"Looke you, the starres shine still" : sight and insight in John Webster's The white devil and The Duchess of Malfi (1998)
AuthorsCoulter, Maureen Elizabethshow all
The concern of this thesis is John Webster's representation of subjectivity in his tragedies The White Devil and The Duchess of Malfi. I argue that where the dominant formations of Renaissance humanism posit the male subject as an autonomous, self-dramatized identity, Webster represents him as desiring and existentially inauthentic. Where this leads to a savage repression of the other, Webster's subjects suffer an ontological crisis whose resolution can only be found in a repudiation of rational consciousness. Webster thus shows authentic being as affirmed through a reunification with the other: it is then that his characters, freed from the solipsism of egocentric subjectivity, recognize the limits of their experience and gain insight into their capacity to love.