Talk:John Webster

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Some discrepancies of dating. I'm using the Cambridge Companion of English Literature, and it provides dates for the plays that don't square with those in the original article. Since my source also lists some of the plays that weren't mentioned, and because the dates I have are more consistent with his life and ages, I've replaced the originals with the ones I've gotten. Geogre 19:03, 30 Sep 2004 (UTC)

Hmm; my reference source (an Oxford edition of W's plays) has slightly different dates than those. Did you use the Cambridge Companion from 1910 (it was reprinted many times after)? There have been refinements to Webster's biography and chronology since then, which may explain the discrepancies. Maybe I'll have a rummage in the library and see if I can find an authoritative modern source. The Singing Badger 01:28, 1 Oct 2004 (UTC)
Dude, you fixed my busted up Eliot reference, so you'll get no arguments from me. The Cambridge that I was using is frequently in error -- many I've found -- and, although its copyright is 40's, the point of view in it is heavily 19th century when it comes to 18th century topics. (There is a "Macaulay bias" present in regard to the 18th century that dominates scholarship in England to 1920 or so. This is the "Whig history" approach whereby Jonathan Swift is a derelict madman, Pope was good only when he wrote "nice" things like Essay on Man, and Samuel Johnson is just a Peter Lawford precursor.) My thinking is that this Cambridge is somewhat around 1910 with a new edition in the 40's, where they basically just added in what had happened since 1910, like James Joyce, who warrants a good 3 paragraphs. I was irritated with myself for being sloppy with the TSE & was going to check and come back (what I'm doing here now, in fact). The Cambridge Companion has its good points -- minutiae and patience being chief -- but it has its bias. I must say, though, that it does make more sense for his father to have been a tailor than a cartwright. Oh, well. Geogre 04:37, 1 Oct 2004 (UTC)
No, it's COOL that Webster's dad was a cartmaker: he made the wagons that were used in the pageants of Elizabethan London when actors dressed as allegorical figures would ride around the streets spouting verse and acting out scenes from mythology. Imagine young Webster watching all that stuff and thinking 'wow, theatre is awesome'. The Singing Badger 13:41, 1 Oct 2004 (UTC)
  • I've made the dates consistent with the latest authoritiative edition of Webster's works; the actual changes are very small. The Singing Badger 20:12, 1 Oct 2004 (UTC)


I love the break into "Reputation." The reason I added the TSE was to suggest that "John Webster in literature" is different from "John Webster's literature," that he has become a symbol for nihilism. I thought it was important to set the stage by laying out Eliot so that contemporaries who know nothing of the Elizabethan stage could understand the in-joke of Webster the rat-boy in the mass market Shakespeare in Love. I doubt anyone has seen that movie and been moved to investigate Marlowe and Burbage, but, if there are any, they'll wonder about John Webster, since the movie kind of makes a point of stopping the action and signalling a joke is being made when he tells his name. The informing business is even more of an in-joke. Geogre 04:43, 1 Oct 2004 (UTC)

  • I noticed that you removed the informing in-joke from the article. It's not a major loss, but Dekker and Heywood and Jonson were put in prison on Webster's evidence. The jailing wasn't such a big deal, as they all got out pretty quickly, but Webster has been rumored to have actually worked as a spy for James. Note, though, that many folks got imprisoned on evidence, and there is reason to believe that turning evidence was the alternative to torture. Like I said, that was just another in-joke for people who study the Elizabethan stage that someone put into "Shakespeare in Love," and there isn't enough clear documentation to make Webster-the-informer part of the biography. Geogre 15:32, 1 Oct 2004 (UTC)
    • Where are you getting this information from? I thought I knew my Webster, but I've never heard this informing story. Jonson was certainly imprisoned at one point for writing a scandalous play, but I've never heard anything about it being Webster's evidence that put him there. Dekker and Heywood only went to prison for debt, so far as I recall. Neither have I heard anything about Webster as a spy. I'm happy to put this stuff in the article if it really did inspire Webster's portrayal in the film, but could you suggest a source so I can check its veracity? Cheers! :) The Singing Badger 15:59, 1 Oct 2004 (UTC)
  • Urgh! Damn. I got it from Greenblatt, but I need to get it from a better source than a critic. In Shakespearean Negotiations, the essay on "invisible bullets," he talks about the trials for atheism and alludes to Webster's offering information. I'm definitely no Renaissance person. I recall that being a given, but it was nothing I ever researched first hand. Like I said, happy to have it out, but you'll remember in the movie that he's the one who tells on "Juliet," and there is a big grin to the audience over it. He was supposed to have informed on Dekker, in particular. Like I said, though, I haven't bones enough to give it shape. I'm sure of the legitimacy of my hearsay, but it's just hearsay. Geogre 04:21, 2 Oct 2004 (UTC)
    • Dude, I may be wrong, but I'm pretty sure you're talking about Christopher Marlowe, not Webster. It's Marlowe who is the subject of 'Invisible Bullets', not Webster. And I think you've got Thomas Kyd in the mix there, too, somehow. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I ain't convinced yet! :) The Singing Badger 13:57, 2 Oct 2004 (UTC)
  • You're right about the Greenblatt article. Kindly disregard until I can get to a copy of the Dictionary of National Biography. I know it's a thing I know, but I no longer know how I know it, and that's not good enough. (I even went looking for used copies of the Concise DNB today. The only place that had one wanted $500 for a used set. The full set, even used, runs about $5,000, and this is with libraries dumping their old sets in favor of the new ones. I gather librarians are hip enough to realize that the new one has cut out material from the old and that therefore they ought not dump them after all.) Back when I was on my dissertation, I crawled all over the DNB. I was mainly looking at satirists, but I went everywhere. I took copious notes on satirists (which is why, for example, my Thomas Percy article mentions a lot about his Hermit of Warkworth and why he was writing it), but not on the "pleasure reading" I did in it, and the DNB is about the best hope I have of finding where I learned of the informing, if it wasn't from one of the fashionable New Historicists. Geogre 00:14, 3 Oct 2004 (UTC)

