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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume VI. The Drama to 1642, Part Two.

VII. Tourneur and Webster

§ 9. The theme of Revenge as handled by Elizabethan Dramatists

The White Divel, in all probability, was produced during the very year in which The Atheist’s Tragedie was published. At first sight it might be taken for a reversion to the earlier type of this class of drama. Revenge for innocent blood is once more the main theme of the dramatist. It is presented, however, no longer as a duty, but as a passion; and with the cry of “wild justice” is mingled the baser note of wounded pride. Our sympathies, again, so far from being with the avengers, are cast, rather, on the side of their victim. The result of such changes is to reduce the motive of vengeance to a secondary place. It supplies not the core of the building, but its scaffolding, or little more. The vital interest belongs not to the story—this, in truth, might have been told more clearly—but to the characters who sustain it, and the passions which are let loose in its course. One more proof is thus furnished, if proof were needed, that the theme of revenge was now losing its fascination; that the dramatist, even when he professed to work on it, was now driven by an overmastering instinct to degrade it from its original supremacy.