Better known today as The White Devil (originally, The White Divel, or The Tragedy of Paolo Giordano Ursini, Duke of Brachiano, with The Life and Death of Vittoria Corombona the famous Venetian Curtesan), this Jacobean play by John Webster was a total failure with its first performance, held in the dead of winter before an unreceptive audience which did not appreciate the play's satire and sophistication.
Based on the real-life murder of Vittoria Accoramboni of Padua in 1585, Webster transformed a story of Italian corruption to reflect the then-current corruption in Britain and its royal court.
The Duke of Brachiano desires Vittoria Corombona, the daughter of a noble Venetian family. Both, however are married. Brachiano and Vittoira's brother conspire and murder Brachiano's wife and Vittoria's husband. The debauched Count Ludivoco, who had been banished from Rome for murder and other crimes, returns to Rome and confesses his love for Brachiano's wife and vows vengence for her murder. Brachiano and Vittoria get married, but are excommunicated by the new Pope. The couple move to Padua. Plot and counterplot and murder ensue. Almost every character in the play is corrupt but eventually get what they deserve. The body count rivals the final act of Hamlet.
Combining great characterization, dramatic tension, and real horror, The White Devil is one of the best dramas of its age.