The White Devil

by

John Webster

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Vittoria Character Analysis

Vittoria, identified in the play’s title as being based on “Vittoria Corombona the famous Ventian Curtizan,” is Camillo’s wife and Brachiano’s adulterous lover. She is probably also the titular “white devil”: she insists she’s innocent—her “white” exterior—while inside she is a “devil,” plotting to elope with Brachiano and to bring about her brother Flamineo’s ruin. Most fascinatingly, Vittoria is the vertex for the play’s complex gender politics. Once her affair is discovered, Francisco and Monticelso take Vittoria to court, chastising her for being a “whore” and sentencing her to a house of convertites—while Brachiano suffers no legal consequences for the same behavior. On the one hand, Vittoria point out the hypocrisy of this situation: “you read [Brachiano’s] hot love to me,” Vittoria complains, “and expect my frosty answer.” But on the other hand, by the end of The White Devil, Vittoria shows herself to be just as inconstant and treacherous as she is accused of being, as even Webster ultimately frames her as a “curitzan” (a courtesan, or a sex worker). Adding even one more layer, Vittoria also represents the intersection of gender and class inequities: one of the reasons Monticelso labels her a “strumpet” is because her mother Cornelia could not afford to provide Vittoria with a dowry. Vittoria’s characterization is thus very contradictory. She is simultaneously sympathetic and villainous, dignified and dishonorable.

Vittoria Quotes in The White Devil

The The White Devil quotes below are all either spoken by Vittoria or refer to Vittoria. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
External Virtue vs. Internal Truth Theme Icon
).
Act 1, Scene 2 Quotes

FLAMINEO:
It seems you are jealous: I ’ll show you the error of it by a familiar example: I have seen a pair of spectacles fashioned with such perspective art, that lay down but one twelve pence a’ th’ board, twill appear as if there were twenty; now should you wear a pair of these spectacles, and see your wife tying her shoe, you would imagine twenty hands were taking up of your wife’s clothes, and this would put you into a horrible, causeless fury.

CAMILLO:
The fault there, sir, is not in the eyesight.

FLAMINEO:
True, but they that have the yellow jaundice think all objects they look on to be yellow. Jealousy is worse; her fits present to a man, like so many bubbles in a basin of water, twenty several crabbed faces, many times makes his own shadow his cuckold-maker.

Related Characters: Flamineo (speaker), Camillo (speaker), Brachiano, Vittoria
Page Number: 12
Explanation and Analysis:

FLAMINEO:
Come, sister, darkness hides your blush. Women are like cursed dogs: civility keeps them tied all day, but they are loose at midnight. Then they do most good or most mischief.

Related Characters: Flamineo (speaker), Vittoria, Brachiano, Camillo
Page Number: 20
Explanation and Analysis:

CORNELIA:
The lives of princes should like dials move,
Whose regular example is so strong,
They make the times by them go right or wrong.

Related Characters: Cornelia (speaker), Flamineo, Brachiano, Vittoria, Lodovico
Page Number: 24
Explanation and Analysis:
Act 3, Scene 2 Quotes

MONTICELSO:
Shall I expound whore to you? sure I shall;
I ’ll give their perfect character. They are first,
Sweetmeats which rot the eater; in man’s nostrils
Poison’d perfumes. They are cozening alchemy;
Shipwrecks in calmest weather. What are whores!
Cold Russian winters, that appear so barren,
As if that nature had forgot the spring.
They are the true material fire of hell:
Worse than those tributes i’ th’ Low Countries paid,
Exactions upon meat, drink, garments, sleep,
Ay, even on man’s perdition, his sin.
They are those brittle evidences of law,
Which forfeit all a wretched man’s estate
For leaving out one syllable. What are whores!
They are those flattering bells have all one tune,
At weddings, and at funerals. Your rich whores
Are only treasuries by extortion fill’d,
And emptied by curs’d riot. They are worse,
Worse than dead bodies which are begg’d at gallows,
And wrought upon by surgeons, to teach man
Wherein he is imperfect. What’s a whore!
She’s like the guilty counterfeited coin,
Which, whosoe’er first stamps it, brings in trouble
All that receive it.

Related Characters: Vittoria (speaker), Monticelso (speaker), Brachiano, Lodovico
Related Symbols: Poison
Page Number: 62
Explanation and Analysis:

VITTORIA:
Terrify babes, my lord, with painted devils,
I am past such needless palsy. For your names
Of ‘whore’ and ‘murderess’, they proceed from you,
As if a man should spit against the wind,
The filth returns in ’s face.

