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"Le théâtre baroque du corps démembré dans "The Duchess of Malfi""

Abstract : The Duchess of Malfi teems with images of dismembered bodies which form the basis of Webster’s specific macabre poetics. The play is haunted by body parts, at the levels of both plot and imagery. This peculiar aesthetics can be seen as a symptom of a worldview in crisis, in which the correspondences and analogies that had held the world together until then have ceased to operate—as the metaphor of an organic political body no longer holds the society together and the age-old analogy between the microcosm of the human body and the macrocosm of the cosmos no longer signifies the unity of the created universe. The metaphorical coherence of the play lies in the dissemination throughout the text of these signifiers of the dismembered body. Webster plays on the over-determination of these images, as the text consistently draws attention to these repetitions; the words used to designate body parts become unstable, potentially proleptic signs pointing to imminent death and foreshadowing the sudden appearance of actual, dismembered bodies. This article deals with this « expressionistic » poetic, which emphasises its effects in an artificial, often metaliterary manner through various strategies of highlighting. As will be apparent here, the text self-consciously draws attention to the way it re-motivates images by literalizing commonplaces and ossified metaphors in a macabre poetic of excess.
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Contributor : Line Cottegnies <>
Submitted on : Monday, February 4, 2019 - 3:53:13 PM
Last modification on : Monday, January 11, 2021 - 6:44:02 PM
Long-term archiving on: : Sunday, May 5, 2019 - 3:55:52 PM


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  • HAL Id : hal-02006418, version 1


Line Cottegnies. "Le théâtre baroque du corps démembré dans "The Duchess of Malfi"". Sillages Critiques, Presses de l'Université de Paris-Sorbonne, 2019, New Perspectives on "The Duchess of Malfi", 26. ⟨hal-02006418⟩



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