Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


*Rome. Leading city of Italy, in which the first four acts of the play take place. During Webster’s time, Rome was known for its political and moral complexities and corruption. The play’s second act is set at midnight in an isolated Roman location where Duke Brachianio watches as a conjurer produces a dumb show that achieves an appropriately theatrical effect while also advancing the drama’s plot. The setting of the third act assumes a more official air, as the characters Flamineo, Marcello, and Vittoria are brought to trial before Cardinal Monticelso in his palace.

House of the Convertites

House of the Convertites. Home for reformed prostitutes to which Vittoria is sent after she is condemned by Cardinal Monticelso. Here she is effectively imprisoned, with the additional punishment of being stripped of her reputation. There is dramatic irony in the fact that the virtuous Vittoria must serve her unjust sentence in a home for “fallen women” in what the playwright regards as one of the most corrupt cities in Christendom.


*Vatican. Roman residence of the pope and the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church. During the play the reigning pope, Gregory XIII, dies, and the College of Cardinals assembles to elect his successor, who is none other than Cardinal Monticelso. The combination of the scene and the action reinforce the drama’s theme of the moral hypocrisy of Vittoria’s enemies and the pervasive corruption of Italy.


*Padua. City in northeast Italy, near Venice, to which Brachiano and Vittoria flee and get married after their escape from Rome. Although Padua at first seems a refuge from the treachery and deception of Rome, it proves to be equally corrupt, and the couple are murdered by their foes. In a land and time of utter moral depravity, no innocent persons or couples are safe.