The White Devil


John Webster

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To call someone “Machiavellian” is to compare them to Niccolò Machiavelli, a Renaissance Italian philosopher famous for writing the political doctrine The Prince. In The Prince, Machiavelli argues that princes should focus on power and conflict, opining that “it is better to be feared than loved.” Though in reality Machiavelli’s political theory was much more complex and humane than popular culture gave him credit for, in The White Devil, Flamineo uses the word Machiavellian purely as an insult; when he says that Francisco is Machiavellian, he is insinuating that the duke is manipulative, deceitful, and power-crazed.

Machiavellian Quotes in The White Devil

The The White Devil quotes below are all either spoken by Machiavellian or refer to Machiavellian. For each quote, you can also see the other terms 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

The duchess come to court! I like not that.
We are engag’d to mischief, and must on;
As rivers to find out the ocean
Flow with crook bendings beneath forced banks,
Or as we see, to aspire some mountain’s top,
The way ascends not straight, but imitates
The subtle foldings of a winter’s snake,
So who knows policy and her true aspect,
Shall find her ways winding and indirect.

Related Characters: Flamineo (speaker), Isabella , Brachiano
Page Number: 27
Explanation and Analysis:
Act 5, Scene 3 Quotes

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.

Sure this was Florence’ doing.

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:
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Machiavellian Term Timeline in The White Devil

The timeline below shows where the term Machiavellian appears in The White Devil. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 5, Scene 3
External Virtue vs. Internal Truth Theme Icon
Double Standards of Desire Theme Icon
Leading by Example vs. Leading by Force Theme Icon of the Duke of Florence (Francisco), and Flamineo agrees, as he thinks Francisco is “Machiavellian.” (full context)