The chapter opens with a discussion of Elizabethan attitudes to witchcraft,
arguing that a gender gap in credibility between male and female users of
magic was something that proponents of witchcraft persecution had to
overcome. The supposed absence of witches in Elizabethan drama is discussed,
and this perception is ascribed to the way in which female magic users are
represented before 1603 – they tend to be modelled on classical witches such
as those of John Lyly and Robert Greene or (male) magicians rather than
popular ideas about witches. An example of witchcraft without witches is
also examined: Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream in the context of its
source, The Golden Asse. Some exceptions to this rule are also examined, and
it is argued that the first properly demonological witch to be represented
on stage is Marlowe’s Dr Faustus.
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.