Reflecting the Witch: Witchcraft in Literature and Popular Beliefs

[Women and the Devil]    [Familiars   [Deeds]    [Identification   [Trials]
 

 When considering popular beliefs and Literature, there are two schools of thought: that they are completely unrelated and derived from opposite sources or that they are interconnected and each depends heavily upon the other. Popular beliefs reflect the populous which can be equated to the less educated sector of society whereas literature is often written, read, and studied by the educated, or elite. We believe, however, that writers often write literature based on their surroundings, including significant pieces and reflections of their society. Plays, especially, were performed for the public. In order to make a profit, plays had to be marketable to a wide range of people. The audiences would have consisted of elite as well as common folk. The language, ideas, and opinions professed must appeal to all.

It is often difficult to distinguish between what was believed among the elite and what was believed by the people. According to Briggs, "it is mistaken to think of simple oppositions between popular and learned culture, which are really no more than abstractions invented by historians to describe a much more complex reality. Judges, clerics and peasants shared much of their cultural experience, while their ideas were always interacting" (Briggs, 28).We will define popular beliefs as beliefs that are expressed by average citizens in trials, as well as beliefs identified as popular by historians who have studied this subject extensively.

Each of our pages will contain two parts: popular beliefs and literature. The literature we have chosen to focus on is a play, written in 1621, titled The Witch of Edmonton. We will examine the connection, or lack of connection, between popular beliefs in general and this play specifically.

 Title page of the 1658 Quarto of The Witch of Edmonton  

 

 Women and the Devil

 Familiars

 Deeds

 Identification

 Retributions of Men and the Devil
state of mind

temptation and coercion

signing the pact
shape and form

role and responsibility

payment
spells

possession
swimming

witches marks

 objects
trials by men

punishments and hell


 Bibliography
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