"Secret, Black, and Midnight Hags": The Conception, Presentation and Functions of Witches in English Renaissance Drama
The present dissertation analyses the conception, depiction and functions of witch figures in English Elizabethan and Jacobean drama including their relevant predecessors and successors until the closing of the theatres in 1642. The focus is on malevolent female figures who are linked to black magic and partly prove their supernatural powers on the stage. The applied methodology of analysis has been developed from Manfred Pfister's set of criteria in Das Drama. In the first part of the investigation, the field of witchcraft is essentially described in its cultural and historical context. After a close examination of the witch figures in the main part it becomes evident that figures based on real-life models are generally conceived as more individual, complex and dynamic than those who are partly derived from classical and literary sources. Figures in drama without any connection with real-life trials generally represent the archetypal and universally valid idea of evil that could have never been communicated with the same intensity by old, lonely and isolated women in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century England.
In conclusion it should be noted that witch figures in less-known plays deserve more critical attention than they received in the past, and the majority of figures in well-known plays merit reconsideration and reveal new approaches to their interpretation.
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Malevolent Witches in English Renaissance Drama
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