The White Devil

by

John Webster

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The White Devil: Act 5, Scene 6 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Later that evening, Flamineo makes his way to Vittoria’s quarters, where she and Zanche are recovering from Brachiano’s murder. He asks Vittoria to give him some part of the great wealth she has just inherited from her husband, but she refuses; instead, she scolds Flamineo for being a “villain” and murdering Marcello.
Vittoria is no less hypocritical than the men around her: she egged Brachiano on to kill Camillo and Isabella, but now acts horrified at Flamineo’s murder. Her outrage also allows her to keep Brachiano’s money and status entirely to herself.
Themes
External Virtue vs. Internal Truth Theme Icon
Class and Corruption Theme Icon
Flamineo then shows Vittoria and Zanche that he has brought pistols with him. Arguing that the courts will catch up them soon, Flamineo tries to convince the two women to join him in a triple suicide. Vittoria is horrified and afraid that Flamineo will shoot them all, but Zanche has a plan: if they convince Flamineo that they will kill themselves if he kills himself first, then once he is dying, they can escape.
The audience knows that this is a scheme, as Flamineo has revealed his plan to kill Vittoria. But just as Flamineo plots, Vittoria and Zanche plot too; no one seems to feel any real guilt or any real desire to come clean. 
Themes
External Virtue vs. Internal Truth Theme Icon
Punishment and Repentance  Theme Icon
Vittoria agrees to the plan, and she pretends to prepare to join Brachiano in the afterlife; Zanche exclaims that she sees no purpose for life without her beloved Flamineo in it. Flamineo shoots himself and starts to die. However, instead of shooting themselves, Vittoria and Zanche drop their guns and go to “trample” Flamineo.
Now that Zanche has seen Francisco-as-Mulinassar, her love for Flamineo is totally fake, a ploy to get him to kill himself. It is important to note that this is the final scene, and so the final way we encounter the play’s primary women is as murderous, treacherous, threats. Though Webster may challenge Renaissance misogyny to some degree, he also affirms it.
Themes
External Virtue vs. Internal Truth Theme Icon
Double Standards of Desire Theme Icon
As Flamineo falters, he imagines life after death: he pictures Alexander the Great cobbling shoes, “and Julius Caesar making hair-buttons.” But just as Vittoria and Zanche think they can celebrate their victory, Flamineo reveals that he is not dying after all—he was merely trying to test his sister and former lover. As he rises, he cries out “trust a woman? Never, never.”
In his fake-dying moment, Flamineo envisions a classless world: one in which great emperors like Caesar are working-class men, and where there are none of the financial divides and broken systems that Flamineo has spent his life trying to escape. And then, after he shares this fantasy, Flamineo (himself profoundly dishonest) once again equates deception with femininity.
Themes
External Virtue vs. Internal Truth Theme Icon
Double Standards of Desire Theme Icon
Class and Corruption Theme Icon
Quotes
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Lodovico and Gasparo enter dressed as Capuchin monks, but they quickly show their true identities to Vittoria and Flamineo. Both Vittoria and Flamineo face the fact that they are going to be executed, though Vittoria is surprised Francisco is not there to commit the deed himself. Gasparo then explains that “princes give rewards with their own hands, but death or punishment by the hands of another.”
The jig is up—but fascinatingly, neither Francisco nor Monticelso is present at their moment of victory. Instead, Gasparo states one of the play’s major critiques outright: those with wealth and high status can pawn off their misdeeds, keeping their hands clean at the expense of the poor and working-class people around them.
Themes
Class and Corruption Theme Icon
Leading by Example vs. Leading by Force Theme Icon
Punishment and Repentance  Theme Icon
Quotes
Surprising everyone around her, Vittoria stays calm in the face of death, insisting that she is “too true a woman” to collapse into panic. Zanche similarly shows her grit, telling Gasparo—who is about to execute her—that her blood is as red as both Vittoria’s and Flamineo’s.
If Webster has suggested that women are devious and cruel, he at least endows them with strength—Vittoria and Zanche prepare to die with much more dignity than Brachiano did.
Themes
Double Standards of Desire Theme Icon
Quotes
As Flamineo prepares to die for real, he reflects on the role greed has played in corrupting his life. In particular, he is sad that he has grown so different from his true self: “I have caught an everlasting cold,” he reflects, “I have lost my voice irrecoverably.”
This beautiful monologue shows how much deception takes a toll on the deceiver. After a lifetime of lies and manipulations, Flamineo feels that he can no longer identify his true self—he is morally and spiritually sick (an “everlasting cold”), and he has no idea of his own values (his “voice”). But even as he is at last fully penitent, he is given no time to repent—rather than learning from his mistakes, he is to be tortured and killed for them. 
Themes
External Virtue vs. Internal Truth Theme Icon
Leading by Example vs. Leading by Force Theme Icon
Punishment and Repentance  Theme Icon
Quotes
At the last minute, Giovanni enters with a group of the ambassadors. Seeing the bloody mess, and learning of his father’s crimes, Giovanni orders his people to torture Lodovico and Gasparo for having taken the law into their own hands. The play ends as Lodovico accepts his fate as justified, and Giovanni hopes for some kind of harsh justice.
At the beginning of the play, Giovanni tried to envision himself as a new kind of leader, one who prioritizes equality and sympathy with his subjects. But now, having had no good role models to look up to, Giovanni merely repeats the cycle of harsh judgment and cruel punishment that he learned from his father and Francisco, and the play ends bleakly.
Themes
Leading by Example vs. Leading by Force Theme Icon
Punishment and Repentance  Theme Icon