The White Devil

by

John Webster

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The White Devil: Act 4, Scene 1 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Outside the courthouse, Francisco fumes: he wants to take revenge on Brachiano for his sister’s death, but to do so would be to start a war, and he does not want to inflict such a conflict on his subjects. Monticelso urges him to be patient and wait for Brachiano to slip up.
Not for the last time, Francisco expresses some awareness (and even some guilt) about the stratified class system: after all, why should his subjects have to pay for him to deal with a personal matter?
Themes
Class and Corruption Theme Icon
Now that he is resolved to play the long game, Francisco asks Monticelso about the book of names he carries; Monticelso explains that he has created a list of every criminal in the town. Monticelso then agrees to let Francisco borrow the book. Privately, however, Francisco reveals that he distrusts even Monticelso, and he vows to keep his plan for revenge secret from everyone.
Just as the alliance between Flamineo and Brachiano is coming apart, Francisco starts to keep secrets from Monticelso. The fact that Monticelso has such a book of names is also telling—rather than forgiving people for their sins (as a cardinal would be expected to do), Monticelso instead keeps track of those sins for his private gain.  
Themes
External Virtue vs. Internal Truth Theme Icon
Class and Corruption Theme Icon
Punishment and Repentance  Theme Icon
Monticelso’s book of names reveals many kinds of secrets: he writes of pirates and usurers, adulterers and corrupt lawyers, and of women who dress as men. Francisco is most interested in the section about murderers, and he asks Monticelso to leave him alone with the book.
Most of the crimes in the book are either about money (piracy and usury, or illegal money lending) or about deceit and impersonation—thus reinforcing the idea that dishonesty and class division are this society’s biggest issues. The fact that Monticelso keeps track of women who dress as men demonstrates the rigid nature of Renaissance gender roles.
Themes
External Virtue vs. Internal Truth Theme Icon
Double Standards of Desire Theme Icon
Class and Corruption Theme Icon
Alone at last, Francisco reflects on in the inequity of the justice system; whereas wealthy men can afford to bribe someone like Monticelso to keep their misdeeds secret, poor people will face harsher punishments for their crimes. To keep himself focused on his revenge, Francisco conjures a mental image of Isabella, who appears onstage as a ghost. His grief quickly turns into anger, and he is more determined than ever to get back at Brachiano.
Flamineo now more explicitly addresses the problem of class: while wealthy men like himself are allowed to commit crimes with impunity, poor people—who might commit crimes out of necessity—are the ones society ultimately punishes. Rather than try and alter this system, however, Flamineo simply refocuses himself on his revenge plot, putting his personal needs over those of the people he governs.
Themes
Class and Corruption Theme Icon
Leading by Example vs. Leading by Force Theme Icon
Punishment and Repentance  Theme Icon
Quotes
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Francisco at last confides his plot: he will use this book to hire murderers to kill Brachiano. And what better assassin than Count Lodovico, whom he has just pardoned? To accomplish this plan, Francisco writes a letter and instructs a servant to bring it to the house of convertites, where he suspects Brachiano will be.
Now, it becomes obvious why Francisco ended Lodovico’s banishment. Francisco was never concerned with setting a good example; he just wanted an assassin he could trust.
Themes
Leading by Example vs. Leading by Force Theme Icon
Punishment and Repentance  Theme Icon
Quotes