This book situates witchcraft drama within its cultural and intellectual context, highlighting the centrality of scepticism and belief in witchcraft to the genre. It is argued that these categories are most fruitfully understood not as static and mutually exclusive positions within the debate around witchcraft, but as rhetorical tools used within it. In drama, too, scepticism and belief are vital issues. The psychology of the witch character is characterised by a combination of impious scepticism towards God and credulous belief in the tricks of the witch’s master, the devil. Plays which present plausible depictions of witches typically use scepticism as a support: the witch’s power is subject to important limitations which make it easier to believe. Plays that take witchcraft less seriously present witches with unrestrained power, an excess of belief which ultimately induces scepticism. But scepticism towards witchcraft can become a veneer of rationality concealing other beliefs that pass without sceptical examination. The theatrical representation of witchcraft powerfully demonstrates its uncertain status as a historical and intellectual phenomenon; belief and scepticism in witchcraft drama are always found together, in creative tension with one another.

associated with, or opposed to, the court, and their connection with royal and aristocratic characters, that makes them newly important – and newly serious, in contrast to the predominantly light and comical Elizabethan witches. If James’s reign did not, as was once believed, lead to higher levels of persecution, it does seem to have inspired a theatrical mini-genre which could be termed the royal witch play. Beginning with either Shakespeare’s Macbeth (1606) or John Marston’s The Wonder of Women, better known as Sophonisba (1606), this type of play was characterised by

in Scepticism and belief in English witchcraft drama, 1538–1681

predictions of witches seriously are Pontia and Brianella, both of whom are obviously mistaken in doing so. The heroic general Crispus dismisses the witch-making British Bards as ‘Juglers’ (ii, p. 24). The theme of witchcraft performs a dual function, as in The Late Lancashire Witches. Witchcraft is only taken seriously as a symbol of rebellion against husband, king and god. In itself, witchcraft is treated as laughable. The most famous witches on the Restoration stage were of course those in the Davenant adaptation of Macbeth (1664). The political appeal of Macbeth in a

in Scepticism and belief in English witchcraft drama, 1538–1681
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Winifred Dolan beyond the West End

producer and teacher. While her more prominent West End contemporaries were developing actor training in permanent institutions to enhance the professionalism associated with the theatre industry, Dolan encouraged acting and stage management techniques that aspired to exacting industry standards. ­80 The social and theatrical realm She refers insistently to her particular personal expertise as a qualification for New Hall practice. In the handwritten ‘Shakespeare Coach’s Manual’, for example, the edits to Macbeth are intrinsically linked to this expertise: I confess

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kind of scepticism that eventually ensures the end of the successful prosecution of the witch’ (The Witch in History, p. 283). Frances Dolan, Dangerous Familiars (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1994), suggests that plays ‘might ultimately have helped to spare women’s lives’ (p. 217). Lisa Hopkins, The Female Hero in English Renaissance Tragedy (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002), makes the case for The Witch of Edmonton specifically (p. 98), while Greenblatt makes similar claims for Macbeth. 6 Scepticism and belief in English witchcraft drama scepticism can

in Scepticism and belief in English witchcraft drama, 1538–1681

2 Witchcraft in Elizabethan drama Witchcraft is more frequently associated with the Jacobean theatre than the Elizabethan, despite the fact that, outside the theatre, witchcraft persecution in England seems to have peaked in the 1580s and 1590s. This focus on the later period is partly a matter of modern perceptions and the canonical status of Macbeth, whose witches have overshadowed those in earlier plays in many critical discussions. However, it is also the case that witchcraft in Elizabethan drama is curiously absent, even in those plays in which it is

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’s Sermons (New York, 1896), pp. 75–6 as cited in Matthew Frye Jacobson, Special Sorrows: The Diasporic Imagination of Irish, Polish and Jewish Immigrants in the United States (London, 2002), p. 67. 10 Walter McDonald, Reminiscences of a Maynooth Professor, ed. Denis Gwynn (London, 1925), p. 215. 11 Anon., ‘The Irish Church: her “reformers” and her foes’ in Dublin University Magazine, lxiii:376 (Apr. 1864), 369. 12 Lee, Facts Respecting the Present State of the Church in Ireland, passim; John Macbeth, The Story of Ireland and her Church from the Earliest Times to the

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Lost , Shakespeare’s Macbeth and The Tempest , Spenser’s The Faerie Queene , Locke’s Essay Concerning Human Understanding , Marlowe’s Tamburlaine the Great , Thomas Moore’s Lalla Rookh and Donne’s The Embassy all reveal knowledge of travel accounts and geographies. But these accounts were not used merely as a ready taxonomy of exotic characters and phenomena; they shaped geographical

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The poetics of sustainability and the politics of what we’re sustaining

-first-century environmental change – signifies ‘incompatible referentials arriving that would operate beyond archival memory and social history’ (2012: 24). That is, we cannot simply seek to sustain former ideas in the light of environmental change. Nevertheless, Graham’s allusion to Macbeth (5.5.19; Shakespeare 1984: 153) in ‘Belief System’, ‘tomorrow and / tomorrow’, suggests that our engagement with the future is enabled by an engagement with, or ‘performance’ of, the past; though, as per Cohen’s observation, the past offers Jorie Graham’s Sea Change 219 no true precedent for its

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Irish drama since 1990

artistic director and co-founder of Loose Canon Theatre Company (1996) leads a full-time ensemble of performers in an ongoing actor training programme. The company’s philosophy foregrounds the role of the actor in the theatre experience. Since 1996 they have produced principally works of Elizabethan and Jacobean drama ( Julius Caesar, Coriolanus, Hamlet, Macbeth, The Revenger’s Tragedy, The White Devil, The Duchess of Malfi) as well as modern European classics such as Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler. In overtly claiming a genealogy of performance/directing, Byrne is remarkable for

in Irish literature since 1990