dress up the Duke ’s body in the Piato disguise, making it look like the Pander has killed the... (full context)
Act 4, Scene 4
Women and Misogyny Theme Icon
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Vindice asks whether Gratiana had talked with a man sent by the Duke ’s son, and if that man had convinced her to “work our sister [Castiza] to... (full context)
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...her mind, now willing to do as Gratiana had wished—“to prostitute my breast to the duke’s son.” (full context)
Act 5, Scene 1
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Hippolito and Vindice enter, carrying the Duke ’s body dressed in Vindice’s “Piato” disguise. They set the body to look like a... (full context)
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...will protect them for prosecution or retaliation, which he gives. They stab the corpse of the Duke . (full context)
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Lussurioso approaches the corpse, and suddenly realizes that it’s his father, the Duke . Lussurioso buys into Vindice and Hippolito’s plan, thinking that Piato must have killed the... (full context)
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...to be the least culpable man around when a murder is discovered. Lussurioso notices that the Duke ’s lips are “gnawn with poison.” (full context)
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As word of the Duke ’s death gets around, more nobles, guards, and court attendees enter, along with Ambitioso, Supervacuo,... (full context)
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Lussurioso summons the nobleman who had earlier said that the Duke was away from court, and sends him off for execution, falsely blaming him for the... (full context)
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One of the nobles points out that, with the Duke ’s death, Lussurioso is now ruler. Lussurioso pretends to be anguished by “griefs,” but in... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 3
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...nearly dead. He whispers to him that it was he, Vindice, who murdered Lussurioso and the Duke . At this, Lussurioso draws his last breath. (full context)
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...that the rape of Antonio’s wife has now been revenged; Antonio wonders “how the old duke came murdered.” (full context)
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Vindice announces to Antonio that it was he and Hippolito who orchestrated the murder of the Duke , bragging that it was “witty carried.” Antonio orders the guards to seize the two... (full context)