'White Devil' Act 1 analysis

c j
Mind Map by c j, updated more than 1 year ago
c j
Created by c j over 6 years ago


Mind Map on 'White Devil' Act 1 analysis, created by c j on 05/30/2015.

Resource summary

'White Devil' Act 1 analysis
  1. As a revenge tragedy - W.D. promises its audience imminent violence, bloodshed and betrayal.
    1. E.g Lodovico's 'flea bitings'
      1. Few characters are marked by goodness & purity - the perspective on humanity is bleak and pessimistic
        1. Webster avoids a simplistic understanding of evil by giving his villains motives that are symptoms of society as of original sin.
        2. Webster opens the play w/ Lodovico's banishment
          1. Lodovico is a minor character, yet open and closes play poss. because his story perfectly encapsulates the play's conflicts between powerful social forces and the anarchic individual
            1. He is a dangerous man w/out any regard for law and order. Roman rulers decided him to be too unstable and violent to live in their society and so wish him gone. The same forces will reject Vittoria for her unruly sexuality and Bracc for his unbridled lust.
              1. These social forces are not to be trusted as just. Through Flamineo's social climbing Webster makes an implicit attack on the forces of money and power that define society.
            2. Like Lodovico, Flamineo is desperate and dangerous who will stop at nothing to get what he wants e.g. prostituting his sister and killing his brother. He wishes respect and acceptance, but Ludovico is willing to forgo these
              1. Flamineo is born poor, and has to rely on his wit to balance the score of his social 'betters' - his use of wit, puns, and double-entendres touches on the discrepancy between what appears and what truly is, a crucial motif in the play.
                1. E.g. 'strange you should lose your count'
              2. Class inequality is not the only factor that creates a hierarchy forcing people to use deceit for their gain. Women are powerless unless they use manipulation
                1. Vittoria convinces Bracciano to murder their spouses by relating it to her dream. 'Yew tree' several psychological implications - tree is large, powerful institution that dwarfs the people under it - 'yew' homophone of 'you' - symbolic connection between a yew tree and death (common motif in revenge tragedy)
                  1. Vittoria, like Flamineo, uses trickery to gain greater power. What she presents is not what she truly is, which conforms to one of the play's most persuasive themes.
                  2. A woman's position in the world is also explored through the fear of cuckoldry that Camillo expresses in his discussion with Flamineo - traditionally there were fewer worse insults that a man could suffer, whereas male infidelity was nowhere near as grevious. The extremity of the fear serves as reminder that a wife was considered as much possession as partner.
                  3. Cordelia's entrance at the end of Scene 2 evokes a symbolic morality play.
                    1. Morality plays - popular in the medieval period, usually detailed one individual's path as he fell from innocence into sin, repented, and was ultimately saved.
                      1. The play's personified concepts like virtues and sins in order to make them more understandable - Braccianos and Vittoria's love-bed would likely be placed at the centre of the stage w/ Flamineo and Zanche representing vice on one side, and Cornelia representing virtue on the other. Contrast between the two groups vividly and visually depicts the two possibilities for the lovers.
                        1. Invoking these morality plays makes the play's narrative arc easier to understand, preparing the audience for the imminent drama.
                          1. Webster's morality is ambiguous, and he ends his Act with Flamineo to remind us that evil comes not from simple choice, but rather from complicated social desires. Flamineo is not interested in a moral choice, but in a physical gain, in achieving a social position to which he feels entitled. It is unlikely that many characters will choose the side of Virtue, which Cornelia represents.
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