This chapter presents the evidence for King James I’s immediate impact on
witchcraft plays, arguing that the theatrical representation of witchcraft
is much more clearly influenced by demonology after his accession to the
throne. The Jacobean period produces an elite mini-genre of witch plays such
as Sophonisba, Macbeth, and The Masque of Queens which represent monarch and
witch (or witch’s client) as opposites. These plays are interpreted within
the context of the court and its concerns. Eventually, however, growing
dissatisfaction with the new monarch and his notoriously corrupt and
licentious court came to a head with the scandal surrounding the murder of
Sir Thomas Overbury. Thomas Middleton’s play The Witch exploited the
resulting public outrage in a daring parody of this genre.
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.