Skull beneath the Skin: The Achievement of John Webster


Webster was much possessed by death And saw the skull beneath the skin; And breastless creatures under ground Leaned backward with a lipless grin. These lines from T. S. Eliot's "Whispers of Immortality" provide Charles R. Forker with the title for the most substantial and detailed examination of John Webster to date; they also identify a major theme- the love-death nexus in Renaissance drama and its special relevance to Webster. Forker summarizes what is known about Webster's life and analyzes in detail not only the major plays but also the lesser ones. He examines The White Devil, The Duchess of Malfi,and The Devil's Law-Casein context with the minor and collaborative works, tracing themes, stylistic features, and ideas through the entire Webster canon. One reviewer of the manuscript notes that "Forker is surely unrivalled as an authority on matters Websterian. His book treats Webster with an unhurried fullness and richness rarely accorded even to Shakespeare." Another calls the book "Splendid. Readable and engaging."

Additional information

Publisher: Place of publication:
  • Carbondale, IL
Publication year:
  • 1986