Magical Transformations on the Early Modern English Stage  book cover
1st Edition

Magical Transformations on the Early Modern English Stage

ISBN 9781032098920
Published June 30, 2021 by Routledge
278 Pages

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Book Description

Magical Transformations on the Early Modern Stage furthers the debate about the cultural work performed by representations of magic on the early modern English stage. It considers the ways in which performances of magic reflect and feed into a sense of national identity, both in the form of magic contests and in its recurrent linkage to national defence; the extent to which magic can trope other concerns, and what these might be; and how magic is staged and what the representational strategies and techniques might mean. The essays range widely over both canonical plays-Macbeth, The Tempest, The Winter’s Tale, The Merry Wives of Windsor, Doctor Faustus, Bartholomew Fair-and notably less canonical ones such as The Birth of Merlin, Fedele and Fortunio, The Merry Devil of Edmonton, The Devil is an Ass, The Late Lancashire Witches and The Witch of Edmonton, putting the two groups into dialogue with each other and also exploring ways in which they can be profitably related to contemporary cases or accusations of witchcraft. Attending to the representational strategies and self-conscious intertextuality of the plays as well as to their treatment of their subject matter, the essays reveal the plays they discuss as actively intervening in contemporary debates about witchcraft and magic in ways which themselves effect transformation rather than simply discussing it. At the heart of all the essays lies an interest in the transformative power of magic, but collectively they show that the idea of transformation applies not only to the objects or even to the subjects of magic, but that the plays themselves can be seen as working to bring about change in the ways that they challenge contemporary assumptions and stereotypes.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Transformations and the Ideology of Witchcraft Staged Helen Ostovich and Lisa Hopkins

Part I Demons and Pacts

1 Magic and the Decline of Demons: A View from the Stage Barbara H. Traister

2 Who the Devil is in Charge? Mastery and the Faustian Pact on the Early Modern Stage Bronwyn Johnston

3 Danger in Words: Faustus, Slade, and the Demonologists

Part II Rites to Believe

4 "The Charm's Wound Up": Supernatural Ritual in Macbeth  Alisa Manninen

5 Demonising Macbeth  Verena Theile

6 Hermetic Miracles in The Winter's Tale  Jill Delsigne

Part III Learned Magic

7 "We ring this round with our invoking spells": Magic as Embedded Authorship in The Merry Devil of Edmonton  Peter Kirwan

8 Boiled Brains, 'Inward Pinches', and Alchemical Tempering in The Tempest  Jasmine Lellock

9 Profit and Delight? Magic and the Dreams of a Nation Lisa Hopkins

Part IV Local Witchcraft

10 Three Wax Images, Two Italian Gentleman, and One English Queen Brett D. Hirsch

11 'In good reporte and honest estimacion amongst her neighbours': Cunning Women in the Star Chamber and on the Stage in Early Modern England Judith Bonzol

12 'A witch, a queen, an old cozening quean!': Image Magic and Shakespeare's The Merry Wives of Windsor  Jessica Dell

13 'Gingerbread Progeny' in Bartholomew Fair  Helen Ostovich

14 'My poor fiddle is bewitched': Music, Magic, and the Theatre in The Witch of Edmonton and The Late Lancashire Witches  Andrew Loeb


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Lisa Hopkins is Professor of English at Sheffield Hallam University and co-editor of Shakespeare, the journal of the British Shakespeare Association. Helen Ostovich is Professor Emeritus of English at McMaster University, Canada and co-editor of the journal Early Theatre.