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Extra resources for Webster and Ford

Sample text

For the remainder of his career, Webster reverted to a pattern of undistinguished collaboration with a number of different dramatists working for different companies. 1621), a city comedy written with Middleton for the King's 28 Webster and Ford Men, transposes the topic of powerful and wayward women from Italian courts to the streets of London. The lost A Late Murder of the Son upon the Mother (1624), written with Ford, Dekker and Rowley for the Red Bull theatre, was an attempt to cash in quickly on sensational local events and, if it had survived, would have given us a striking example of Webster and Ford as tabloid journalists to set against the more familiar, and equally valid, picture of them as self-conscious tragic artists.

This is also how it is used in The Revenger's Tragedy, performed in 1606. When Vindice, in the process of murdering the Duke, denounces him as 'Royal villain, white devil', it is a moment of savage intensity but the moral point is not in doubt. The Duke had seemed noble but was in actuality rotten to the core . By contrast, Webster seems to use the phrase in a more fully paradoxical way, suggesting the continuous interpenetration of good and evil in the human heart. It is even left uncertain to whom the title refers, stimulating the audience to attempt to apply it to a whole series of characters and in the process become involved in ever more complex moral evaluations.

Only the personal opposition of Elizabeth herself prevented these unequivocal declarations being publicly promulgated as required doctrines of the English Church. The Calvinist God believed in by most Anglican divines was an inscrutable deity whose prior decisions about who were to be saved and who damned were inaccessible to human reason and hence a source of perpetual spiritual anxiety. Such a terrible theology did not command universal assent in the Shakespeare period. Important 34 Webster and Ford bishops like Lancelot Andrewes did not subscribe to it and the degree to which 'ordinary' churchgoers, especially in rural areas, were in thrall to it remains a matter of continuing dispute.

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