Article

John Webster

Luke Wilson

in British and Irish Literature


Published online January 2014 | | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780199846719-0060

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The reputation of John Webster (b. 1580–d. 1634) as a playwright rests primarily on his two great tragedies, The White Devil and The Duchess of Malfi, which in their poetry and characterization are often compared to Shakespeare, but which are distinguished by their satirical bent, their distinct tonality (the macabre imagination that prompted T. S. Eliot to describe Webster as “much possessed by death”), and their powerfully equivocal treatment of female characters. Webster also collaborated extensively, early in his career, with Dekker and later with Middleton, Heywood, and others, and was the sole author of two additional plays, The Devil’s Law Case and the lost Guise. He published a poem on the death of Prince Henry and a Lord Mayor’s pageant, and contributed to the sixth edition of Overbury’s Characters. Devil and Malfi continue to generate extensive critical response, and there has recently been increased interest in The Devil’s Law Case and the collaborative Cure for a Cuckold.

Article.  14228 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (British and Irish)

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