Related Characters: Vittoria (speaker), Monticelso , Brachiano
Page Number: 64
Explanation and Analysis:

FRANCISCO:
My lord, there’s great suspicion of the murder,
But no sound proof who did it. For my part,
I do not think she hath a soul so black
To act a deed so bloody; if she have,
As in cold countries husbandmen plant vines,
And with warm blood manure them; even so
One summer she will bear unsavory fruit,
And ere next spring wither both branch and root.
The act of blood let pass; only descend
To matters of incontinence.

VITTORIA:
I discern poison
Under your gilded pills.

Related Characters: Francisco/Mulinassar (speaker), Vittoria (speaker), Monticelso
Related Symbols: Poison, Trees
Page Number: 67
Explanation and Analysis:
Act 4, Scene 1 Quotes

FRANCISCO:
Oh, the fate of princes!
I am so used to frequent flattery
That, being alone, I now flatter myself.

Page Number: 88
Explanation and Analysis:
Act 4, Scene 2 Quotes

FLAMINEO:
Lo you, sister!
Stay, my lord; I ’ll tell you a tale. The crocodile, which lives in the River Nilus, hath a worm breeds i’ th’ teeth of ’t, which puts it to extreme anguish: a little bird, no bigger than a wren, is barber-surgeon to this crocodile; flies into the jaws of ‘t, picks out the worm, and brings present remedy. The fish, glad of ease, but ungrateful to her that did it, that the bird may not talk largely of her abroad for non-payment, closeth her chaps, intending to swallow her, and so put her to perpetual silence. But nature, loathing such ingratitude, hath armed this bird with a quill or prick on the head, top o’ th’ which wounds the crocodile i’ th’ mouth, forceth her open her bloody prison, and away flies the pretty tooth-picker from her cruel patient.

[…]

FLAMINEO:
No, my lord.
You, sister, are the crocodile: you are blemish’d in your fame, my lord cures it; and though the comparison hold not in every particle, yet observe, remember, what good the bird with the prick i’ th’ head hath done you, and scorn ingratitude. It may appear to some ridiculous
[Aside] Thus to talk knave and madman, and sometimes
Come in with a dried sentence, stuffed with sage:
But this allows my varying of shapes;
Knaves do grow great by being great men’s apes.

Related Characters: Flamineo (speaker), Brachiano, Vittoria
Page Number: 100
Explanation and Analysis:
Act 5, Scene 3 Quotes

FLAMINEO:
Had women navigable rivers in their eyes,
They would dispend them all. Surely, I wonder
Why we should wish more rivers to the city,
When they sell water so good cheap. I ’ll tell thee
These are but Moorish shades of griefs or fears;
There ’s nothing sooner dry than women’s tears.
Why, here ’s an end of all my harvest; he has given me nothing.
Court promises! let wise men count them curs’d;
For while you live, he that scores best, pays worst.

FRANCISCO:
Sure this was Florence’ doing.

FLAMINEO:
Very likely:
Those are found weighty strokes which come from th’ hand,
But those are killing strokes which come from th’ head.
Oh, the rare tricks of a Machiavellian!
He doth not come, like a gross plodding slave,
And buffet you to death; no, my quaint knave,
He tickles you to death, makes you die laughing,
As if you had swallow’d down a pound of saffron.
You see the feat, ’tis practis’d in a trice;
To teach court honesty, it jumps on ice.

Related Characters: Flamineo (speaker), Francisco/Mulinassar (speaker), Vittoria, Brachiano, Zanche
Page Number: 135
Explanation and Analysis:
Act 5, Scene 6 Quotes

FLAMINEO:
Whither shall I go now? O Lucian, thy ridiculous purgatory! To find Alexander the Great cobbling shoes, Pompey tagging points, and Julius Cæsar making hair-buttons, Hannibal selling blacking, and Augustus crying garlic, Charlemagne selling lists by the dozen, and King Pepin crying apples in a cart drawn with one horse!
Whether I resolve to fire, earth, water, air,
Or all the elements by scruples, I know not,
Nor greatly care.

Related Characters: Flamineo (speaker), Vittoria, Zanche
Page Number: 154
Explanation and Analysis:

VITTORIA:
If Florence be in the court, would he would kill me.

GASPARO:
Fool! Princes give rewards with their own hands,
But death or punishment by the hands of others.

Related Characters: Vittoria (speaker), Gasparo (speaker), Lodovico , Brachiano, Francisco/Mulinassar
Page Number: 158
Explanation and Analysis:

VITTORIA:
Oh, thou art deceived. I am too true a woman:
Conceit can never kill me. I’ll tell thee what,
I will not in my death shed one base tear,
Or if look pale, for want of blood not fear.

