The White Devil Characters

Summary of the characters in the play

HideShow resource information

Flamineo

  • Clearly the main character in terms of the length and intellectual energy of his part but not the most important character in terms of the plot
  • He lives and dies through Vittoria and Brachiano
  • He has a central role and his death marks the climax of the play
  • He is the main conduit of information for the audience due to his number of asides and soliloquies
  • Mahchiavellian character, he manipulates the plot of the play
  • The audience learns to distrust him and disapprove of his actions
  • His personality could be perhaps diagnosed as psychopathic given his glibness and superficial charm.
  • Typical malcontent character: he is unhappy and dissatisifed with the world and his own lot in life and from his position as a relative outsider he offers a cynical commentary on events and characters in the play.
  • Given his wit, intelligence and power, the course of action which he has chosen is tragic, giving the audience a sense of what he might have become if he had only chosen to follow a different course in life. 
  • Marxist: he feels like is treated unjustly and has a fixation on material gain.
  • Feminist: describes women as "dogs", exploits Vittoria's sexuality and is clearly misogynist
1 of 12

Vittoria

  • Sister to Flamineo; he influences her relationship with Duke Brachiano 
  • JOHN RUSSEL BROWN - "Her mood, or tone, is very different" in each scene she appears 
  • Despite her centrality to the plot, Vittoria has only six appearances; given the very differnt nature of these scenes, it is difficult to form a judgement about her character since we mainly see her in conjunction with other characters, especially male characters, and forced to respond to situations which they have created. 
  • Is she a good-time girl or is she a hypocrtical schemer, a "White Devil" willing to stop at nothing including inciting murder, to gain her ends?
  • The key scene for Vittoria is the Arraignment when she is confronted by Monticelso
  • CHARLES LAMB romantic critic "innocence-resmbling boldness" is how he sees the arraignment
  • She is percieved as dominant because she adopts traits of masculine language
  • She is in a position of defending herslef in the house of convertities when Brachiano accuses her of being unfaithful to him.
  • It is never clear whether she has genuine feelings towards Brachiano/Flamineo or not
  • Flamineo is not sure either and tests her in the last act where she shows quite clearly that she is happy to shoot him. 
  • Vittoria shows the same spirit in her trial and in facing death and she appears to realise her errors and appears to be fully rencoiled with Flamineo
2 of 12

Brachiano

  • One of the most powerful and important men in Renaisaance Italy and is a central character.
  • His passion for Vittoria Corombona sparks the events of the play.
  • At first he seems weak and dependant on Flamineo but is later revealed as unscrupulous
  • At the first meeting of him and Vittoria, she is very much in control of the relationship and it is she who, by reccounting her dream, suggests the murder of her husband and Isabella
  • Cornelia accuses them of adultery, Brachiano blames her for making a fuss rather than his own illegitimate desires
  • When his brother-in-law Francisco de Medici confrontes him, he is unrepentatn adn threatens to go to war rather than give up Vittoria. 
  • He allows Monticelso to calm him but his arrogance are evident in the tone he takes
  • Brachaino is an affectionate father to Giovanni but a cruel husband to Isabella.
  • He rejects her attempts at reconciliation and divorces her; he then plans her murder
  • His appearance at Vittoria's arraignment is a sign of arrogance but he threatens violence and departs when Monticelso accuses him of lust, leaving Vittoria to defend herself.
  • In the house of convertities hie is quick to believe that Vittoria is unfaithful to him but faced with her anger he backs down.
  • The character who understands him best is Flamineo
3 of 12

Francisco

  • Francisco de Medici is Duke of Florence and brother of Isabella
  • He is the perfect embodiment of the Renaissance prince and a Machiavellian character
  • He blames Isabella for failing to achieve a reconcilation with Brachiano (misogyny) 
  • Plots with Monticelso to keep Camillo out of the way in order for Brachiano's affair with Vittoria to become a public scandal and is party to her arraignment for her husband's death.
  • Dismisses the lawyer and points out it's unlikey Camillo's death is an accident, while acknowledging there isn't enough evidence for conviction depsite suspicious circumstances.
  • He is genuinely saddened of Isabella's death, "Believe me I am nothing but her grave"
  • Francisco has to be convinced into revenge suggesting a difference between him and Brachiano
  • His revenge is inspired by Isabella's ghost and he sends a love-letter to Vittoria which makes Brachiano jealous and determined to marrry her
  • He disguises himself as the Moor, Mulinassar and is accepted by Brachiano's court
  • He has hired Lodovico, Gasparo and others to implement Brachiano and Vittoria's deaths
  • He departs before the end, as Gasparao points out "Princes give rewards by their own hands, but death or punishment by the hands of others"
  • His survival suggests that his power puts him beyond the reach of the law and that his influence will live on, most likely through his nephew Giovanni
4 of 12

Monticelso

  • Cardinal Monticelso is Camillo's uncle and is therefore Brachiano's enemy and is determined to punish him and Vittoria for their affair. 
  • Since the Bible prohibts acts of private revenge, Monticelso condems himself out of his own mouth and reveals himself as corrupt, scheming cleric.
  • Camillo dies in suspicious circumstances and Monticelso who presides over V's arraignment, accusing her of immorality and sentences her to detention in the house of convertities.
  • Monticelso abuses his clerical position by acting as both her accuser and her judge
  • The Ambassadors comment that he is "too bitter" and his denunciation of V appears almost unhinged at times. He seems obsessed by her and her sexual attractions.
  • Monticelso is the other main candidate for the title role of the "White Devil" seeing as the Peope would be clothed all in white and his acts do not match his religious office. 
  • The criticism of the clergy was conventional in early Renassiance drama, especially after the Reformation. Monticleso's elevation to Pope without an election suggests corruption. 
  • The 'Black book' also suggests this 
  • Is Monticelso a hypocrite, a "white devil" or does he embody a religious paradox: a corrupt human vessel, who can nevertheess deliver God's message, despite his lapsed state?
5 of 12

