Reference > Cambridge History > The Drama to 1642, Part Two > Tourneur and Webster > Webster’s original work
  West-Ward Hoe and North-Ward Hoe The White Divel: question of its sources; possibility of originality in the plot  

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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.

§ 6. Webster’s original work.


It remains to ask whether there is any means of determining the part played by Webster in the composition of these plays. The two are strictly of a piece. In both—whether we regard construction, situations, characters or phrases—we can trace reminiscences or anticipations of Dekker’s acknowledged work  11  and there is little or nothing which can be said to bear the stamp of Webster. Whichever of the partners held the pen, it can hardly be doubted that the inspiration, alike in small things and in great, was Dekker’s. If there be any one scene where the reader might be tempted to recognise the hand of Webster, it is that in which the earl, expecting to find his mistress, is confronted by her husband in disguise, while a curtain is drawn aside so as to reveal the apparently lifeless body of the woman he had expected to see at his mercy. But even this scene, as Swinburne and others have pointed out, is, so far as the central situation goes, to be closely paralleled from the Satiro-mastix and The Honest Whore of Dekker. And, though the disguise of Justiniano and some touches both before and after his entry are well in accordance with what we know of Webster, the style of the whole passage, in the main, is rather that of Dekker; and where so much is his, it is hazardous to assume that anything of moment was contributed by his partner. Of the citizen comedies then, as of Wyat, it may be said that the conception is Dekker’s and that the execution—whether as regards characters, incidents, or style—is, on the whole, entirely in his spirit. That they contain a good deal of Webster’s work, need not be doubted. But such work is executive rather than original, derived rather than creative.   12

Note 11. Cf. Stoll, pp. 64-79. [ back ]

CONTENTS · VOLUME CONTENTS · INDEX OF ALL CHAPTERS · BIBLIOGRAPHIC RECORD
  West-Ward Hoe and North-Ward Hoe The White Divel: question of its sources; possibility of originality in the plot  
 
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