White Devil

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John Webster (c. 1580—1625) poet and playwright

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(The White Divel: Or, The Tragedy of…Brachiano, with the Life and Death of Vittoria Corombona), a tragedy by Webster, published 1612.

The duke of Brachiano, husband of Isabella, the sister of Francisco, duke of Florence, is weary of her and in love with Vittoria, wife of Camillio. The Machiavellian Flamineo, Vittoria's brother, helps Brachiano to seduce her, and contrives (at her suggestion, delivered indirectly in a dream) the death of Camillo: Brachiano causes Isabella to be poisoned. Vittoria is tried for adultery and murder in the celebrated central arraignment scene (iii. ii), and defends herself with great spirit. She is sentenced to confinement in ‘a house of penitent whores’, whence she is carried off by Brachiano, who marries her. Flamineo quarrels with his younger brother, the virtuous Marcello, and kills him; he dies in the arms of their mother Cornelia, who later, driven out of her wits by grief, sings the dirge ‘Call for the robin redbreast, and the wren’, a scene which elicits from Flamineo a speech of remorse. Meanwhile Francisco, at the prompting of Isabella's ghost (see Revenge Tragedy) avenges her death by poisoning Brachiano, and Vittoria and Flamineo, both of whom die Stoic deaths, are murdered by his dependants.

Subjects: Literature.

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