The full text of William Painter’s Palace of Pleasure which was Webster’s immediate source can be found in an appendix of Leech and Craik’s Revels History of Drama. Painter’s version was taken from the French Histoires Tragiques by Belleforest. He had considerably expanded the original story written by the Italian, Matteo Bandello, who actually knew the real Duchess of the title. It is possible to trace in detail the emendations and alterations that Webster makes to Painter’s, Belleforest’s and Bandello’s versions, but essentially the play is his response to those earlier texts rather than a dramatisation of them. The play falls into two main sections: ’the secret marriage’ and ’the Duke’s revenge’. Our interest in this two-part plot does not lie in following an orderly seqilence of events but in moments when characters challenge orthodoxy and then experience the ferocity of cruel, unjustifiable revenge.
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