Exploring The Waste Land
An allusion page linked from The Waste Land, Part V, line 407

The White Devil
Act V, Scene vi
John Webster

Eliot's note to line 407 tells us to compare his line

to The White Devil, Act 5, Scene 6, the play by John Webster (published 1612.)

In this scene, the last of the play, Flamineo, his sister Vittoria and her servant Zanche enter into a murder-suicide pact. Flamineo gives the women a set of pistols to shoot him and another set to use on themselves later. He gives them the word to shoot him and they do and then kick and torment Flamineo during what they think are his dying moments. However Flamineo was testing the women and had not loaded the pistols with shot. He gets up and rails against women in the speech alluded to by Eliot:


O cunning devils! now I have tried your love,
and doubled all your reaches.--I am not wounded:


The pistols held no bullets: 'twas a plot
To prove your kindness to me; and I live
To punish your ingratitude. I knew,
One time or other, you would find a way
To give me a strong potion.--O men
That lie upon your death-beds, and are haunted
With howling wives, ne'er trust them! they'll remarry
Ere the worm pierce your winding-sheet; ere the spider
Make a thin curtain for your epitaphs.--
How cunning you were to discharge! do you practise at the
Artillery-Yard?--Trust a woman? never, never;
Brachiano be my precedent. We lay our souls to pawn to
the devil for a little pleasure, and a woman makes the bill
of sale. That ever man should marry! For one Hypermnestra
that saved her lord and husband, forty-nine of her
sisters cut their husbands' throats all in one night: there was a shoal
of virtuous horse leeches!--
Here are two other instruments.

* Hypermnestra - According to legend Danaus had 50 daughters and Danaus' brother Aegyptus had 50 sons. In a power play Aegyptus forced a marriage between the cousins. Danaus, fearing that he would be murdered, ordered his daughters to kill their husbands on their wedding night. All did except Hypermnestra.

External Links (shown in AUXILARY window):
Hints for using external links are available in the either the DEFINTIONS frame or this frame.


T 134 - Webster, John
T 62 - Jacobean tragedy


L 260 - The White Devil - A short synopsis
A one paragraph synopsis of The White Devil (The Oxford Companion to English Literature at xrefer.com)
L 262 - The White Devil - A Synopsis
Scene by scene synopsis of the play by John Webster. At the Kit Marlowe, P.I. website.

Exploring The Waste Land
File name: aq407.html
File date: Sunday, September 29, 2002
[Home] [E-mail]