Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Vittoria Accoramboni vs. The White Devil

Based on the history of Vittoria Accoromboni although Webster significantly deviates from the published accounts. The White Devil is based on real occurrences in Italy barely 30 years before Webster wrote the play.

The events took place between 1576 and 1585 + was widely reported.

Born in 1557 at Gubbio, a small town in Tuscany. Her family was aristocratic but poor + moved to Rome to improve her fortunes.

She was a great beauty, full of charm and gaiety and despite her modest dowry she married Francesco Peretti, nephew to the powerful Cardinal Montalto in Rome when she 16 yrs.
About 7 yrs later she met  Paulo Giordano Orsinin (Duke of Bracciano) and became his lover, partly through the determined efforts of her ambitious mother and her scheming brother Marcello who was in his service.


The duke was 20 yrs older, physically obese and already married to Isabella de Medici, sister of the Grand Duke of Tuscany and was the father of 3 children. Isabella, however, was having an affair with a relative of her husband's Trolio Orsini.

Isabella's brother arranged the death of Trolio Orsini and either her brother or her husband arranged for Isabella to meet her own death. Marcello shot Peretti in a deserted alley leaving Bracciano and Vittoria free to marry.

Pope Gregory XIII ordered the couple to separate and while an inquiry into Peretti's death was held, Vittoria was imprisoned in the Castello San Angelo in Rome. The investigations revealed nothing and Vittoria was released.

She and Bracciano married for a 2nd time and lived together on his ancestral estates. Pope continued his disapproval of the union and when he died 4 yrs later they celebrated with a 3rd wedding in public only to learn that Cardinal Montalto has been elected as the new popr, Sixtus V.

They fled to Venice and then to Padua. But the Duke was seriously ill, he suffered from a leg ulcer and died by Lake Garda in 1585. Vittoria attempted suicide but failed and returned to Padua where Isabella's family saw her as a threat to Isabella's son Virgino's inheritance.

They hired Lodovico Orsini a banished kinsman of the duke, to kill Vittoria and her younger brother Flamineo. Lodovico was later captured and strangled and his accomplices publicly executed, The Duke of Florence died 2 yrs later most likely from poison and Marcello was extradited to Ancona where he was beheade.

Changes between The White Devil and the Source Material 

  • Vittoria is an innocent by stander in the historical source- Brachiano seems to force her into this marriage whilst all the murderous actions seems to stem from him. But in 'The White Devil' Vittoria seems to be more complicit in the murders as shown in 1.2 where she dreams of both Camillo and Isabella being murdered. 
  • Webster chooses to make Isabella live longer and presents her as a more saintlier character. Her love for Brachiano remains no matter how many times he is a piece of shit towards her. She is killed by kissing the poison on her husband's portrait - metaphor of their marriage. But in the historical context she is murdered by either her brother or husband . Whilst in historical context Isabella was having an affair with Trolio Orisini and she is killed off pretty quickly
  • Source material her mother is seen as scheming as Flamineo. But in 'The White Devil' she is disgusted and accuses Brachiano and Vittoria of adultery.She foretells them that this adultery will lead to their early deaths. 
  • Vittoria was born in Gubbio, a small town in Tuscany rather than Venice as  Monticelso claims 
  • In 'The White Devil' both Vittoria and Bracciano are seen as scheming whilst in the the historical source only Brachiano is seen as truly evil. 
  • Vittoria meets Brachiano 7 years after she gets married and keeps rejecting him but in 'The White Devil' it seems instantaneous 
  • After being implicated for the murder of her husband in 'The White Devil' she is sent to a nunnery whilst in the historical context she is placed into a prison. 
  • More important, he has almost entirely invented the character of Flamineo, for the manuscripts carry little more than a passing reference to a person of that name. Whereas, in 'The White Devil', Flamineo is seen as the chief instigator of all the violence and is almost seen as a conductor as he orchestrates all the vile situations and manipulates people.  

Fugger newsletter clearly the source of TWD. It was a newspaper circulated to clients of the German bank, or A Letter Lately Written from Rome which translated into English in 1585. Webster clearly adds:
  • Vittoria recounting of her dream - means of manipulating B
  • Trial and subsequent imprisonment of V in the house of convertites
  • Manner of B death
  • Marcello's murder
  • Cornelia's madness
  • Appearances of ghosts
  • Historical Vittoria appears to be completely innocent- far cry from Venetian Curtizan 
The Murder of Signora Accaramboni 

Described as a 'pitiful act of murder' which occurred in 1585, Padua. Duke Paolo Giordano Orsini was one of the noblest Roman families and was married to the sister of the reigning Duke of Florence. But his lust for Vittoria meant that he desired to break his marriage vows.

  • He had a 'burning passion' for the wife of the nephew of Pope Sixtus- but she did not wish to turn unfaithful. 
  • The Duke then murdered Vittoria's husband. He asked her again but she curtly refused
  • Duke then murdered his own spouse so she was 'put out of the way'.
  • Marcello (V brother) acts as a go between  
  • 3rd time he addressed, she finally said yes but on the condition that he would marry her. She wasn't going to be his mistress of whore. 
  • The Cardinal (present pope) did not rest the desire to avenge the blood of his innocent nephew, When he became the Duke he wanted to reconcile. He knelt before him and begged for forgiveness. 
  • Duke then removed himself and Vittoria to Padua (Venetian territory)
  • Before 2 months passed he died at Salo- foul play was suspected
  • He left Vittoria a large property. But the Duke of Florence was hella pissed + took charge of Giovanni's place in the will
  • The Duke of Florence urged her to enter a convent but she refused + decided to keep the retinue of 100 people
  • 50 armed men entered her home + shot her brother, Duke Flaminio and stabbed Vittoria during prayer
  • One of these men were Ludovico Orsini, cousin of Paolo Giordano 
  • Ludovico was to be strangled 3 hrs after the delivery of their letter who admitted that he had perpetrated this murder at the command of great personages  
  • 3 hours after the decision was reached LO was sentenced to death. He had murdered 40 people but never thought justice would lay a hand upon him due to his elevated social status and hoped he would not be publicly executed. 
  • He was to be strangled in a chamber-  "And just as high as the house of Orsini had stood in high esteem, as deep is now its fall"
  • The two servants of Vittoria who opened her dwelling were accomplices and were burned with red hot tongs, killed with a hammer and then quartered.

No comments:

Post a Comment