The White Devil


John Webster

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Throughout The White Devil, various characters fall into “distraction,” meaning that because of an extreme emotional or physical state (grief, anger, poisoning), they temporarily descend into madness. For example, Cornelia becomes distracted when she loses her son Marcello, and Brachiano’s dying speeches are all distracted in the sense that they are incoherent. However, distraction can also be faked as a way of shirking responsibility—and Flamineo does exactly that, pretending to be insane so that no one associates him with Brachiano’s crimes.
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Distraction Term Timeline in The White Devil

The timeline below shows where the term Distraction appears in The White Devil. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 3, Scene 3
External Virtue vs. Internal Truth Theme Icon
Class and Corruption Theme Icon
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... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 4
Class and Corruption Theme Icon
Punishment and Repentance  Theme Icon
...of his corpse. When Cornelia sees Flamineo, she enters into a kind of madness (or “distraction”). She calls on the plants and animals of the earth to take good care of... (full context)