‘Great arts best write themselves in their own stories’: Ending The Broken Heart
John Ford was among the small group of theatre poets who expressed their admiration for John Webster's tragic ‘monument’ in the encomiastic verses that greeted the publication of The Duchess of Malfi in 1623; and a few years later he was to return to its controlling metaphor in what was probably the earliest of his own tragedies, The Broken Heart. Like Malfi, The Broken Heart was written for the King's Men; but in its celebration of courtly values it represents a marked ideological shift from the play that helped to inspire it. In Ford's play, funereal art is reinvested with all its traditional hierarchic symbolism. However, here, where the plangent elegance of the poet's style becomes a figure for the emotional restraint of the aristocratic culture it celebrates, the monumental idea is no longer represented by an actual stage property.
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