Act 3 scene 3


In his role as a distracted man, Flamineo enters (with Marcello and Lodovico following) complaining about serving Brachiano. He refutes the positive statements offered by the ambassadors as they each enter briefly, claiming that the law has been corrupted by money. He is angry that the rich and powerful, like Monticelso, are rarely punished, and criticises the corruption of Christian moneylenders, priests and those aspiring to nobility. He accuses his brother, Marcello, of being manipulated by his master (Francisco).

Flamineo briefly departs, leaving Lodovico intrigued by his state of mind, then returns complaining (in an aside) about Lodovico's presence. Marcello is curious to see what will happen between these two villains, who commence an edgy banter.

Antonelli and Gasparo enter with the news that the Pope is dying and has agreed to pardon Lodovico. Unhappy at Lodovico's good fortune, Flamineo's conversation with him becomes more aggressive until he hits Lodovico and the two have to be separated to prevent them fighting. Marcello and Flamineo leave, after which the angry Lodovico calms down. He leaves with Antonelli and Gasparo to drink some wine.


as distracted: This might indicate that Flamineo's gestures show his feigned madness or maybe it indicates clothes in disarray.

We endure … feel: Flamineo's bitter sentiments are emphasised by use of a rhyming couplet

built upon the pox: The pox is syphilis, emphasising again the bad reputation of Venice.

politician … devil … cannon: Medieval church wall paintings often depicted demons in obscene poses. Connecting a politician with a farting devil suggests Webster's criticism of politics.

Yon diversivolent lawyer: A reference to the lawyer from the Act 3 sc 2. Flamineo uses one of the lawyer's favourite words against him.

As maggots turn to flies … corrupt and putrify it: The imagery of rotting meat and maggots is typical of imagery used throughout the play to evoke the atmosphere of evil and corruption.

Nothing so holy but money will corrupt .. it: The universal corruption affects even spiritual things, which in the Catholic state of Rome have become commeddled with policy.

You are happy … men to death with: In fact it was the English law that first introduced the punishment of pressing people to death with heavy weights. This is an example of how Webster criticised English law and Cain and Abelsociety in the guise of criticising Italy.

The first bloodshed … about religion: A reference to Cain's murder of his brother Abel from the Bible. (Big ideas from the Bible > Cain and Abel.)

There are not Jews enough: Jews were usurers or moneylenders in Renaissance Europe.

Gentlemen … early mushrooms: This may be a criticism of James I's court, where his favouritism towards relatively obscure men was resented.

practice the art of Wolner … that work in a sawpit: Wolner was a famous Elizabethan glutton who would overeat, vomit and eat again. Flamineo is critical of Marcello, who is returning to Francisco's service despite its harmful effects.

screech-owl: A bird which was reputed to foretell evil.

pander: A person who attempts to procure sexual favours.

I must wind him: Lodovico wants to sound Flamineo out by adopting a variety of attitudes (perhaps the origin of the modern phrase ‘a wind up'?).

your melancholic hare: The hare had the reputation as the most melancholy of animals. This is another example of animal imagery.

witch's congealed blood: Witches were supposed to be melancholic, which caused their blood to congeal.

Fortune's wheel: The wheel which was said to raise or lower one's fortune and so can be compared to a torture wheel. To be strappadoed was another method of torture.

mandrake: A mythical plant with a forked root said to resemble a man.

Ud's death: God's death – an oath.

Investigating Act 3 scene 3

  • Why is the news of the Pope's imminent death good news for Lodovico?
  • What comments does the supposedly mad Flamineo make about religion, which seem to be supported by what we have seen in the play so far?
  • How do you think an audience is likely to interpret the relationship between Flamineo and Lodovico after their exchange?

Related material
Scan and go

Scan on your mobile for direct link.