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UBC Theses and Dissertations

White devil, black magic : remnants of occult philosophy in the drama of John Webster Paul, Joseph Gavin

Abstract

John Webster's most widely studied and performed plays, "The White Devil" and "The Duchess of Malfi", are both rife with images that are drawn from what can generally be termed "occult philosophy"—a belief in esoteric spiritual knowledge, magic, supernatural forces, astrology, and the conjuration of spirits. Using occult philosophy's reverence for the inherent powers of language as a backdrop, this thesis will examine Webster's incorporation of these conspicuous images. I contend that Webster himself is interested in the magical possibilities of language, not in the context of the occult however, but in the context of the theatre. He conceives of language as inherently possessing the potential to enchant, which means that the conjuring forth of images and the art of persuasion form the foundation of the relationship between the characters on stage, as well as between playwright, actor, and audience.

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