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Duchess (Alice's Adventures in Wonderland)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Alice character
Alice par John Tenniel 32.png
Alice and the Duchess, 1865 illustration by John Tenniel
First appearanceAlice's Adventures in Wonderland
Created byLewis Carroll

The Duchess is a character in Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, published in 1865. Carroll does not describe her physically in much detail, although as stated in Chapter 9 "Alice did not much like keeping so close to her: first, because the Duchess was VERY ugly; and secondly, because she was exactly the right height to rest her chin upon Alice’s shoulder..." Her hideous appearance and short stature is strongly established in the popular imagination thanks to John Tenniel's illustrations and from context it is clear that Alice finds her quite unattractive.

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Hello, I am Rodrigo! Let`s start another episode of the Cultebook channel Another episode that I will talk about an universal literature classic. More than that I will talk about an important birthday. In July 2015, one of the greatest literature classics is turning 150 years old. I'm talking about A-li-ce in Won-der-land! One of the most cult and influential books to the culture and pop culture, written by Mister Lewis Carroll. 1865 was the publishing year of the book Alice in Wonderland. A book that came from the author's hang out - at least that's what the legend says. The reverend Charles Dogson's - the real name of Lewis Carrol.. ...had a boat ride with a friend of him and the children of the Lidell family from whom the father was a Carroll's friend. In a boat ride, during a summer afternoon, over the River Thames in London, Carroll started to tell fantastic stories to the girls. Later, he decided to bring the stories he invented that day to a book. Then, he just has written one of the masterpieces of the 19th century literature. However, I have a reservation. Despite the intentions of the author to write a teenager or even children book, nowadays, I would not suggest this book for children. On contrary, this book seems to me a really adult reading. This reading asks for extra concentration and some maturity more than the feeling of a hobby or entertaining reading. Of course you can read Alice as a entertaining book. You should read the way you like most. But, due to the time it was written, the context and the language, a lot of attention is necessary. It is needed to say, Lewis Carroll was a mathematician, a Math teacher, besides he would write books. So, he valued a lot to make logical puzzles and insert some mathematical concepts on his texts. The understanding what he is trying to mean sometimes can be really hard. I'm not used to recommend a specific edition of a book. I believe you can access the story of a book through different formats and editions. But this special edition, which is a commented edition, is really rich in notes...I will show. More than a half of the book are notes. Sometimes there are notes you get longer to read than a whole chapter. Those notes are indeed fundamental. Otherwise we just cannot understand the jokes or the word puzzles made by Carroll. And finally, the context of the book. The daily life that the author exposes is in the 19th century second half. The Victorian age in England. An era with many particular characteristics. Just giving an example of how is nice read Alice in Wonderland with the notes Thanks to those notes we are able to understand that many characters or happenings in the book are not there by chance. The Mad Hatter, for instance, has his own explanation. According to some reports of that time, the hatters would manipulate hats using mercury in the felt. And this contact with the chemical substance, which its use is forbidden since a long time ago... ...caused some psychic reactions...or even physical effects. In the end, it would harmed their health. Another thing commonly discussed about Carroll... also a topic not really appropriated for children. It is about a excessive affection that the author would have for children. Carroll was also a photographer and many of his pictures were found when he clicked children such as Alice was. In fact, nobody knows exactly if his appreciation for children - and this appreciation was strictly for women. According to some of his biographers, Lewis Carroll doesn't like children when they were boys - However, for many of them Carroll's love for children had never been converted into a sexual desire. Even some reports of the children he maintained contact, as Alice herself, never pointed to a lust, or even perverted behavior. I assume the risk saying that Lewis Carroll could be compared to Michael Jackson. We will probably never know for sure what really happened. Obviously, many parents complained about his proximity, or the dedication he used to have with their kids. Possibly they were afraid, which is somehow justifiable. But nobody could prove if his admiration for children would be also a sexual illness. Doubtless, he would have a great admiration for Alice, who really existed, and was the youngest daughter of a Carroll's friend. Many people know how the book starts: Alice is following the white rabbit. The events that happen during the narrative does not have logic. Or, at least, they are illogical happenings based on mathematical logic. But, of course, they are senseless. We are talking about a non sense literature. And because of that, Alice in Wonderland is one of the books I have read in life with the greatest variety of possible interpretations. Historical, Social, Psychological interpretations... Due to Carroll's affection for children Freudian analysis came up. Every sort of analysis or interpretations has been made for Alice. Of course, I also have my own interpretation. There are many things in the book that called my attention. One of them, for sure, is the way that Alice stand her opinions against different types of authorities. Alice shows her questioning personality against authority. Against things that we are obligated to do even with no apparent reason. Other nice thing that I also see in this book, Alice in Wonderland, is that, for many times, some happenings in life have no sense at all. Of course, in Alice's world the absurd is completely exaggerated. After all, we can't meet in our daily lives talking animals or walking playing cards, Alice grows and shrinks many times, she suffer transformations depending on the context, Well, everything is extremely fantastic, extremely absurd. But, real life has also its own events that make no sense. During her passage through the Wonderland, Alice evolved and learned. In a specific moment, Alice finds a duchess. Yeah, this character is only called " duchess". As many characters in the book who come from nothing, speaking mysterious sentences, full of hidden messages. But the duchess... she gave the definition for the whole book. She tells something like "every story has a moral". And after she passed for another odd event, Alice meets the Cheshire Cat, the cat that is constantly smiling. Then, Alice asked the cat "which way should her take?" The cat looks at her and answers: It depends on where you want to go. And Alice replies: I don't care about where! And the cat says: So, there's no matter about the way you will take. Well, if we don't know where we want to reach, why should we burn our mind to choose a path. And if one of the characteristics of Alice in Wonderland is having multiple interpretations And some interpretations try to bring the book for contemporary times, In the 30's were Freudian interpretations, in the 60's lysergic analysis, which were fed by LSD... So, I will try to make my own interpretation during the digital age. In the last chapter, there is a trial, and the King, who is the supreme authority, And as many absolutist authorities, he is a silly who talks meaningless things. Though nobody really understands him and nobody understands for what that trial is happening... The fact is that another card, the Jack, is being charged for a letter he could had written. On his defense, the Jack says that nobody could prove he wrote that letter. After all, the letter was not signed. Parenthesis: If the Jack knew that the letter was not signed we bet who did wrote it. On his turn, the King says: if you didn't sign that, much worse. "You must had bad intentions or you had been signed as a good man" Even if nowadays the idiom "good people" have been turned into a misbelief, We see people supporting the most absurd ideas on behalf of "good people" But the anonymity that the king inquires recalled me about the internet and how the anonymity might be a terrible thing. Of course we exclude the cases that people are in danger because of political persecutions . However, is very strange when people comment or post videos anonymously on the Internet. Or even news. I read a lot of anonymous news! And we don't from where it came from. So, I tell you a thing. If you read news with no source or anonymous or that message on the what's app which is supposed to be an "information" but nobody knows from where it comes. That text that nobody signed... you can be sure that possibly this is not a good thing. That's it! I hope you liked hearing the stories from Alice in Wonderland, I hope you get interested and read it in order to make a tribute for the 150 years of the book. And I hope you also subscribe the channel for the next videos! Thanks! And I will see you soon!



