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Home :: Archive :: 2006 :: May ::
Conjuring in Shakespeare's Time
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 17.0467  Sunday, 21 May 2006

From: 		Clay Shevlin <
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Date: 		Wednesday, 17 May 2006 15:20:52 -0700
Subject: 	Conjuring in Shakespeare's Time

I would like to hear from you if in your reading of Shakespearian-era 
literature you have come across any references to "jugling" (spelled 
almost exclusively with one g in those days) or "legerdemain" (as 
"sleight of hand" or magic was called in those days) and juglers 
(including and especially, one named "Hocus Pocus," whose real name 
appears to be William Vincent) who performed magic.  To my surprise and 
delight, thus far the best source of references of this kind from that 
era have come from dramatic and related theatrical tracts and books. 
For example, Ben Jonson mentions a magician named "Hokus Pokus" in his 
play, The Masque of Augeres, first published (I believe) in 1622.

I am not aware of any clear connection between Shakespeare's works and 
his mention of jugling performances or of juglers of the day, and wish 
to clarify here that I am not really interested in references that 
address "real" magicians or magic, be it white or black.  For example, 
as much as I love The Tempest, it is of little interest in the context 
of my research because it concerns itself almost exclusively with real, 
or supernatural, magic, the kind performed by Prospero, etc.  Nor am I 
interested in references to jugglers as we define and think of them 
today, or other types of acrobatic performance (called "feats of 
activity") in the late 16th and early 17th centuries.

So why am I posting this query to all of you if I think Shakespeare has 
little to offer in connection with my research?  Well, as I have not 
made it a point to study Shakespeare's writings in depth, I must concede 
that perhaps there is something relevant to offer from his works.  In 
addition, I suspect that many who study Shakespeare's works also study 
the works of his peers, the time period, its social and political 
history, etc.  In essence, I pose my queries here because I hope that 
some of you may have come across the kind of references that I seek 
while doing reading and research in your area(s) of interest.

Thank you for reading this and I hope something comes of this query.

Sincerely,
Clay Shevlin

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