Sample questions on The White Devil

1.It has been said that The White Devil is ‘bloody and full of horror'. Is The White Devil anything more than a horror story?

2.Discuss the view that Webster's main interest is not in physical horror but in psychological depravity.

3.Assess Webster's characterisation of Flamineo's moral corruption in The White Devil, and its contribution to the drama.

4.Consider in detail how you think an audience might respond as the following sequence from The White Devil unfolds, commenting on its significance in the play. Look at Act 1 scene 2 from Brachiano's speech, ‘Let me into your bosom, happy lady,' up to Flamineo, ‘Excellent devil.'

5.Flamineo    Pray, sir, resolve me, what religion's best
           For a man to die in?     (Act 5 scene 4)
   Vittoria   My soul, like to a ship in a black storm,
          Is driven I know not whither. (Act 5 scene 6)
To what extent does Webster suggest that traditional Christian morality is ineffectual in the play?

6.Compare and contrast Francisco de Medici and Monticelso as avengers within the context of the Revenge genre.

7.Explore the character of Flamineo as a malcontent, a discontented servant of the Revenge play genre.

8.‘Vittoria's character has been read as villainous; she has been portrayed as an evil temptress.'
‘Webster created a female protagonist in Vittoria who is intelligent, honourable and valiant.'
Show how far both these interpretations can be justified. What is your view?

9.Francisco                 ‘ Tush for justice.       
What harms it justice? We now, like the partridge
Purge the disease with laurel: for the fame
Shall crown the enterprise and quit the shame.'
(Act 5 scene 3)
Explore the importance of honour as part of the Revenge genre.

10.‘Webster is more interested in fascinating his audience with clever uses of language and imagery than in creating drama.'
What evidence is there in the play to justify this opinion? What do you think is Webster's aim in writing this play?

11.‘Webster's Flamineo is utterly unconvincing: Webster cannot decide whether he is a hero or a slavish villain.'
‘In Flamineo, Webster has presented a character of great psychological complexity.'
How does the text of the play justify both of these arguments? What do you think was Webster's intention in presenting Flamineo?

12.‘Webster has realised the dark side of political power, the cruel grip of intelligence networks, the shocks of betrayal.'
How far does this opinion sum up what the play is really about?

13.‘In The White Devil, Webster presents a world of social inequality and encourages an audience to make complex moral judgements about characters and events.'
How far do you agree with this view?

14.‘The play is about families, not individuals.'
‘The play is dominated by strong characters.'
How far does the play support both these assertions?

15.‘In The White Devil Webster presents us with a picture of complete evil.'
How far do you agree with this view of Webster's presentation of morality.

16.‘Brachiano is the hero of The White Devil. The play is clearly his tragedy.'
‘Webster presents Brachiano as a corrupt and powerful villain.'
How can each of these views be justified by the text? How do you think Webster presents Brachiano in the play?

17.‘The ending of the play is unsatisfying; the violence and murder carried out in the play seem cruel and unjust.' What is your view of how justice is presented in the play?

18. Consider the view that the play ultimately presents the triumph of evil over good.

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