Vittoria in the White Devil

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What is the dramatic purpose of Vittoria’s trail scene and how does Webster achieve his intended impact on the stage. During Jacobean times women are often constructed through absence and silence. Women are seen as insufficient beings in not being men and therefore are often represented through silence and absence. In the Jacobean society, the position of women was irregular, their rights often varied with marital status but, even within the confines of the domestic space, the position of women was still unclear. Throughout The White Devil, Webster presents his leading female character Vittoria as elusive, Vittoria’s absence from the stage for much of the play and often present on stage only due to the fact that she is continuously accused of being a ‘whore’. During scene one Vittoria speaks only two short lines and then exists the scene and is not heard of until her court trail scene. She is often used to create dramatic situations even during her trail scene, where whatever she speaks is re-told even when she recalls a dream she has had, Bracciano boldly states ‘sweetly shall I interpret your dream’. Portraying the fact that she is unable to interpret her own dream, implying that she is incapable compared to the male characters. During her trail scene, she is accused of being a whore and it is at this point in the play that she gains a voice. In this scene Vittoria exploits the constraints held over women by men. She refused to listen those talking in Latin, “I will not have any accusations clouded/ in a strange tongue” and begins to personate masculine virtue. As Vittoria speaks she is damned because she breaks her silence, her bad reputation is her ‘public fault’. A women who publicly speaks ultimately becomes a public women and is guilty of public sexuality: she is publicly accused of being a whore in this scene. Moreover even the world of language was
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