Aesthetics of Deception on the Stage : the Conflict Between Reality and Appearance in John Webster’s the White Devil

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John Webster (1580-1634), a highly sophisticated yet equally pessimistic playwright of Jacobean England, depicts a world of corruption in which there is no place for the conventional notions of good and evil. In Webster's tragic world traditional concepts appear with their opposites, and therefore, they create a sort of conflict between reality and appearance. A character or an event seems good in appearance, however, it turns out to be evil in reality; or a character can have the capacity for both good and evil, treachery and loyalty, honesty and dishonesty at the same time in his plays. In other words, the dominant theme in his plays is the fallacy of appearance. In this article, this characteristic of Webster will be examined in his first tragedy, The White Devil with reference to the historical background of the period and to some significant scenes and characters in the play.

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Jacobean Drama; Deception; Reality Versus Appearance; White Devil; John Webster

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