This chapter studies a specific witchcraft play in depth: Thomas Dekker, John
Ford, and William Rowley’s The Witch of Edmonton. Based partly on the
historical case of Elizabeth Sawyer, the play presents a plausible picture
of witchcraft by representing it as one sin among many, locating the crime
of witchcraft on a scale of human sin which encompasses all humans. By
representing the activities of the devil not only with Sawyer but also
within the invented story of Frank Thorney, a bigamist and murderer, the
play works to normalise the idea of diabolical witchcraft. The sympathy for
the witch that so many critics have detected in the play is a function of
this levelling vision of human sin, which distributes culpability for the
tragic events of the play throughout the Edmonton community.
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.