The White Devil Contents
- Social / political context of The White Devil
- Religious / philosophical context of The White Devil
- The Theatre
Family background and early life
John Webster's father was a wealthy coach merchant. His business operated close by the wall of the old City of London and was near to the law courts. It served the nearby fashionable houses and was convenient for the meat market at Smithfield and Bartholomew's Fair. The Websters inhabited a bustling, bargaining world of law, nobility, commerce, scandals and sensations, mingling with the ceremony and dignity of court and parliament.
It is assumed that John Webster was born around 1580, but since the parish records were destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666, no accurate date exists.
It is possible that John Webster attended the respected Merchant Taylors' School, but there is no concrete evidence of this. Merchant Taylors' School was advanced in its educational theories. The Head Master, Richard Mulcaster, believed in a broad-based curriculum - not only in Greek and Latin, but also in English Language and Literature, music and sports.
There is a record of a John Webster entered at Middle Temple (one of the Inns of Court) in 1598, but it is not certain that he was John Webster, the playwright. As well as being a centre for law the Temple housed occasional theatrical performances in its hall. There are records of Twelfth Night being performed there in 1602, as well as a series of masques and ceremonies, dances and Christmas festivities. There are no records of Webster practising law but he began writing as a collaborator with other playwrights at a young age. The White Devil shows a possible interest in the law by the writer.
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