Witchcraft and its influence on sixteenth and seventeenth century drama



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From the very earliest times, mankind recognized the existence of witchcraft, but, apart from isolated cases which impinged too deeply upon society's consciousness, the dark practice was relatively ignored by society, thus allowing it to flourish until the Renaissance. At that time, witchcraft burst forth and raged furiously, becoming the chief purveyor of evil in every field, particularly those of politics, amours, and vice, forcing society to rise against it in a raging protest. So thoroughly did witchcraft penetrate the reigns of James I and Elizabeth that it influenced many facets of everyday life. Many of the ladies and nobles of the court dabbled in the dark art, either in practice or in consultation, and Elizabeth herself was known to favor Doctor Dee, a necromancer. Therefore, in order to procure a more complete understanding of the deep penetration of witchcraft into Renaissance England, it is necessary to examine briefly the history of witchcraft prior to the Renaissance and to investigate more thoroughly the English practices and beliefs during the Renaissance. Consideration of the essential documents is indispensable to this study, for without an understanding of these writings, the evolution of witchcraft as an influence on drama is impossible. Part One of this thesis, therefore, will deal with the history of witchcraft, the Renaissance belief in goety and the supernatural, and the principal written works dealing with the subject of witchcraft. [...]