In The white devil the decentring of man is in the service of another preoccupation of Jacobean tragedy: the demystifying of state power and ideology. It is a process of displacement which shifts attention from individuals to their context, and above all to a dominating power structure which construct them as either agents or victims of power, or both.
- Religion and state power.
For Flamineo, religion is the instrument of state power, a façade of snctity indispensable to its operation; he says: "there's nothing so holy but money will corrupt and putrifying it..., the first bloodshed in the world happened about religion" ( Act III, 3, 24-5, 37-9, pag ). In the following act, Flamineo's assessment is vindicated as we witness "religion" fronting "policy"; Monticelso enters in state (pag 44) and Francisco whispers to him the news that Brachiano and Vittoria have escaped from the house of convertites; as a result Monticelso makes their excommunication his first act as new Pope (Act IV, 3, pag 44). It is an episode which shows how state power is rendered invulnerable by identification with its divine origin, and we read"All that are theirs in Rome, we like wise banish". Thus, at the same time as it consolidates faith, religious ritual is shown to consolidate the power of those who rule.
- The virtuous and the vicious.
In Act I, scene 2 , Cornelia, unseen, witnesses the seduction of her daughter Vittoria by Duke Brachiano, with her son Flamineo acting as pander. At last she intervenes to reprimand all three. As she preaches honour and virtue to Brachiano, we realize that she has a false conception of "the lives of Princes"; in fact, she is a victim to the myth of courtliness, the myth which disguises the real nature of the court and the elite which dominates it. It is the same myth to which Vittoria refers when she is dying ("O happy that they never saw the court, nor ever knew great man but by report", Act V, 6, pag 69).