The Witch of Edmonton
in Scepticism and belief in English witchcraft drama, 1538–1681

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.


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