The White Devil


John Webster

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The White Devil: Act 3, Scene 3 Summary & Analysis

In the aftermath of the trial, Flamineo feigns insanity—what the script calls “distraction”—in front of various foreign ambassadors. Since the ambassadors think it is clear that Brachiano and Vittoria have conspired to commit murder, Flamineo tries to distance himself from Brachiano, regretting that he ever worked for him.
Now that he has done all of Brachiano’s dirty work, Flamineo realizes that he might get all of the blame—and none of the benefits. Like Brachiano in the previous scene, Flamineo fakes madness (“distraction”) to hide his guilt.
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Count Lodovico returns and confirms to Flamineo the news of Isabella’s death. Flamineo pretends to mourn the loss, while Lodovico, along with his friends Antonelli and Gasparo, grieve sincerely. Antonelli informs Lodovico that Francisco has restored his citizenship, ending his exile.
Lodovico is in love with Isabella, so it makes sense that his tears for her are sincere. Furthermore, Lodovico’s sudden return affirms the political nature of punishment: now that Francisco needs an ally to avenge Isabella, he is more than happy to forgive Lodovico and bring him back.
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Like Francisco and Monticelso, Lodovico blames Vittoria for Isabella’s death. As Flamineo continues to put on a show of sadness, Lodovico snaps at him: “your sister is a whore.” The tension escalates, and Flamineo strikes Lodovico—but rather than engage in a full-out sword fight, Lodovico leaves, choosing instead to have a drink with his friends.
Just like Monticelso during Vittoria’s trial, Lodovico and Flamineo redirect their own frustrations and shames to women like Vittoria (whom Lodovico attacks seemingly out of nowhere). At the same time, though, Lodovico has grown up a little in his exile: whereas once he might have murdered Flamineo immediately, now he takes time to cool off instead.
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