This chapter studies a specific witchcraft play in depth: Thomas Shadwell’s
The Lancashire Witches. The play is shown to be a highly polemical play
which uses scepticism about witchcraft in order to establish its favoured
characters as rational, lending authority to their unwavering belief in the
Popish Plot. The chapter elucidates the play’s anti-Catholicism, and points
out the various parallels drawn between Catholics and witches. The play’s
extreme Whig position in relation to the succession crisis is established
and literary responses by opposing Tory poets are also discussed. The huge
irony of the play decrying witchcraft persecution as cruel while encouraging
belief in the major witch-hunt of its own time is highlighted.
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.