Department or Program



This thesis explores the representation of sexuality in John Webster’s three plays, The White Devil, The Duchess of Malfi, and The Devil’s Law-Case. Himself a barrister, Webster writes in a mode clearly colored by his profession; Webster’s perspective on law, during the same period as the illustrious Sir Edward Coke, leads one to investigate how judicial structures in his plays repress female sexuality. The dialogue and its implied social context for Webster’s characters reveals the misogynistic and Machiavellian nature of sixteenth and seventeenth-century male-female dynamics and ultimately affords male characters a space to exert control over their female counterparts. When female characters, as a result, disrupt this relationship, Webster’s gentlemen respond with force; incestuous desires, violent outbursts, and sometimes madness ensue. This thesis examines how court and familial dynamics interact with conflicting erotic urges, ultimately leading to brutality and murder. Though writing from London, Webster’s plays all have an Italian setting; thus, the interaction between nationality and sexuality is investigated. This thesis seeks to examine the complicated role of sexuality contained within three of Webster’s plays.

Level of Access

Open Access

First Advisor

Freedman, Sanford

Date of Graduation

Spring 5-2016

Degree Name

Bachelor of Science

Number of Pages


Components of Thesis

1 pdf file

Open Access

Available to all.