"spirited lecture on John Webster's The White Devil"
Title page of the first edition of The White Devil (1612)
Public DomainTitle page of the first edition of The White Devil (1612) - Credit: John Webster

The White Devil is a revenge tragedy by English playwright John Webster (1580–1634).  It opened in 1612, and was a notorious failure.  The play's complexity, sophistication, and satire was rather beyond its original cast and audience.  It was however successfully revived in 1630.

The story is loosely based on fact – it dramatizes the murder of Vittoria Accoramboni. She was killed on the instruction of the Medici family, in Padua, Italy, on 22 December 1585. The play used corruption in Italy to spotlight "the political and moral state of England," and corruption in the royal court in particular.  It explores the gap between how people present themselves, as pure or ‘white’, and how they actually are.