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IT HAS BEEN SAID THAT THE WHITE DEVIL IS BLOODY AND FULL OF HORROR. IS THE WHITE DEVIL ANYTHING MORE THAN A HORROR STORY?

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Introduction

IT HAS BEEN SAID THAT 'THE WHITE DEVIL' IS 'BLOODY AND FULL OF HORROR'. IS 'THE WHITE DEVIL' ANYTHING MORE THAN A HORROR STORY? When considering the above statement, it must be acknowledged that 'The White Devil' does indeed contain many instances of graphic violence, which serve to shock the audience. However, to assume that this means that the play is nothing more than a 'horror story', that Webster's incorporation of bloody horror constitutes nothing more than sensationalist shock, would be reductionist. The play provides a dramatic insight into the corruption of the social elites and of the Catholic Church, with both the physical violence and violent imagery therein contributing to this overarching theme rather than standing alone as a kind of exercise in mindless bloody horror, as the view in the title would seem to suggest. Despite the shortcomings of the given view, the quote it is derived from is fairly valid; there is no escaping the fact that 'The White Devil' is "bloody and full of horror". Indeed, the quote appears to have come from the lips of Gasparo, a minor character in the play, who states that Lodovico has "acted certain murders here in Rome, bloody and full of horror" in the opening scene of the play. ...read more.

Middle

With both Isabella and Camillo being killed off in a fairly bizarre and grim manner, the gruesome nature of the deaths will be at the forefront of the audience's collective mind: the shock of seeing these unusual deaths could inspire sentiments similar to the given view, that 'The White Devil' merely entails bloody occurrences and mindless horror. It may have been this which led to the play being a failure with the audience on its premiere, and the idea of killing one's wife in order to be with another woman would alienate and shock a modern audience even more, perhaps contributing to the idea that Webster's play is sensationalist in its use of violence. However, the violence does not stand alone; it contributes to the idea of moral corruption in the social elites, here in the Duke of Brachiano, with the fact that he would arrange for these murders to occur at take pleasure in them in order to sate his lust clearly conveying the corruption of the socially powerful. Another act of bloody violence occurs near the end, before the bloodbath of final scene, when Flamineo kills his own brother, Marcello, in front of their mother, Cornelia. ...read more.

Conclusion

or sanity (in the case of Cornelia). Webster uses physical violence as a medium to convey these costs; this violence also serves as entertainment and provides shock value, but this should not be considered to be its main purpose. In the same way that the extensive physical violence in the play contributes to the aforementioned destination, Webster's constant use of imagery which could be considered to be "bloody and full of horror" contributes to this destination. Webster uses this imagery so frequently that it is easy to see how the audience could think that the play was designed to shock and disgust. A particularly memorable example of Webster's use of nauseating imagery comes when Isabella expounds upon her hatred of the adulterous Vittoria, stating that she wishes to "dig the strumpet's eyes out, let her lie/Some twenty months a-dying, to cut off/Her nose and lips, pull out her rotten teeth...". This repulsive image features reference to decomposition and disease, which both feature extensively throughout the play, as does poison. Reference to both disease and poison contribute to the sense of horror within the play, which undoubtedly contribute to the view in the title. ...read more.

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