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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!

I haven’t read a play in a while, and I really gave myself a challenge with this one!!

Webster’s language is beautiful, and can be really funny at times. He can play with words so well, yet still get across what is happening, which I think some people can struggle with when reading Elizabethan and J

A startling classic play from London, 1612. ‘‘Tis better to be fortunate than wise.

Of course, no one in this play is either fortunate or wise, caught in the passions of jealousy as good as Shakespeare and as bloody and dramatic, as well.

For a modern reader with modern sensibilities, I’m shocked and

Deeply bizarre and deliciously entertaining, but/and for what it's worth, I can't imagine reading it without at least some background in medieval and early modern theories of medicine and alchemy. I couldn't help thinking that Webster mocks audience expectations of a moral conclusion; the unscrupulo

Why do universities only want to make us read and study very depressing and tragic stuff

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 taking t

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 the

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