Webster is no longer seen as a macabre sensationalist but a great dramatist and poet, possessed of a deep and rich tragic vision.
The turmoil, both spiritual and social, of the seventeenth century and its resultant pessimism are clearly visible in the brutal world of Webster’s plays. Accused of revelling in the charnel-house and the torture-chamber, Webster in fact shows himself to be a superb playwright able to exploit cruelty and horror to their full theatrical potential. Beneath the apparent anarchy of the plays is a profoundly religious belief in the moral nature of the universe, and a God who is both willing and able to intercede in the lives of men.
As David Gunby comments in his Introduction: ’In The White Devil, The Duchess of Malfi and, to a lesser extent, The Devil’s Law-Case . . . all the resources of poetic drama are directed towards the embodiment of a complex, moving and deeply religious vision of human existence.’