Theater: Skull Beneath the Skin

The White Devil, by John Webster. It was Shakespeare's destiny to dwarf his playwriting contemporaries, which by no means makes them dwarfs. Webster, best known for The Duchess of Malfi, was a splendid poet who mixed beauty with horror. If he spilled too much blood on stage, he also drenched the boards with passion. The decisive motion in The White Devil is a plunging dagger, but its determining mood is an obsessive sense of evil. In an admirable off-Broadway revival in modern dress, the play leaps the centuries with ease—it is galvanically alive.

Webster's hero-villain is a spleeny young opportunist named Flamineo....

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