Jacobean drama is, quite simply defined, the drama that was written and performed during the reign of Elizabeth’s successor, James I.Some of the most prominent of the Jacobean playwrights, apart from Shakespeare, are Jonson, Webster, Tourneur, Beaumon and Fletcher.James inherited a whole English drama culture. Audiences loved the humour and the many human situations – the tragic and comic dramas – that were unfolding before them on the stage. Playwrights, reading the audience’s changing appetite, felt the need to give them even more realistic representations of the society of which they were a part. The playwrights were focusing on the human being’s capacity for selfishness, and exaggerating such Renaissance forces as human ambition, and its effects. They were exploring the nature of evil, pushing things to the extremes of human behaviour.
Extreme violence was being portrayed on the stage. A final, almost separate feature of Jacobean theatre sprang from a passion of the king and queen – the musical drama, and so the Jacobean theatre is full of masques – dramas with music and elaborate sets.By showing extreme violence on stage the playwright can produce catharsis in the minds of spectacle.The revenge tragedy, or revenge play, is a dramatic genre in which the protagonist seeks revenge for an imagined or actual injury. The term, revenge tragedy, was first introduced in 1900 by A.H. Thorndike to label a class of plays written in the late Elizabethan and early Jacobean era. The revenge drama derived originally from the Roman tragedies of Seneca but was established on the English stage by Thomas Kyd with The Spanish Tragedy.
“The Duchess of Malfi” by John Webster is a kind of Revenge Tragedy modeled on Seneca, the Latin playwright of 1st century A.D. This play contains the depth of extreme violence, plotting and mostly revenge on the best part which are the chief elements of revenge tragedy. From the beginning to the end of this drama, there are a lot of elements of horrors. In this drama, we find people taking revenge and are murdering others .The revengeful brothers are both villains. A love affair between the Duchess and Antonio and at last they marry and they produce three children. On hearing the news of their secret marriage and their children, the cardinal and The Duke Ferdinand react angrily. And from the beginning to the end of Act two, scene five, we seed the reaction of the two brothers for the action of their sister. They think that the Duchess has destroyed the reputation and status of their family.
To conclude, this drama contains all the elements of a revenge tragedy and also characters.A drama is a reflection of that era.Through the drama a playwright introduces human follies.Playwrights portrays political,social,cultural and economical issues in a play.In this drama we can understand people’s apetite for power and their craving to be selfish in their life.