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White Devil (New Mermaid Series) Paperback – October, 1996

ISBN-13: 978-0393900781 ISBN-10: 0393900789 Edition: 2nd

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Review

Tragedy in five acts by John Webster, performed and published as The White Divel in 1612. Based on historical events that occurred in Italy during the 1580s, this dark Jacobean drama is considered one of the finest of the period. The White Devil centers on the love affair between the Duke of Brachiano and Vittoria Corombona, two of the play's many unscrupulous characters. Despite her role as a vicious heroine, Vittoria elicits sympathy in her attempt to endure a deeply corrupt society. In The White Devil both evil and good characters are drawn into schemes involving political intrigue, adulterous desire, and bloody revenge. Criticized for its plot construction, the play is noted for its characterizations and use of dramatic tension and physical horror. -- The Merriam-Webster Encyclopedia of Literature --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

<DIV>Christina Luckyj, is Professor of English at Dalhousie University, Halifax, Canada, and the author of several works on early modern drama.</DIV> --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Series: New Mermaid Series
  • Paperback: 184 pages
  • Publisher: W W Norton & Co Inc; 2 edition (October 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393900789
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393900781
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,350,969 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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3.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Sean Ares Hirsch on October 23, 2000
Format: Paperback
For those of you familiar with my writing, you know I cherish the works of Marlowe, Shakespeare, Milton, Hawthorne, and Dickens. Well, I now have a 6th favorite. Lodovico is frighteningly demonic. 1st he participates in the murder of Isabella, then he participates in the revenge of Isabella! Poor Isabella is memorable as a picture of innocence. Vittoria is an interesting woman. She is not exactly a picture of innocence, but she does carry herself well, and she faces her death with as much dignity as possible. Webster also draws the dissension between Francisco and Bracciano well. Bracciano is captivating with all of his ambition. Francisco is memorable as the good and decent man prompted to fury by the death of his innocent sister. The harsh tones between Cornelia and her son Flamineo are dramatic. Bracciano's son Giovanni is well drawn. First he is an innocent young man, but his lines reveal his good character. Then we see him after he has lost both his parents. Finally, he flips the tables on everyone and restores order. Cardinal Monticelso is also captivating. He is a very careful character who probes the situations without losing his sense of reason. And we need not be surprised when this careful character is promoted to Pope Paul IV. What's left? Only striking images, only well constructed passages, only pure terror side by side with beauty etc. My only complaint about this play is that Webster combines 2 wonderful final touches that would be wonderful by themselves, but do not combine well (in my opinion). Lodovico's delight in his massacre does not (in my opinion) mix well with Giovanni's sudden rise to power and his sudden crush of the situation. In my opinion what makes Edward III's restoration to order in Marlowe's "Edward II" so dramatic is the pure terror the 17 year old king instills in his enemies. At this point, I would like to thank all of you who found my reviews helpful.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Michael Wischmeyer on January 27, 2008
Format: Paperback
Few works by John Webster have survived, but two - The Duchess of Malfi and The White Devil - have been staged frequently in recent decades. Many readers may remember the young John Webster as a darkly comic figure in that delightful 1998 romantic comedy, Shakespeare in Love. In expressing his admiration to Shakespeare for his gruesome play, Titus Andronicus, the boy observes: "I like it when they cut heads off. And when the daughter was mutilated with knives". I laughed with those around me, as I had some inkling of John Webster's dark reputation, but I had not actually read, nor seen a performance of his plays.

Despite Webster's dark and dismal view of human nature, I found The White Devil to be considerably less gruesome than Titus Andronicus and definitely less shocking. There are some poisonings, stabbings, and stranglings, especially in the final act, but what makes Webster's play truly memorable is the continuous intrigue, deceit, and betrayals.

The White Devil has elements of a revenge play, but the motivations of the characters are more varied and complex. In her introduction to the New Mermaids edition, Christina Luckyj illustrates how Webster adapted to the stage an actual murderous event that occurred in Italy some years earlier. Paolo Giordano, Duke of Brachiano, and the beautiful Vittoria Corombona, as well as others in this play are not entirely fictional.

The second act presents the initial murders, the poisoning of Isabella, wife to Brachiano, and the killing of Camillo, husband to Vittoria, in two dumb shows representing conjurer's images of the actual murders. These silent displays are said to have a somewhat haunting impact on the stage.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Mimy Mac on May 20, 2000
Format: Paperback
The drama of John Webster is characterized by themes of revenge, misanthropy, misogyny, villainy, murder and ultimately violence. Webster's play, The White Devil parallels a modern day soap opera in which the plot keeps readers on their edge with its numerous twists and sub-plots.
I had doubts about reading Jacobean Drama, but once I picked up The White Devil, I was hooked. I was especially intrigued with the duality of the heroine Vittoria. In Vittoria, Webster offers us a character we love to hate, but finds ourselves pitying her, perhaps even siding with her.
The White Devil is certainly a play worth reading.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By King Dimholt on July 24, 2006
Format: Paperback
For those of you who saw "Shakespeare In Love," you will probably remember John Webster as the 13 year old boy who was obsessed with blood and death. John Webster's plays came out about the time William Shakespeare was putting out his final plays. Hazelton Spencer says this of John Webster: "Even Webster's most lyrical verse is preoccupied with decay and death." But if we are willing to move past this, John Webster's writing is actually quite impressive. Act 1 begins with the banishment of Count Lodovico. Interestingly, Lodovico tells of the evil Bracciano. (Why not? It would seem people of an evil nature would know each other.) And through the testimony of his judges, we are introduced to the evil behind Lodovico. We later meet the diabolical Bracciano himself. He is having an affair with his friend Flamineo's sister Vittoria. Not surprisingly, Vittoria has a nightmare about a massacre. We later see that Cornelia (the mother of Vittoria and Flamineo) does not care for them. In Act 2, we meet the Cardinal. We are allowed to respect him in that he is no flatterer. Webster then shows us the division between the diabolical Bracciano and the at least moderately virtuous Francisco. (Francisco is of course angered that his sister Isabella is being mistreated by her husband Bracciano.) But Bracciano's untainted son Giovanni breaks the tension with some comic relief. With the use of magical images, Bracciano sees his murder plot against his wife Isabella and Vittoria's husband Camillo come to pass. But Lodovico sees the death of Isabella, and he will return before long. Onto Act 3. The Cardinal suspects that Vittoria had something to do with her husband's death. We know that it was not Vittoria's fault, but how sorry can we feel for her?Read more ›
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