Social commentary and the feminine center in John Webster

UNCW Author/Contributor (non-UNCW co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Somer Marie Stahl (Creator)
The University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW )
Web Site:
Lewis Walker

Abstract: In the early seventeenth century, John Webster published two significant works, both of which examined the societal issues of his day. In The White Devil and The Duchess of Malfi, Webster made an unprecedented move in placing a strong female character at the center of his tragic plays. The transition that is evident through these plays goes far beyond the gender shift in his tragic heroes. Through Webster’s use of satire, societal issues such as the stereotypical role of the female, elements of class-consciousness, and the role of faith in a patriarchal society are unmasked and examined throughout each work. However, Webster does not stop at simply exposing the issues evident to an audience in his time; he also suggests the possibility of a new social awareness and an interrogation of the struggles that bind his characters to their stereotypical roles in society. Although this possibility is not fully realized, as Webster’s characters fail to transcend any major boundaries, small successes and satirical references within Webster’s work suggest that these issues were significant, both to Webster himself and to the audience that had a hand in the societal shift taking place.

Additional Information

A Thesis Submitted to the University of North Carolina at Wilmington in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirement for the Degree of Masters of Arts
Language: English
Date: 2009
Webster John 1580?-1625? Duchess of Malfi--Criticism and interpretation, Webster John 1580?-1625? The white devil--Criticism and interpretation
Webster, John, 1580?-1625? Duchess of Malfi -- Criticism and interpretation
Webster, John, 1580?-1625? The white devil -- Criticism and interpretation

Email this document to