Duchess of Malfi Begins London Performances Jan. 28

News   Duchess of Malfi Begins London Performances Jan. 28 Janet McTeer follows a centuries-long line of leading ladies to play the Duchess of Malfi in the drama of that name by Jacobean playwright John Webster.

In a recent newspaper interview, McTeer said that she had been inspired by Helen Mirren's 1980 performance in the role, but, of course, she brings her own very distinctive — and statuesque — persona to the part. And what a part it is! The Duchess of Malfi, having promised her brothers that she will not remarry, promptly (and secretly) does so. The brothers — motivated by greed and by incestuous desires in one case — seize the Duchess and her new husband (who used to be her servant).

The play then descends into scenes of torture, murder and madness and ends — not unlike Hamlet — with most of the major characters having died violent deaths. Among all this, however, the leading lady gets to display an impressive dignity — "I am Duchess of Malfi still" — and there are some wonderful lines, including "Cover her face: Mine eyes dazzle: she died young."