The White Devil

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|The White Devil | |JOHN WEBSTER | |1612 | |INTRODUCTION | |AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY | |PLOT SUMMARY | |CHARACTERS | |THEMES | |STYLE | |HISTORICAL CONTEXT | |CRITICAL OVERVIEW | |CRITICISM | |SOURCES | |FURTHER READING | |INTRODUCTION | |John Webster's The White Devil is a story of passion and revenge. Written and first performed in 1612, The White | |Devil is loosely based on a sensational event that happened in Italy some thirty years earlier: the murder of | |historical Vittoria Accoramboni in Padua, on December 22, 1585. Webster apparently used one or more chronicles of | |the event for his plot line, his settings, and his characters. According to John Russell Brown, however, Webster had| |to be very careful as he retold this story. Webster's interest was not so much in the historical accuracy of his | |retelling, but rather in the way this story could "[depict] the political and moral state of England in his own | |day." | |Although The White Devil is an example of the revenge tragedy genre, a popular Jacobean form of drama, Webster's | |design and purpose in the play are not always clear. Many critics contend that this is a seriously flawed play, one | |that has no central purpose other than to reveal the corruption at the heart of court life. There are other, more | |recent critics, however, who argue that Webster's creation of a chaotic world lacking stability is a masterpiece. | |Indeed, Webster's play is a commentary on the fragmentary, shifting nature of reality itself. As Brown writes, "The | |white devil herself is at the centre of the story and its staging, but she is by no means a stabilizing factor; she | |is always changing, and changing the audience's view of other persons." The White Devil continues to fascinate | |audiences and readers alike; Manchester University Press published an easily accessible, updated paperback edition | |of the play in 1996. | |AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY | |Although some details of John Webster's life are sketchy, some research reveals that Webster was born in London | |sometime after 1578. He was the son of a coach maker, also...
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