Clifford Leech closes his discussion of The White Devil with the remark that "There is a Galvinist strain in Jacobean drarna.... The tragic writers know; little of heaven, but much of hell." Leech was referring, primarily, to a sense of total depravity and an awarencss of eternal punishment in Webstcr's formation of plot and character. His description applies equally well to Webster's
verbal artifice. The word "devil" itself occurs twenty-six times n The White Devil, twenty-two times in The Duchess of Malfi , and even in the pre-Christian Rome of Appius and Virginia , Webster does not hesitate to allow the usage. In Jacobean England, the Prince of Darkness was intrinsically linked with the black arts of witchery, and sorcery. Significantly, a chain of allusions to witchcraft extends through three of Webster 's plays. If one adds to "witches" and "devils" the frequently recurring allusions to hell, damnation, and darkness, one finds that Webster was very much aware of the diabolical.

 

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John Webster’s Demonology

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