Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Intellectual and Cultural Context- Webster's Sources

Webster was a magpie who read widely and kept extensive notes and this can be evidenced through the extent of intertextuality seen in his plays.

Dent analysed The White Devil and was able to compare it to its literary sources.
Monticelso: Well,well such counterfeit jewels. Make true ones off suspected.
I'll type the rest later

Dent concluded "the extent of Webster's borrowings was extraordinary even for the age in which he wrote."
Webster had heavy use of non-original material should not be thought as unthinking plagarism or artistic laziness. As John Russell Brown argued "his restless mind was constantly leading him to repeat and modify what he had written."

Webster used his audience familiarity with many of his sources to "bond" particular cultural resonances  or associations to the utterances of his characters ."

An example of this is when Cornelia quotes from KL as she weeps over the corpse of her son in V + Ophelia as she goes mad so the audience hears two voices at once. Memories of earlier plays inflect the meanings of those they make their own.  In her fried and madness C borrows the tragic stature of the earlier Shakespearean characters.

Many characters echo recognisable proverbs + Richard Allen Cave argues that would have given the effect of " a character seeking comfort + security in proverbial wisdom which the audience with its greater awareness of the play's action knows to be cruel illusion"

Dent notes that Flamineo's speeches are drawn from Michel de Montaigne allowing the character "to effect a nonchalance in evil he thinks a sign of sophistication and to pretend an easy familiarity with Bracciano as of two men of the world conversing with one another."

Webster's key sources were:

  • Historical Vittoria Accoramboni
  • Desiderius Erasmus- Fungus (The Funeral) 1526
  • Pierre Boaistuau- Theatrum Mundi
  • John Florio - A Letter Lately Written from Rome 
  • Fugger Newsletter

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