This chapter introduces the book and outlines the broad argument, which
revolves around expressions of scepticism and belief towards the phenomenon
of witchcraft. It outlines the theoretical and methodological framework for
the study, introducing historians of witchcraft, such as Walter Stephens, on
whose work it builds. It also positions the study in relation to various
previous views of witchcraft drama, especially the work of Diane Purkiss,
and indicates how the present book’s concerns and arguments differ.
There are an extraordinary number of autobiographies written by British female theatre professionals working during the period. This generation of actresses and female performers were concerned, in part, with locating themselves in a public culture of self-affirmation and reflection. Their autobiographic writing evidences an awareness of the growing interest in their activities as public figures and practitioners, in a labour market where women were now becoming firmly professionalised. The chapter explores how their ‘autobiographic confessional histories’ can be read as a body of work, as cultural interventions that make an explicit contribution to our understandings of the development of professional theatre practice more generally, during the era.