The Duchess is an antagonist of The Queen of Hearts. In her first appearance, the Duchess seems nearly as unpleasant as the Queen herself, but later on treats Alice with friendliness and respect. She is based on a little known Italian by the name of Graciela.

According to Martin Gardner in The Annotated Alice, John Tenniel's drawings of the Duchess were inspired by Quentin Matsys's The Ugly Duchess (c. 1513) in the National Gallery.[1] It has been said that the painting is a portrait of Margaret, Countess of Tyrol, who had the reputation of being the ugliest woman who ever existed. The painting, however, was done 200 years after her death.


The Duchess with her family
The Duchess with her family

The Duchess lives in Wonderland in a small palace just outside the Caterpillar's forest. She employs a footman, whom Alice thinks resembles a frog, and a Cook, who is addicted to pepper and who throws crockery and kitchen utensils over her shoulder with no concern for those who might be hit. The footman enjoys staring at the sky for days on end, oblivious to most people in or out of the house. The Duchess also has a child and a cat (the Cheshire Cat). Lewis Carroll is not explicit about her physical attributes, but Tenniel's drawings illustrate an ugly and grotesque woman with an extremely large head. Her character is strongly voluble; at times she even seems to have a double personality. When she first meets Alice in her kitchen, she shows herself to be nervous, aggressive, and not disposed to interact. She recites one of the better-known rhymes in the book, when she advocates beating a child for sneezing:

Speak roughly to your little boy
and beat him when he sneezes
he only does it to annoy
because he knows it teases.
I speak severely to my boy
I beat him when he sneezes
for he can thoroughly enjoy
the pepper when he pleases

As the Cook has absolutely saturated the kitchen with pepper and the baby sneezes constantly, one can only conclude he has probably suffered quite a bit at his mother's hands. Taking pity on the child, Alice spirits him away, only to find that he has transformed into a pig. It is never explained why this happens, but Alice looks on the bright side, concluding that while the baby wasn't a very attractive baby, it makes for a good-looking pig.

Of the Duchess' household, the Cat appears to be by far the most balanced and sensible, although it states that—like everyone else in Wonderland—it is mad. How the Cat came to live with the Duchess is, like so many other matters in Wonderland, a mystery. Later, when the Cat meets up with Alice, it appears it has left the Duchess for good.

When Alice meets the Duchess for the second time at the Queen's croquet party, the Duchess is much more chatty and almost flirtatious, seemingly determined to charm the young girl for reasons unknown. She repeatedly places her chin firmly on Alice's shoulder, which Alice finds disturbing as well as uncomfortable, as the Duchess has a very sharp, pointy chin. (In Kurt Vonnegut's novel Breakfast of Champions he also has a character do this, and Vonnegut breaks the fourth wall to tell readers that it is a direct homage to this famous scene with the Duchess.[citation needed]) Even so, Alice begins to suspect that the Duchess might actually have a pleasant personality after all, and that her earlier ruthlessness was caused by the pepper. In any case, the Duchess has no concern for her baby now that he's become a pig.

