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2. Witches In Shakespeare's Time
About this Lecture
In this module, we examine our popular misconceptions about witchcraft in Early Modern England, focusing especially on: (i) the then-popular image of the witch as an elderly woman, (ii) James I’s skepticism about witchcraft, and (iii) the lack of actual pagan magic practices.
In this course, Professor Diane Purkiss (University of Oxford) explores the historical context around the witches in Shakespeare’s plays, especially Macbeth (1606). In the first module, we consider why Shakespeare might have written witches into Macbeth. In the second, we dispel popular myths around Early Modern witches, exploring what witchcraft really looked like in Shakespeare’s day. In the third, we focus on the Early Modern understanding that witches commonly spoiled food, and disrupted maternal processes. In the fourth, we examine the relationship between witches and storms at sea. In the fifth, we consider the connection between witches and bodies, namely between Roman Catholic relics and witchcraft. Finally, in the sixth, we do a close reading of Lady Macbeth’s two speeches in Act 1, Scene 5 and Act 1, Scene 7, understanding how these mark her as a witch according to the norms of her time.
Diane Purkiss is a Professor at Keble College, Oxford. She has published two books on the English Civil War - 'The English Civil War: A People's History' (2006) and 'Literature, Gender, and Politics during the English Civil War' (2005).
Cite this Lecture
Purkiss, D. (2022, October 27). Shakespeare and Witchcraft - Witches In Shakespeare's Time [Video]. MASSOLIT. https://massolit.io/courses/shakespeare-and-witchcraft/witches-in-shakespeare-s-time
Purkiss, D. "Shakespeare and Witchcraft – Witches In Shakespeare's Time." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 27 Oct 2022, https://massolit.io/courses/shakespeare-and-witchcraft/witches-in-shakespeare-s-time