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Home :: Archive :: 1996 :: November ::
Re: *Macbeth* and Theater Superstitions
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, SHK 7.0856.  Monday, 18 November 1996.

(1)     From:   Bill Houck <
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        Date:   Monday, 18 Nov 1996 11:54:10 -0500
        Subj:   Re: *Macbeth* and Theater Superstitions

(2)     From:   Andrew Walker White <
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        Date:   Monday, 18 Nov 1996 12:20:14 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Scottish Tragedy


(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Bill Houck <
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Date:           Monday, 18 Nov 1996 11:54:10 -0500
Subject:        Re: *Macbeth* and Theater Superstitions

WITCHES & JESUITS (Shakespeare's Macbeth) by Gary Wills, Oxford University
Press, 1995 deals very intelligently with the subject of superstition.

Bill Houck

(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Andrew Walker White <
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Date:           Monday, 18 Nov 1996 12:20:14 -0500 (EST)
Subject:        Scottish Tragedy

There are some primary sources that may be of interest, for the student who is
looking into the origins of theatrical superstitions on this show.

First, there is the hefty contemporary text on Witchcraft by John Scots(?), and
then there is a slim volume produced by King James himself, in which he clearly
states his belief that portrayal of witches, whether as research or as
performance, is wicked and should be banned.  James I had a rather personal
encounter with witches, as I recall, around the time he went to Elsinore to
marry.  A certain Scottish noble went to the sea and with a few witches at his
side, threw cat's corpses and such into the sea, in hopes of raising a storm
that would wreck his ship.  Upon James' return, he interrogated one of these
witches (someone check me on this, please, it's been a while since I researched
this), and she proved her powers by repeating some rather personal remarks the
King made in his bedchamger on his wedding night.

A good point of departure would be that in the Bard's day witches were indeed a
force to be taken very seriously, and that the ban on the Scottish Tragedy had
to do with James' personal research on witchcraft, not merely on superstition.

Andy White
Urbana, IL
 

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