Lodovico

  • Parallel character to Flamineo, Lodovico is also a ruined nobleman and a malcontent
  • His own story is not central to the plot althoug his actions are
  • "An artist in murder" - ALEXANDER LEGGATT
  • The play opens and closes with him apart from Giovanni's final quatrain
  • His character is revealed right from the start and appears to have to reedeming qualities
  • His motivation in avenging Isabella's death is due to his feelings for her, he "pursued her with hot lust."
  • He only continues in revenge with money, suggesting the importance of material wealth. The money is believed to be from Monticelso
  • It is true that he serves Francisco loyally, even insisting he leave Padua before the end.
  • He takes bloody revenge on Vittoria and Flamineo in the end
6 of 12

Isabella

  • Wife to Brachiano, sister to Francisco and mother to Giovanni
  • Still devoted to Brachiano after their divorce
  • She is murdered when the picture of Brachiano she kisses each night is poisoned 
  • A devoted mother as she nurses her son, unlikely actions for an aristocratic woman
  • She is willing to pretend to divorce Brachiano to avoid a war
  • Isabella thinks the strength of her love with reconcile Brachiano
  • She rejects her female weakness
7 of 12

Zanche

  • Vittoria's maid and Flamineo's mistress
  • She is similar to them in being quick witted
  • She is a moor, meaning a native of Northern Africa
  • Cultural associations with "moors" at the time were negative although Webster uses juxtaposing ideas of black and white suggesting that they are interchangeable concepts
  • She is assumed to be sexually promiscious 
  • Marcello calls her "devil"
  • Cornelia calls her a "haggard" and strikes her
  • Cornelia and Marcello may simply object to the sexual relationship with Flamineo but the terms of their objection seems to be on account of her colour
  • She isn't treated well by Fl, he promised marriage but doesn't intend to keep his promise
  • When Francisco adopts a Morrish disguise she at once confesses her love for him and is willing to steal from Vittoria and run away with him.
  • When Flamineo suggests a suicide pact with Vittoria, she calls him "my best self Flamineo" as she endeavours to persuade him to let them kill him first
  • When she thinks he's dying, she gloats by saying he is going to "most assured damnation"
  • She makes a joke about her colour in death, "Death cannot alter my complexion, For I shall ne'er look pale."
8 of 12

Cornelia

  • Mother to Vittoria, Flamineo and Marcello
  • Voice of conventional Christian morality
  • She calls Brachiano "adulterous Duke" 
  • She curses her daughter "Mayst thou be envied during his short breath, And pitied like a wretch after his death"
  • She accepts Vittoria's marriage to Brachiano as is part of the wedding celebrations in Act V
  • This is when she strikes Zanche, presumably on account of her gender and her social inferiorirty but also her colour.
  • When Flamineo kills Marcello, Cornelia is distraught but tries to conceal Flamineo from blame. 
  • She then descends into madness, this is modelled on Ophelia in Hamlet.
9 of 12

Camillo

  • He is Vittoria's husband and Monticelso's nephew
  • He is portrayed as a fool and no match for his wife
  • It becomes obvious that Vittoria married Camillo for financial reasons
  • His main function is to obstruct the play's main characters who are all anxious to get him out of the way.
  • Monticelso packs him off so that Brachiano and Vittoria can continue their affair and become a public scandal.
  • He is fearful of being cuckolded by Brachiano but is gullible and easily manipulated by his uncle, wife and brother in law.
  • He is killed by Flamineo, who breaks his neck in a vaulting horse accident. 
10 of 12

Marcello

  • Brother to Flamineo and Vittoria
  • He is a soldier and younger than Flamineo
  • He serves Fracnsico and although he is poorly rewarded for his service he doe snot share Flamineo's genera ldiscontent.
  • Like Cornelia, he is a voice of conventional morality
  • He frowns on the relationship between Vittoria and Brachiano
  • He overcomes this and atends the wedding
  • It is difficult ot account for the strength of his dislike of Zanche, it is probably based on her colour and his fear of interracialmarriage.
  • Him threatening to cut Zanche's throat in public shows an unpleasant side to him
  • Flamineo unexpectedly rushes at Marcello, killing him and causing Cornelia to lose her mind
11 of 12

Giovanni

  • Son of Brachiano and Isabella
  • His appearances are designed to portray his immaturity
  • The lengthy dialogue with his father and uncle demonstrates his intelligence
  • His response to Isabella's death provokes pity
  • His narration of her treatement is similar to Ophelia in Hamlet as she recounts the treatement of her father Polonius after his murder
  • His distress upsets Francisco who instantly vows vengeance
  • By Act V Scene 4 he becomes the new Duke despite his youth
  • He forbids Flamineo's presence
  • At the end, Giovanni speaks the final words of the play and is responsible for resotring order
  • The audience are bound to have misgivings because of his immaturity and likely dependence on his uncle, Fransisco 
12 of 12

Comments

No comments have yet been made

Similar English Literature resources:

See all English Literature resources »See all John Webster - The White Devil resources »