chapter  8
32 Pages

The all-singing, all-dancing plays of the Jacobean witch-vogue: The Masque of Queens, Macbeth, The Witch

A protocol has been established: one must always begin on witchcraft and drama with James I, the king who argued for the reality of witches’ compacts with the devil, and believed that he had himself been the target of witches’ machinations. James was personally involved in prosecuting the witches who had tried to sink his ship, showing miraculous knowledge of what he and his bride said on their wedding night. Taking place in Scotland in 1591, this trial showed the influence of Continental theories of diabolic pacts and sexual transgression, unlike most English trials. Torture was used to extract confessions, including the Scottish practice of thrawing (or wrenching) the neck with a rope. Taken together with the prosecution’s reliance on evidence from the accused, torture rendered the giving of evidence a matter of bodily and vocal articulation: that is, bodies were turned into texts, were made to speak, were read, and the results displayed.1