Silence, Speech and Gender in Webster's The White Devil: A Presentist Palestinian Perspective

Bilal Tawfiq Hamamra


In this article, I argue that Webster’s The White Devil shows that the boy actor disrupts rigid gender difference and challenges male dominance and the principle of woman’s subordination. The boy actor impersonating female voices appropriates masculine agency while male figures’ voices are deceptive and hypocritical. Webster shows that the male figures valorise silence and obedience to keep the female figures submissive to their immoral voices. Webster dissociates his female characters from ventriloquism, instead associating their speech with truth and male figures’ voices with corruption, evil and deceit. As a Palestinian, I analyze the play from a Palestinian perspective taking into account that early modern period’s legacy of repressing and victimizing women is a projection screen for contemporary scripted narratives of Palestinian women’s oppression. I will draw attention to some alarming parallels between the two cultures and shed light into examples which are analogous to the Jacobean stage as exemplified in Webster’s tragedies.


Webster; feminism; gender studies

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