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Duchess Of Malfi

4.1 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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(Nov 22, 2011)
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Editorial Reviews

Wienerworld has teamed up with Stage on Screen to release a new series of classic plays. Each production is highly polished, using professional actors and directors at London's Greenwich theatre. The Duchess of Malfi is considered to be the masterpiece of Jacobean playwright John Webster, it was first produced in around 1613. Set in Italy in the early 15th century, it starts out as a love story, with the Duchess marrying beneath her class. However, her brothers, one cool and corrupt, the other violent and warped, have other ideas.

Special Features

None.

Product Details

  • Actors: Various
  • Format: Color, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Region: All Regions
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    Unrated
    Not Rated
  • Studio: WIENERWORL
  • DVD Release Date: November 22, 2011
  • Run Time: 156 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B003NEQ0X6
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #241,826 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD
For most fans of Jacobean drama, John Webster's THE DUCHESS OF MALFI (1613) is the most powerful tragedy of that period not written by a man named Shakespeare. This opinion is so widely held that the play has become a standard selection in all of the drama anthologies of the period.
It is also a ferociously demanding piece of theater, full of complex speeches, strange reversals, and extravagant stage effects. For this reason, it is seldom performed. Your odds of seeing it in the U.S. are only slightly better than those of meeting the author.
Though neither the distributor (Stage On Screen) nor the dramatic company (Greenwich Theatre, London) were known to me, I bought this DVD blind because I knew that, however uneven the production might be, this was likely to be my only chance of ever seeing this great play performed.
I slowly realized that I was watching a marvelously spoken, intelligently staged, and professionally recorded production performed in front of a live audience.
The Duchess is played magnificently by a statuesque redhead (Aslin McGuckin) who accomplishes the difficult task of projecting the nobility-in-suffering Webster apparently intended this character to embody. In counterpoint to this, the tool villain Bosola (Tim Treloar)delivers his character's soliloquies with fine shadings of melancholy and outrage. And the hedonistic Cardinal (Mark Hatfield) is full of energy, delighted at this own corruption. While all of the actors are well cast, these three have voices as supple and distinctive as musical instruments.
This production relies on a combination of minimal, all-black sets (outlines, really), colorful costumes which suggest the period, and sharp contrasts in lighting to create dramatic effects.
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One of the major issues facing those who have to teach drama of the Elizabethan/Jacobean period other than Shakespeare is the paucity of dvds as aids to teaching. Recent productions of The Revenger's Tragedy and The Changeling have been encouraging but those productions deviate considerably from the original texts and often they seem to be entirely different plays made into film. This is not to criticize such productions (they have their place)but they are not always helpful to the teacher. The Stage & Screen version of the Duchess of Malfi is much more faithful to the original and given that there is a "live" audience it is the next best things to actually seeing it on stage. That said, I do not totally agree with the downplaying of the incest theme (Ferdinand's feelings for his sister) or the choice of actor for Antonio who comes across as very lively from the outset and not the serious clerk as found in the original text. But that is carping. I do hope Stage & Screen extend their productions to the Restoration as well. I would love to see a play like The Country Wife produced on DVD.
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Format: DVD
One of the great plays of the English theatre, The Duchess of Malfi tells the tale of the young widowed duchess who marries again for love. But her new husband, Antonio, is from a lower class and the marriage must be kept secret from the Duchess's brothers for fear of their revenge. Although written around the same period as Shakespeare the language is much more accessible and often poetic.

This production of Webster's tragedy is boosted by the great performance of Aislin McGuckin in the title role. Her Duchess is playful when courting Antonio, strong in defiance of her brothers and beautifully controlled in the emotional latter stages of the play. The rest of the cast are very good too although I did find that sometimes they spoke very quickly (the director's decision?) and some of the words were lost. The subtitles helped here.

I've always felt that the play should naturally end after Act 4, especially since the fifth and final act is a bit over the top for modern tastes. It is hard (as with some Shakespeare) for the tragedy not to turn to farce, but on the whole this production manages to maintain the atmosphere to the end, thanks mainly to a strong performance from Tim Treloar playing Bosola.

I am delighted that Stage on Screen are filming stage performances of some of the classic plays that people outside the big cities rarely get a chance to see and I hope they continue. Highly recommended.
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Bridges that gap between text and performance rather well. well made with competent acting by most actors esp. the Duchess, Bosola and Ferdinand. Its being shot in a theatre adds and brings out nuances that would have been lost in a feature film. Stage performances are difficult, this works. It starts slow but grows on you as you watch about one-third. overall a good experience.
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