John Webster

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Webster, John,

1580?–1634, English dramatist, b. London. Although little is known of his life, there is evidence that he worked for Philip HensloweHenslowe, Philip
, c.1550–1616, English businessman and theatrical manager. Although he managed the Rose Theatre, Bankside, London, and the Fortune Theatre, Cripplegate, London, he is best remembered for his association with his son-in-law Edward Alleyn and the Admiral's
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, collaborating with such playwrights as DekkerDekker, Thomas,
c,1570–1632, English dramatist and pamphleteer. Little is known of his life except that he frequently suffered from poverty and served several prison terms for debt. He began his literary career c.1598 working for Philip Henslowe.
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 and FordFord, John,
1586–c.1640, English dramatist, b. Devonshire. He went to London to study law but was never called to the bar. The early part of his playwriting career was taken up with collaborations, primarily with Dekker.
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. Webster's literary reputation rests almost entirely on his two great tragedies, The White Devil (c.1608) and The Duchess of Malfi (c.1614). Violent and sensational, both plays treat the theme of revenge and generate a brooding, somber mood. Webster's highly poetic language and profound understanding of human suffering create a true tragic pathos and force.


See his works (ed. by F. L. Lucas, 4 vol., 1927); studies by C. Leech (1951, repr. 1970), R. Berry (1972), R. F. Whitman (1973), L. Bliss (1983), and C. Forker (1986).

Webster, John


Born 1580(?); died 1625 (1634?). English dramatist.

Webster received a legal education. Upon succeeding Shakespeare at the Globe Theatre, Webster proclaimed himself the heir to Shakespeare in the Foreword to The White Devil (1609–13, staged 1612; Russian translation, 1916). However, Webster’s plays, such as the tragedies The White Devil and The Duchess of Malfi (1612–14, staged 1623; Russian translation, 1959), were a reaction to Shakespeare’s humanism, a kind of reversion to the pre-Shakespearean tragedy of revenge. Nevertheless, Webster displayed a sophisticated psychological skill in presenting his characters. His forte was the depiction of unexpected changes in emotion and concern for the tragic in life. Webster’s comedy The Devil’s Law Case (1616–22) and the “scholarly tragedy” Appius and Virginia (1608–30) have historical literary importance. Webster collaborated in writing a number of comedies with T. Dekker and other dramatists.


The Complete Works, vols. 1–4. Edited by F. L. Lucas. London, 1927.


Istoriia angliiskoi literatury, vol. 1, fasc. 2. Moscow, 1945. Page 124.
Anikst, A. “Sovremenniki Shekspira.” In the collection Sovremenniki Shekspira, vol. 1. Moscow, 1959.
John Webster. Edited by B. Morris. London [1970].