Occult and Witches


By Dee Cornwallis-Doran, published 10th August 2010

Occult and Witches: Some Dramatic and Real Practitioners of the Occult in the Elizabethan and Jacobean Periods

One purpose of this paper is to show a correspondence between real-life Elizabethan and Jacobean practitioners of the occult and the depiction of their theatrical counterparts, with particular reference to perceived differences between, and differential treatment of, male and female magicians. The wide term ‘practitioners of the occult' is used to allow for the inclusion of magi, theurgists, healers, witches and others with - or purporting/purported to have - esoteric or mystical knowledge and powers.

As I believe the historical and social context of literature to be important, I shall begin by introducing three contemporary and influential books. Then three historical individuals will be discussed briefly. After this there will be some consideration of ‘practitioners of the occult' in a number of plays of the period.

The work of the Dominican Inquisitors Heinrich Kramer and James Sprenger, the Malleus Maleficarum (probably first published 1486 - but not done into English until 1928), according to its translator, Montague Summers...

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