Hell's Belles: The Witch, Social Deviance, and Gender Performativity on the Jacobean Stage

Smith, Khristian, English - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Maus, Katharine, Department of English, University of Virginia

Scholarship regarding the language and imagery of witchcraft on the Tudor and Jacobean stage has covered a variety of topics read through a plethora of critical lenses. The witch has been argued to be everything from an exemplum of anti-feminine behaviors to a representative for the Catholics lying outside of and dwelling surreptitiously within Reformed England, waiting to overturn it. However, no examination of witchcraft in Jacobean drama has yet to synthesize these accounts in a way that explains why the witch appealed to English dramatists in the early seventeenth century. This thesis claims that the character of the witch appeals to Jacobean dramatists because she is inherently deviant, particularly religiously and politically deviant, and unrestrained by authority. The very elements which make the Early Modern witch fearsome and deplorable (unrestrained sexuality, unchecked glorification of vengeance, anti-establishment, self-empowerment, and chaos) make her a worthy theatrical subject for playwrights whose jobs are to make spectacles.

MA (Master of Arts)
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