Examine the character of Bosola in Webster's The Duchess of Malfi. To what extent is he typical of the malcontent in a revenge tragedy?

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The malcontent is a certain character type that emerges in Jacobean revenge tragedy. Examples include figures like Ford's Vasquez and Middleton and Rowley's De Flores. In 'The Duchess of Malfi', this is the character of Bosola. A malcontent can be identified by a number of traits. He is a discontented person; a rebel; disaffected, satirical and melancholic; bereaved or dispossessed and detached from an often corrupt society by his grievances; he has knowledge and intelligence without status. As one the key characters in 'The Duchess of Malfi', Bosola can easily be studied to see if these traits of the malcontent are present in his own character.

The initial presentation of Bosola in the first scene of the play certainly does agree with this description of the malcontent. Antonio defines him as a "black malcontent" whose "foul melancholy will poison all his goodness". We see him making sarcastic remarks, being critical of court and Church, feeling bitter after his imprisonment in the galleys and he seems perceptive showing his intelligence despite lack of position in the society of Malfi.

The very first description of Bosola by Antonio asserts the popular opinion of Bosola by the characters in the play, and this agrees with the statement that Bosola is a malcontent:

"Here comes Bosola,

The only court-gall; yet I observe his railing

Is not for simple love of piety,

Indeed he rails at those things which he wants,

Would be as lecherous, covetous, or proud,

Bloody, or envious, as any man,

If he had means to be so."

Here we see Bosola as dispossessed and detached from others due to his yearning for what he cannot have.

There are many instances in the play where we see Bosola as having knowledge and intelligence without status, although sometimes...