Related Characters: Vittoria (speaker), Lodovico , Gasparo , Monticelso
Page Number: 161
Explanation and Analysis:
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Vittoria Character Timeline in The White Devil

The timeline below shows where the character Vittoria appears in The White Devil. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1, Scene 1
Double Standards of Desire Theme Icon
Class and Corruption Theme Icon
Leading by Example vs. Leading by Force Theme Icon
Punishment and Repentance  Theme Icon
...punished while the Duke of Brachiano, widely known to be pursuing a married woman named Vittoria, faces no such charges. (full context)
Act 1, Scene 2
Double Standards of Desire Theme Icon
Class and Corruption Theme Icon
...to the Roman court. Just as Lodovico said, Brachiano is desperate to have sex with Vittoria. Flamineo, one of Vittoria’s brothers, encourages Brachiano to pursue his sister, assuring him of Vittoria’s... (full context)
Double Standards of Desire Theme Icon
Brachiano frets that Vittoria’s husband Camillo will get in the way, but Flamineo promises that Vittoria has no sexual... (full context)
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...Camillo complains to Flamineo that he does not remember the last time he slept with Vittoria; she constantly points out his flaws and tries to distance herself from him. Camillo also... (full context)
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...and “large ears,” Flamineo tries to convince him that all the evidence he has of Vittoria’s unfaithfulness is merely paranoia. (full context)
External Virtue vs. Internal Truth Theme Icon
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Vittoria enters, and Flamineo seizes the moment: though he is still loyal to Brachiano, Flamineo pretends... (full context)
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To give Vittoria time to see Brachiano, Flamineo then executes the final step of his trick: he tells... (full context)
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Camillo, excited by this plan, hurries off, and Brachiano returns. As soon as he does, Vittoria’s face changes, prompting Flamineo to scoff that “women are like cursed dogs: civility keeps them... (full context)
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While Flamineo and Vittoria’s maid Zanche look on, Brachiano and Vittoria flirt, admitting their feelings for each other. Cornelia... (full context)
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Vittoria tells Brachiano about a dream she had the night before. In the dream, Vittoria was... (full context)
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Flamineo, realizing that Vittoria is trying to convince Brachiano to kill her husband and his wife, applauds his sister... (full context)
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Cornelia reveals herself, telling her children she is deeply ashamed of them. Vittoria protests that the intensity of Brachiano’s pursuit has made her feel that she has no... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 1
External Virtue vs. Internal Truth Theme Icon
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...repentance then will follow.” Francisco then more directly accuses Brachiano of having an affair with Vittoria. (full context)
External Virtue vs. Internal Truth Theme Icon
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...someone has thrown horns through his window. Monticelso interprets this as a sure sign that Vittoria has betrayed her husband (“’tis given out you are a cuckold”). Francisco warns Camillo that... (full context)
Class and Corruption Theme Icon
Monticelso believes that if Camillo spends some time away from Vittoria, his absence might make her long for him; to that end, he nominates Camillo to... (full context)
External Virtue vs. Internal Truth Theme Icon
...plan: now that Camillo is gone, Brachiano will show the extent of his lust for Vittoria, and they can catch him in the act. Monticelso also explains that Count Lodovico is... (full context)
External Virtue vs. Internal Truth Theme Icon
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...brother’s life, that being wrong’d, durst not avenge himself.” Francisco and Monticelso leave to observe Vittoria (whom they call a “strumpet”) and Brachiano in action. As they go, Francisco compares the... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 1
Double Standards of Desire Theme Icon
Punishment and Repentance  Theme Icon
...dead. At the court, Monticelso and Francisco try to figure out how they can connect Vittoria to his death—they are certain she is at fault, but they only have circumstantial evidence.... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 2
Class and Corruption Theme Icon
...scene shifts to the courthouse, where almost all of the characters have come to see Vittoria’s arraignment. Francisco and Monticelso try to keep Brachiano from the proceedings, but they are unsuccessful.... (full context)
Double Standards of Desire Theme Icon
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At first, the lawyer speaks in Latin, but Vittoria refuses to answer his questions. Though she understands Latin, she declares that “[she] will not... (full context)
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When Vittoria pushes back against Monticelso’s attack, he launches into a monologue defining the word “whore” as... (full context)
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Punishment and Repentance  Theme Icon
Francisco now jumps in, arguing that Vittoria’s alleged adultery proves that she is guilty of murder. Francisco focuses on the strange circumstances... (full context)
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For his part, Monticelso argues that Vittoria should be more mournful of her husband’s death; Vittoria responds that she has just learned... (full context)
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Monticelso brings up the fact that Brachiano was staying with Vittoria the night Camillo died. Brachiano explains this away by saying that Vittoria was anxious about... (full context)
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Francisco reflects that he does not think Vittoria could have orchestrated the murder on her own; once again, he compares her to a... (full context)
External Virtue vs. Internal Truth Theme Icon
Double Standards of Desire Theme Icon
Punishment and Repentance  Theme Icon
