The Duchess of Padua by Oscar Wilde Book Review

Set in the sixteen century in the Shakespearean period, the golden age, ‘The Duchess of Padua’ by Oscar Wilde is a charming tragedy that uses poetic symmetry to unravel the events in the story. The main character Beatrice is married to a brutal duke Simone Gesso, who does not love her. She abhors the duke, and falls in love with a charming young man Guido Ferranti, who in the end dies with her. The characters in the play, who are themselves an enigma and do know anything about the love affair between Guido and Beatrice, in the end become astonished by the death of the two lovers. images

Oscar Wilde uses poetic genius in the overall development of the play. Set in four Acts, the characters in the play depict the lives of people during the golden age, where even though women were respected and were recognized in ruling, they did not have that much power to alter major decisions in the decree pertaining to a country. The plot of the play is well developed, and the dispositions of the main characters constructed all around.

The overview of the Play

The events of the play are told through the eyes of an observer. Beatrice is a young Duchess, who is married to the Duke Simone Gesso. Before Simone became a king, he had murdered the previous king Lorenzo, who was the Prince of Parma, and happened to be Guido’s father. Guido learns of this through a bitter old man Moranzone, who hates the Duke, and was a friend to Guido’s father. He tells him how his father was killed in war by Simone. The old man demands Guido to promise to revenge for the death of his father by slaying the king Simone, but not until Moranzone dictates the best time to commit the heinous act.

Moranzone comes up with a plan of how Guido will avenge his father’s death, virtually by becoming closer to king Simone. By so doing, Guido is forced to break his close ties with his friend Ascanio, who leaves him in Padua and returns to his homeland. Just in the nick of time, the Duke shows up, and Moranzone goes away. Guido promises his loyalty to serve the king, and accepts his appointment as one of the men hired to aid the duke.

Beatrice is a young beautiful woman. When Guido sees her, he is captivated and enchanted by her beauty. When he hears her passionately defy her husband’s way of rule, and her courage in supporting poor people against their king, he completely falls in love with her. Away from the king, when he goes riding on his horses and hunting with dogs, Guido reveals his love to Beatrice. She too confess her love, and the two become a couple, but not without Moranzone knowing, for he eavesdrops on their conversation.

The couple envision of having a wonderful future together, though there is an obstacle that threatens their love. Guido has to kill Beatrice husband. He is torn between kill Beatrice husband as he had promised to Moranzone, or eloping with her behind the duke’s back. Alas, in a delirium, he breaks up with Beatrice, hoping that he will go away from Padua and forget about the whole affair. Beatrice is against this, and after Guido leaves her, and after a bitter confrontation with Moranzone, she assumes that the barrier that Guido talks of and is keeping them apart is her husband, and she must get rid of it.images (1)

In the middle of the night, Guido comes into the palace to slay Simone. As he contemplates on postponing the deed, Moranzone shows up and tries to criticize his love affair with the duchess. Upset, Guido refuses to kill the duke in his sleep. Disappointed, Moranzone leaves. As Guido ponders whether to kill the king, and finally avenge his father’s death, he hears a sound in the next room. Beatrice appears wearing a white gown. She tells Guido that she has slain her husband in his sleep. Guido is shocked, and wonders why she would do so. She informs him that she has cleared the barrier that he had spoken off earlier, and now they can be together, and elope away.

Paralysed by terror, Guido denounces Beatrice love. He says he can no longer be her lover, as she has tainted their love with blood. Angered and hurt by his words, Beatrice calls onto the guards, and Guido is arrested. He is aligned in court the following day, and sentenced to death by the Lord Justice, by his head being cut off by the Headsman. Feeling guilty and remorse, Beatrice goes to jail to rescue Guido. She meets him asleep, and drinks the poison that she finds in the cell. Finding out that Beatrice has taken the poison that he was supposed to take instead of his head being hacked by the Headsman, Guido takes a dagger and kills himself. As the Lord Justice, Guard, and the Headsman enter the cell to sentence Guido to his death, they find the couple dead. Beatrice has a calm peaceful expression of her face, something that it is taken to mean that she has been forgiven for her atrocities by God.images (2)

Death as a Sacrifice for Love in the Duchess of Padua by Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde has used the analogy of death and  love to show purity of the soul. Love is used to transcend death, and leads to forgiveness. By the mere act of Beatrice killing her husband, Wilde tries to show the pandemonium that lovers commit to get love. Yet these atrocities are pardoned by death, as it cleanses their sins. Just like in the Picture of Dorian Gray where Wilde’s main character Dorian kills his friend Basil the artist, and later ends his own life by destroying the magical portrait, Beatrice goes ahead to kill her husband, and in the end kills herself by drinking lethal poison.

Beatrice symbolises the pure, chaste, and beautiful souls who must suffer on earth so as to achieve love. She epitomizes the illusion of love that all humanity seeks for with a means to being happy. She is the symbol of pain, and shows that for love to grow there must be those who must suffer. Suffering is the very nature of love. Beatrice commits murder in the name of love, so that she can be with her amiable lover Guido. This shows the kind of sacrifices, mayhem, and crime lovers commit when they are in love. Love is blind, and Wilde uses this imagery throughout in the play.

Guido on the other hand presents those who love, but they are not strong enough to sacrifice for love. He is the causation of failure in love. Guido represents those people who influence their lovers to commit crime, for the sake of their love. He is selfish. He does not take responsibility for his feelings, but rather opts to run away from them. He is no more but a coward, for Beatrice dies for his sake, for she is perturbed by her conscience. It is not until her death that Guido realizes that he has destroyed their love, and he cannot continue to live without Beatrice. Guido’s death, act as an essence to forgiveness.

For love to succeed in life, one must be ready to go overboard. One must make constructions that are geared towards self responsibility. Without pain, sacrifice, and death, there can be no true love. Just like Shakespeare’s tragedy: Romeo and Juliet, Wilde characters die as the play ends. This symbolizes that the sins committed due to love are pardoned by death. Love is greater than death, for it makes the soul to breathe, to move, and to live. It is through death that love materializes into being.images (3)

Love as a Disillusionment to Happiness in the Duchess of Padua by Oscar Wilde

The play Duchess of Padua shows disillusionment in love. Beatrice kills her husband, and then commits suicide all in the pursuit of happiness. She characterizes people who move on in life thinking that they need to do so many things in life to get love. She is a mirror of both men and women, who do everything within their power, even killing others and themselves for the sake of love. She depicts the disillusionment that Oscar Wilde saw in people in the time that he was alive. She is a picture of the miserable lot who go on living in life trying to achieve love, which does not exist and does not give them the happiness that they so seek for.

When Guido refuses to kill Simone, even though his death presents a good opportunity for him to be happy with Beatrice and a chance to avenge his father’s death, he illustrates betrayal. While Beatrice is willing to do everything for love, he on the other hand is not committed to do the same. He demonstrates people who go on in life claiming to be in love, yet when the opportunity presents itself to prove their love, they go all cold and cowardly. He is a deceitful person, who looks out for his own selfish benefits, without thinking of those who love him. Again, he is an egocentric person, who does not care about those people he claims to love. He shows disenchantment as he claims to be in love, yet he is does not have the guts to prove his love. He seeks after happiness in the illusion of love, yet he does not know what love is or feels like. The Duchess of Padua by Oscar Wilde brings in the themes of love, crime, murder, and betrayal so well in the play, and makes it an interesting play to read or watch in the theater.

Hi, Thank You for Reading. Please Leave a Reply