EN3012 Witchcraft and Drama, 2004
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Answer two questions
EITHER: If we compare that play with earlier witchcraft texts, do we see similar signs of a cultural change in attitudes to witchcraft within the theatre itself?
OR: Could, in fact, the witchcraft plays in general be adequately described distanced and semi-farcical?
5.When they came to suck they fight like pigs on a sow (Margaret Wyard, confessing to suckling her seven imps at her five teats, 1645)
Discuss how the witchcraft plays represent the witchs body.
6.Women were fifteen times more likely to give evidence in witchcraft cases than they were in other felony cases. James Sharpe comments that: The simplistic connection between witchcraft accusations and male oppression collapses (while) the impression that witchcraft accusations were somehow generated by disputes between women gains support.
Do the witchcraft plays correspond to that opinion that witchcraft accusations were all instruments of male oppression of women, or do they in any aspects complicate such a view?
7.Those called white or good witches almost generally they be men
(James Stearne, a witchfinder, in 1648)
Discuss the way cunning folk and/or good magicians are depicted in the texts
you have studied in the light of this remark.
8.There are two spiritual kingdomes in this world which have continual hatred and bloody wars, without hope of truce for ever. The lord and king of one is our lord Jesus, the tyrannical usurper of the other, is Satan (Henry Holland, 1590).
Do any of the witchcraft plays try to depict both of these spiritual kingdoms, and, if not, why not?
9.Monstrously transformed much like the picture of the devil in the play, with a horrible roaring voice (a contemporary description of a demoniac, 1573). In the light of this quotation, write an essay on the way possession is handled in the theatre of Ben Jonson.
10. There are some witches have gold rings on their fingers (the devil to Margaret Wyard, in 1645). In the light of this quotation, discuss how far class animus appears in the witchcraft plays.
11. Write an essay on any TWO of the following in the plays studied: food and feasting; song and dance; use of stage machinery and special effects; the coven.
12. Do you think that one element in the witchcraft plays in performance was that of inhabitants of the metropolis having fun at the expense of rustics?
13. Rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft
(1 Samuel 15:23, Authorised Version)
How far is a political reading of any of these witchcraft plays possible?
14. Scepticism becomes as questionable as credulity (Nicholas Brooke, on
Macbeth). Write an essay on the way scepticism is presented in any of the texts
15. Discuss the following extract:
Enter Mr. Generous, and Mrs. Generous, he with a Bridle.
My blood is turnd to ice, and my all vitals
Have ceasd their working! dull stupidity
Surpriseth me at once, and hath arrested
That vigorous agitation; which till now
Exprest a life within me: I me thinks 5
Am a mere marble statue, and no man;
Unweave my age O Time, to my first thread,
Let me loose fifty years in ignorance spent,
That being made an infant once again,
I may begin to know, what or where am I 10
To be thus lost in wonder?
Amazement still pursues me, how am I changd
Or brought ere I can understand my self,
Into this new world.
You will believe no witches? 15
This makes me believe all, aye, any thing;
And that my self am nothing: prithee Robin
Lay me to my self open, what art thou,
Or this new transformd creature?
I am Robin, and this your wife, my Mistress. 20
Tell me the Earth
Shall leave its seat, and mount to kiss the moon;
Or that the moon enamourd of the earth,
Shall leave her sphere, to stoop to us thus low.
What? Whats this in my hand, that at an instant 25
Can from a four leggd creature, make a thing
So like a wife?
A bridle, a juggling bridle Sir.
A bridle, hence inchantment,
A viper were more safe within my hand 30
Then this charmd engine
Take heed Sir what you do, if you cast it hence, and she catch it up, we that are here now, may be rid as far as the Indies within these few hours, Mistress down of your Mares bones, or your Mary-bones whether you please, and confess your self to be what you are; and thats in plain English a Witch, a grand notorious Witch. 36
A Witch! my wife a Witch!
So it appears by the story.
The more I strive to unwind
Myself from this Meander, I the more 40
Therein am intricated; prithee woman
Art thou a Witch?
It cannot be denyd, I am such a curst creature.
Keep aloof, and doe not come too near me, O my trust;
Have I since first I understood my self, 45
Been of my soul so chary, still to study
What best was for its health, to renounce all
The works of that black Fiend with my best force
And hath that Serpent twind me so about,
That I must lye so often and so long 50
With a Divel in my bosom!
Pardon! Can such a thing as that be hopd?
Lift up thine eyes (lost woman) to yon hills;
It must be thence expected: look not down 55
Unto that horrid dwelling, which thou hast sought
At such dear rate to purchase, prithee tell me,
(For now I can believe) art thou a Witch?
With that word I am thunderstrook, 60
And know not what to answer, yet resolve me
Hast thou made any contract with that Fiend
The Enemy of Mankind?
O I have.
What? and how far? 65
I have promisd him my soul.
Ten thousand times better thy Body had
Bin promisd to the stake, aye and mine too,
To have sufferd with thee in a hedge of flames
Then such a compact ever had been made. Oh--- 70