...letters and shows it to the court because it is too “lascivious” to read aloud. Vittoria does not deny that Brachiano sent the letter, but she points out that “temptation to... (full context)
Double Standards of Desire Theme Icon
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Monticelso then tells the court about the circumstances of Vittoria and Camillo’s marriage: they met in Venice, Vittoria’s hometown. Camillo spent lots of money courting... (full context)
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The trial ends, and Monticelso assigns Vittoria and her lady-in-waiting Zanche to a house for “convertites,” or “penitent whores.” The court doesn’t... (full context)
External Virtue vs. Internal Truth Theme Icon
Punishment and Repentance  Theme Icon
The unfairness of this sentencing—Vittoria refers to it as a “rape” of justice—fills Vittoria with rage. Monticelso accuses her of... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 3
External Virtue vs. Internal Truth Theme Icon
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...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... (full context)
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Punishment and Repentance  Theme Icon
Like Francisco and Monticelso, Lodovico blames Vittoria for Isabella’s death. As Flamineo continues to put on a show of sadness, Lodovico snaps... (full context)
Act 4, Scene 2
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...interrupts this conversation to sneak the Matron his boss’s letter, explaining that it is for Vittoria.   (full context)
Double Standards of Desire Theme Icon
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...see the letter. To Brachiano’s horror, it is a love letter, in which Francisco encourages Vittoria to escape with him to Florence. Brachiano is immediately consumed with jealously; he calls Vittoria... (full context)
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Still flustered, Brachiano shows the letter to Vittoria and demands to know the truth. Vittoria explains that she was never involved with Francisco... (full context)
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Vittoria can’t forgive Brachiano so easily. Instead, she laments that he has given her nothing but... (full context)
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After much persuading, Flamineo is eventually able to get Vittoria and Brachiano to join hands and come back together (though Vittoria still complains of “ye... (full context)
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...plan laid out in the letter: instead of going to Florence, he will escape with Vittoria to Padua where they can live together as a couple. (full context)
Double Standards of Desire Theme Icon
Class and Corruption Theme Icon
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Flamineo explains that in his analogy, Vittoria is the crocodile and Brachiano is the bird—she must not show ingratitude for what he... (full context)
Act 4, Scene 3
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A servant informs Francisco that Vittoria and Brachiano have seized on this political confusion to make their escape to Padua. Francisco... (full context)
External Virtue vs. Internal Truth Theme Icon
...the new Pope (Pope Paul IV). In his first act as Pope, Monticelso calls for Vittoria and Brachiano’s excommunication. (full context)
Act 5, Scene 1
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Now at the court in Padua, Flamineo confers with his friend Hortensio. Brachiano and Vittoria have gotten married and are holding court in Padua. An impressive young Moor named Mulinassar,... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 2
External Virtue vs. Internal Truth Theme Icon
Punishment and Repentance  Theme Icon
...to clean up the scene, and he instructs everyone present that no one should tell Vittoria about what has happened. (full context)
Act 5, Scene 3
External Virtue vs. Internal Truth Theme Icon
...that his brain is “on fire”—and he realizes that someone has poisoned his helmet. To Vittoria and Giovanni’s dismay, Brachiano begins to die. Flamineo frets that the ambassadors have been similarly... (full context)
Double Standards of Desire Theme Icon
Class and Corruption Theme Icon
...has “given life to offending slaves, and wretched murderers,” he cannot extend his own life. Vittoria wails, and Brachiano scoffs that it is “miserable […] to die ‘mongst women howling.” (full context)
Double Standards of Desire Theme Icon
Class and Corruption Theme Icon
...explains that Brachiano is going mad, but that he has left his entire dukedom to Vittoria (until Giovanni comes of age). Brachiano then re-enters, cursing and talking nonsense. Even in his... (full context)
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Brachiano finally takes his last breath, and Vittoria bursts into tears. Flamineo, skeptical that Vittoria is faking her sadness, comments that “there’s nothing... (full context)
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Still not realizing the true identity of Mulinassar, Zanche tells him she plans to rob Vittoria to and escape to the countryside, where she hopes they will get married. She leaves,... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 4
External Virtue vs. Internal Truth Theme Icon
Punishment and Repentance  Theme Icon
...various people he has killed or wounded. Still, rather than repenting, Flamineo decides to kill Vittoria, believing that her death will “turn to good” all these previous wrongs. (full context)
Act 5, Scene 6
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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... (full context)
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Flamineo then shows Vittoria and Zanche that he has brought pistols with him. Arguing that the courts will catch... (full context)
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Vittoria agrees to the plan, and she pretends to prepare to join Brachiano in the afterlife;... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
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Leading by Example vs. Leading by Force Theme Icon
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...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... (full context)
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Surprising everyone around her, Vittoria stays calm in the face of death, insisting that she is “too true a woman”... (full context)