Webster the Rat[edit]

I will keep looking. The Elizabeth M. Brennan New Mermaid edition of The White Devil has one tantalizing bit: "In September 1624 The Late Murder of the Son upon the Mother, or Keep the Widow Waking was rapidly written by Dekker, Rowley, Ford and Webster. It was acted often, but no text survives, and we know of it only through the Proceedings of the Court of the Star Chamber" (emphasis added). I'll keep looking as I am able. Geogre 14:49, 3 Oct 2004 (UTC)

From this source: "Dekker also was jointly summoned in 1625, along with William Rowley, John Ford and John Webster, to the Star Chamber on charges of conspiracy and libel for the lost play Keep the Widow Walking, which dealt with two recent scandals of matricide and seduction in London." It's looking better for my allegation that this is a thing I know I know but know not how I know. A great deal more evidence is needed, however, and I will keep looking. Geogre 14:57, 3 Oct 2004 (UTC)

    • OK, there we go. Fortunately, I know this one. Sorry I didn't think of it right away, but although it was certainly scandalous, it wasn't political, and didn't involve spying for King James. What happened was the four dramatists wrote a play, based on a recent real-life event, about a widow who had been conned by some nasty con-men who got her drunk and then nicked all her money. When they heard about the play, the widow and her family were furious and sued the playwrights for libel. It went to court, and Dekker's testimony survives, in which he explains how the play was written. I don't think we know what the outcome of the case was (so Dekker may not have gone to prison for it). And I don't think there's any evidence that Webster 'informed against Dekker'; as far as I know, Ford and Webster weren't actually called to testify themselves, just Dekker (presumably he was speaking jointly for them all). That's what I remember anyway: if you want to read more, the best source is C.J. Sisson's Lost Plays of Shakespeare's Age, although Muriel Bradbrook's book about Webster probably has some stuff too.
    • Anyway, the story is interesting, but I don't think this obscure tidbit of knowledge is really meant to inform an audience's understanding of Shakespeare in Love. If the spying of ratboy Webster means anything to an ordinary educated audience member, it might remind them of all the spying and eavedropping that goes on in The White Devil or The Duchess of Malfi. But I don't think the real Webster is generally thought of as a spy or an informer. The Singing Badger 15:35, 3 Oct 2004 (UTC)


There's also another guy named John Webster (technically John B. Webster) who is professor of systematic theology at the University of Aberdeen. Theopedia has a good article on him ( and I am interested in adding him here at Wikipedia as well. Would this become a disambig page? Or how would this work? A heads up too, Theopedia is temporarily down. Thanks. JordanBarrett 23:07, 23 March 2006 (UTC)

Actually, the best way to disambig this article is to create a John Webster (disambiguation) page with links here and to the article on your Webster who should likely be listed as John Webster (theologian). Once you have created the dismbiguation page, simply put a link to it at the top of this article. If you have any questions, let me know, I'll do my best to answer them or send you to the right source for information. Cheers! *Exeunt* Ganymead | Dialogue? 23:44, 23 March 2006 (UTC)

Article confusing dramatist with someone else?[edit]

One of my professors asserted in class today that this article confuses the playwright with another John Webster living at the time. She didn't go into any more detail so I don't know how to fix it, but it's probably worth checking whether the Forker book really does confirm what's in the article and whether it's still regarded as correct. If the article is correct, it would be nice to have proof of that within a week so I can counter the aspersions she cast on Wikipedia while we're still reading Webster. LWizard @ 03:30, 28 November 2006 (UTC)

Seems like the famous John Webster to me who wrote Duchess of Malfi and White Devil. Unless there are some minor inaccuracies I don't know about. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Capotalina (talkcontribs) 17:35, 20 January 2008 (UTC)

Family & decendants?[edit]

I am curious if anyone has dug into Webster's family or relations more then just the reference to his being married & father of at least one son? My paternal grandmother had one line of our ancestry, the Webster line, traced back to their arrival in the US. In 1634, a John Webster, his wife and their son John arrived in Massachusetts, having left from Warwickshire, England. Could the “past tense″ tone of Thomas Heywood be because Webster had left England (at about age 56) for the colonies? Or could the first born son John, now 28 years old, be the Webster traveling to the Americas with his family, after his father's death — possibly to avoid his father's creditors &/or because his inheritance was so insufficient. Granted, Webster is a common enough last name in England. But two father-son sets of John Webster in and about England in 1634 - with one John Webster dropping out of the picture in England about the same time as a new John Webster arrives in the picture in America? And if the playwrite Webster was connected to the Protestant King James political sphere, wouldn't an escape or exile to the Americas during Catholic King Charles reign be a reasonable action?Redslippers (talk) 00:22, 18 October 2008 (UTC) Redslippers