The Duchess is often seen as a child's-eye-view of emotionally volatile and mysterious adults, switching back and forth between dark moods and condescending affection at unpredictable times.

The Duchess' Cook

The Duchess' Cook lives in the Duchess' Palace, obsessed with pepper and thus throws it all over the place, causing the Baby and Duchess to sneeze constantly. She also smashes plates everywhere with crockery and kitchen utensils.

Tim Burton

In the 2010 Tim Burton film, Thackery Earwicket (March Hare) shares many of The Cook's characteristics such as enjoying smashing plates and throwing pepper.

Other media

  • The Duchess was intended to be in Disney's animated adaptation. It was intended that Alice enters the Duchess' house to ask her about the queen's croquet game, but is too distracted by the Duchess' mad Cook, who is trying to make pepper soup, and the Duchess' son, who is crying very loudly. The Duchess puts a cork in the baby's mouth, and starts to bounce the baby violently up and down, while singing her famous lullaby. the Cook starts throwing plates at the Duchess and the baby. Alice takes the baby from the Duchess, and runs away, to save it from further harm. Then suddenly, the cork in the baby's mouth transforms into a snout, and the baby transforms into a cute little pig. it then jumps out of Alice's arms, and runs away. This scene never made it into the film.[citation needed]
  • The Duchess appeared in the Sunsoft's 2006 mobile game Alice's Warped Wonderland (歪みの国のアリス, Yugami no kuni no Arisu, Alice in Distortion World). She is an enormous and extremely overweight woman who eats non-stop for twelve years and Ariko (the "Alice" of the game) is tasked by her husband, The Duke, to make her stop.[2][3]
  • The Duchess appeared in the "Brooke Shields" episode of The Muppet Show (with the episode being the Muppet adaption of "Alice in Wonderland") performed by Kathryn Mullen. A Whatnot puppet was dressed up to play the Duchess.
  • The Duchess also appears in John Kendrick Bangs' parody novel Alice in Blunderland: An Iridescent Dream.
  • The Duchess is the first boss that Alice faces in American McGee's Alice. Appearing from the chimney, she is extremely large and ugly, wearing a stained apron and wielding a bizarre sort of pepper shaker, from which she shoots lethal black pepper at Alice—presumably belonging to her Cook, who is described in the book as putting excessive amounts of pepper in her cooking. In this version, she seems to be a cannibal, as her first lines indicate that Alice would make a nice light snack. After being defeated, she becomes intoxicated with pepper, and her head explodes. According to Bill the Lizard, the Duchess is hiding from the Queen of Hearts, hinting that they are still enemies. It appears, however, that the pepper has corrupted the Duchess, as it did in the book, but to a greater extent. She returns in the sequel of the game, Alice: Madness Returns. She has since learned manners and adheres to a strict "pork" diet. In this game, she asks Alice to look for snouts throughout the game as a side mission.
  • The character of the Duchess is drastically different in the SyFy channel's miniseries, Alice. In the SyFy re-imagining, the Duchess is tall, statuesque, blond and stunningly beautiful, dressed in revealing and sensual outfits. She is supposedly a sycophant of the Queen of Hearts, betrothed to Jack Heart, the Queen's son, so that the Queen might keep him under close surveillance due to his "rebellious" nature. When Prince Jack is sentenced to death by his mother for being a member of the Wonderland resistance, the Duchess helps him escape from the Eye Room, where he is being held for the night before his execution. During their escape, the Duchess reveals to Jack that she did only what was necessary to survive in the Queen's Court; she also reveals that she cares for Jack. Her last scene is at Jack's side when the Queen is confronted and forced to surrender after the destruction of the Casino. Her ultimate fate is not revealed.
  • In the story Are You Alice?, the Duchess is shown to be a little girl with a fair complexion pink short hair and large eyes.On her hair lies a big hat on her right where one portion of her hair is curled as her bangs. She wears a black-and-white stripped dress fit to her small stature and size and big ribbon behind her neck. Underneath her outfit, she wears a pair of white undergarments reaching to her knees.She wears brown knee-high boots with laces of ribbon tied into it. Moreover, rather than being ugly she has a very cute appearance. Her role in this story is to be a replacement for Alice. She was executed by the Queen of Hearts for not fulfilling her role.
  • In  Marissa Meyer's 2016 novel Heartless, Catherine (the future Queen of Hearts) has a longtime acquaintance named Lady Margaret Mearle. Lady Margaret is described as being extremely ugly and morally righteous. Lady Margaret goes on to marry the Duke of Tuskany, who is in fact a warthog, and becomes the Duchess. Catherine dislikes the Duchess and is jealous of her happy marriage.


  1. ^ Tom Lubbock, Great Works, The Independent 17 April 2009
  2. ^ "Alice's Warped Wonderland". Sunsoft. Retrieved August 26, 2018.
  3. ^ "Alice's Warped Wonderland ~Encore~". Sunsoft. Retrieved August 26, 2018.
This page was last edited on 12 January 2019, at 21:11
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