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The White Devil

John Webster

Book Overview: 

John Webster's The White Devil is a Jacobean revenge tragedy, replete with adultery, murder, ghosts, and violence. The Duke of Brachiano and Vittoria Corombona decide to kill their spouses, Isabella and Camillo, in order to be together, aided by the crafty and ambitious Flamineo, Vittoria's brother. Their actions prompt vows of revenge from Isabella's brother Francisco, the Duke of Florence, and Count Lodovico, who was secretly in love with her. The title refers to the early modern proverb that "the white devil is worse than the black," indicating the hypocrisy practiced by many of the characters in the play.

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .Exeunt Francisco, Monticelso, and Giovanni.
                                     Enter Isabella
  You are in health, we see.

Isab. And above health,
  To see my lord well.

Brach. So: I wonder much
  What amorous whirlwind hurried you to Rome.

Isab. Devotion, my lord.

Brach. Devotion!
  Is your soul charg'd with any grievous sin?

Isab. 'Tis burden'd with too many; and I think
  The oftener that we cast our reckonings up,
  Our sleep will be the sounder.

Brach. Take your chamber.

Isab. Nay, my dear lord, I w. . . Read More

Community Reviews

Lord, this was macabre!

‘The White Devil,’ written in 1612, was in fact based on the sensational story of the murder of Vittoria Accoramboni in 1585 and the events that it depicts are indeed shocking even by the standards of modern sensibilities. It has just about everything you could desire for a modern scandal of the...more

THE WHITE DEVIL. (1612). John Webster. **.
I’m sure to get lots of flak for rating this play so low, but the intent was to show how difficult the play was to read and understand. I read it twice. Between the first and second time, I spent some time reading ‘about’ the play from various reference...more


I actually felt really sad when Flamineo died in the end.

Maybe Flamineo was just such a well developed character, or maybe because he's so eloquent and talks in such a perky way, that he actually is my favorite character despite being so evil.

Also, I never expected Flamineo to be the m...more

John Webster's language is extraordinary. In the peculiarly special field of grotesque melancholy and pessimism, he achieves a style which is not matched in Shakespeare or indeed by anyone, although Beddoes tried, years later. He did not seem much consoled by thoughts of an afterlife, death takin...more

Nearly 40 (!) speaking parts in this play, the lurid complexity of the plot (poisoning, strangulation, a ghost, political intrigue) makes even Hamlet seems tame. It reads like a very complicated modern thriller, and I have had to constantly flip to the character list at the start to tell the most...more

T.S. Eliot aptly said that Webster was “a very great literary and dramatic genius directed toward chaos." I love this play almost as much as I love The Duchess of Malfi, but I find both of them difficult to write about. Each scene sings with poetic power and pulses with dramatic effect, but what...more

Flamineo ..... Patrick Kennedy
Vittoria ..... Anna Maxwell Martin
Brachiano ..... Shaun Dingwall
Francisco ..... Peter Wight
Monticelso ..... Sean Baker
Ludovico ..... Harry Myers
Isabella ..... Christine Kavanagh
Gasparo ..... David Seddon
Camillo ..... Sam Dale
Cornelia ..... Frances de la Tour

I read this for English Literature, and it was quite a nice change.

1. The characters of Flamineo (a really intriguing villain!), Brachiano and Vittoria were probably the most interesting - they were characterised in very precise ways through their speech. I feel like analysing these character...more

From BBC Radio 3 - Drama on 3:
First performed in 1612, John Webster's revenge play is here set in a 1950s underworld of shifting alliances and sudden violence.
Adapted and directed by Marc Beeby

The wealthy Brachiano conceives a violent passion for the married Vittoria Corombona. Her brother Flamin...more

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