The enthusiasm of Webster’s fellow playwrights for The Duchess ofMalfi (see p. 3) was already being qualified by the mid seventeenth century when Abraham Wright complained, with reference to the time elapsed between Acts II and III, that ‘against all the laws of the scene, the business was two years a-doing’ (Moore, p. 35). Wright is referring to the neoclassical rule of the unity of time, just as the eighteenth-century playwright Lewis Theobald did when he adapted the play as The Fatal Secret (1733). He described Webster as having ‘a strong and impetuous genius, but withal a most wild and indigested one. … As for rules, he either knew them not, or thought them too servile a restraint. Hence it is that he skips over years. …’ (Preface).
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