This book situates witchcraft drama within its cultural and intellectual context, highlighting the centrality of scepticism and belief in witchcraft to the genre. It is argued that these categories are most fruitfully understood not as static and mutually exclusive positions within the debate around witchcraft, but as rhetorical tools used within it. In drama, too, scepticism and belief are vital issues. The psychology of the witch character is characterised by a combination of impious scepticism towards God and credulous belief in the tricks of the witch’s master, the devil. Plays which present plausible depictions of witches typically use scepticism as a support: the witch’s power is subject to important limitations which make it easier to believe. Plays that take witchcraft less seriously present witches with unrestrained power, an excess of belief which ultimately induces scepticism. But scepticism towards witchcraft can become a veneer of rationality concealing other beliefs that pass without sceptical examination. The theatrical representation of witchcraft powerfully demonstrates its uncertain status as a historical and intellectual phenomenon; belief and scepticism in witchcraft drama are always found together, in creative tension with one another.
Series editors: Anke Bernau, David Matthews and James Paz
Series founded by: J. J. Anderson and Gail Ashton
Advisory board: Ruth Evans, Patricia C. Ingham, Andrew James Johnston, Chris Jones, Catherine Karkov, Nicola McDonald, Sarah Salih, Larry Scanlon and Stephanie Trigg
Manchester Medieval Literature and Culture publishes monographs and essay collections comprising new research informed by current critical methodologies on the literary cultures of the Middle Ages. We are interested in all periods, from the early Middle Ages through to the late, and we include post-medieval engagements with and representations of the medieval period (or ‘medievalism’). ‘Literature’ is taken in a broad sense, to include the many different medieval genres: imaginative, historical, political, scientific, religious. While we welcome contributions on the diverse cultures of medieval Britain and are happy to receive submissions on Anglo-Norman, Anglo-Latin and Celtic writings, we are also open to work on the Middle Ages in Europe more widely, and beyond.
Titles available in the series
15. The Scottish Legendary: Towards a poetics of hagiographic narration
16. Nonhuman voices in Anglo-Saxon literature and material culture
17. The church as sacred space in Middle English literature and culture
18. Aspects of knowledge: Preserving and reinventing traditions of learning in the Middle Ages and (eds)
19. Visions and ruins: Cultural memory and the untimely Middle Ages
20. Participatory reading in late-medieval England
21. Affective medievalism: Love, abjection and discontent and
22. Performing women: Gender, self, and representation in late-medieval Metz
23. The politics of Middle English parables: Fiction, theology, and social practice
24. Contemporary Chaucer across the centuries , and (eds)
25. Borrowed objects and the art of poetry: Spolia in Old English verse
26. Rebel angels: Space and sovereignty in Anglo-Saxon England
27. A landscape of words: Ireland, Britain and the poetics of space, 700–1250
28. Household knowledges in late-medieval England and France and (eds)
29. Practising shame: Female honour in later medieval England
30. Dating Beowulf: Studies in intimacy and (eds)
Studies in intimacy
Manchester University Press
Copyright © Manchester University Press 2020
While copyright in the volume as a whole is vested in Manchester University Press, copyright in individual chapters belongs to their respective authors.
This electronic version of this book has been made freely available under a Creative Commons (CC-BY-NC-ND) licence, thanks to the TOME initiative and the generous support of Arcadia, a charitable fund of Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin, and of the UCLA Library, which permits non-commercial use, distribution and reproduction provided the editors, chapter authors and Manchester University Press are fully cited and no modifications or adaptations are made. Details of the licence can be viewed at https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/
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British Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data
A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library
ISBN 978 1 5261 3643 5 hardback
ISBN 978 1 5261 3644 2 open access
First published 2020
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FRONT COVER—Alfred Stieglitz, Georgia O’Keeffe – Hands and Thimble (photograph), 1919. The Art Institute of Chicago. Public Domain.