Webster, John, 1580?–1634, English dramatist, b. London. Although little is known of his life, there is evidence that he worked for Philip Henslowe, collaborating with such playwrights as Dekker and Ford. 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).
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