The Late Lancashire Witches
in Scepticism and belief in English witchcraft drama, 1538–1681

This chapter studies a specific witchcraft play in depth: Thomas Heywood and Richard Brome’s The Late Lancashire Witches. Heywood’s previous interest in witchcraft (as shown in his previous works Gynaeikon and The Hierarchy of the Blessed Angels) and other discussion of witchcraft from the period provide the intellectual context. It is argued that both context and play demonstrate an increasingly prevalent bifurcation in attitudes towards witchcraft: individual cases of witchcraft are treated with much greater scepticism than previously, but belief in witchcraft in general remains an important cornerstone of religious faith for most orthodox Christians. While the play maintains the reality of witchcraft as a demonic pact in one important scene, it also reveals the growing scepticism of the contemporary culture.

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