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A sixteenth-century response to Reginald Scot’s Discoverie of Witchcraft

This book is the first published edition of a previously unknown manuscript treatise on the theological underpinnings of witchcraft belief in late sixteenth-century England. The treatise comprises a point-by-point response to the most famous early modern English work on witchcraft, Reginald Scot’s Discoverie of Witchcraft (1584). It was written by a personal friend of Scot’s, and internal evidence demonstrates that it offers critical feedback on a now-lost draft version of the Discoverie prior to the publication of that book, providing a rebuttal to Scot’s arguments in much greater detail than any other extant text, and showing precisely why his views were so controversial in their own time. The treatise is also a highly original and sophisticated theoretical defence of witchcraft belief in its own right, and the author’s position is based on detailed scriptural and theological arguments which are not found in any other English writings on the subject. The treatise’s arguments connect witchcraft belief to Reformed Protestant ideas about conscience, the devil, and the correct interpretation of scripture, and demonstrate the broader significance of witchcraft belief within this intellectual framework. It thereby provides evidence that the debate on witchcraft, as represented by the more dogmatic and formulaic printed works on the subject, shied away from the underlying issues which the author of the treatise (in a work never intended for publication) tackles explicitly.

Eric Pudney

. However, the word ‘sceptic’ is much more commonly used to denote a denier, certainly in relation to witchcraft. Histories of English witchcraft written in the early twentieth century tended to categorise authors on witchcraft as either sceptics or believers, celebrating the former, in particular Reginald Scot, while condemning or apologising for the latter.17 More recently, however, the validity of a clear distinction between authors in terms of scepticism and belief has been called into question by historians of witchcraft, notably Peter Elmer and Stuart Clark.18 Using

in Scepticism and belief in English witchcraft drama, 1538–1681
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Eric Pudney

, required of all Christians. Part of the treatise’s value is that it was not intended for publication, but as a private communication within a particular scribal network: it was written for the benefit of a friend. This explains the candour and openness of the treatise, and allows its author to deal with sensitive topics in much greater depth than is usual. In addition to this, as I have discovered, the treatise is a response to a pre-publication draft of a much more famous work: Reginald Scot’s Discoverie of Witchcraft (1584). It is evident from the text that it was

in A defence of witchcraft belief
Family dynamics in the Pendle witch trials
Jonathan Lumby

corpse, they bled fresh bloud presently, in the presence of all’. Potts comments that the bleeding of a corpse ‘hath ever been held a great argument to induce a Jurie to hold him guiltie that shall be accused of murther and hath seldome or never fayled in the Tryall’. King James in his Daemonologie had called the gushing of blood from a dead carcase which a murderer had touched ‘a secret supernaturall signe, for tryall of that secrete unnaturall crime’. 3 That belief was general. Even Reginald Scot and Francis Bacon, writers in general sceptical about witchcraft

in The Lancashire witches
An historical essay concerning witchcraft (1718)
Andrew Sneddon

intellectual coherence as a belief system, Satan’s ability to intervene in the temporal world. It was this debt to traditional demonology that made most sceptical works concern themselves with refuting specific instances of witchcraft or with the legal or scriptural bases of witchcraft belief. Only two writers broke free of these intellectual constraints, and for their trouble were regarded by their contemporaries as extremists: Reginald Scot, who challenged the prevailing patterns of the sceptical tradition by depriving the devil of the ability to influence the workings of

in Witchcraft and Whigs
John Swain

It is natural to unnatural people, and peculiar unto witchmongers, to pursue the poor, to accuse the simple, and to kill the innocent . 1 This assertion, that those in poverty were particularly vulnerable to accusations of witchcraft, was the view in 1584 of the Kentish JP and witchcraft sceptic Reginald Scot. If he was correct to link witchcraft and the poor, it might be assumed that the Lancashire witch trials of 1612 and 1634 were only to be expected, given that they followed

in The Lancashire witches
One experience inspiring generically divergent publications
Amy G. Tan

industry to produce this public defence. In his defence, Bernard carefully situated Guide against the views of Reginald Scot, who in 1584 had published the strongly sceptical Discouerie of Witchcraft . As Simon Davies has suggested, Scot’s view was not always so far divorced, in terms of practice, from the views of more mainstream demonological writers. In that regard, Scot

in The pastor in print

Ralph Knevet's Supplement of the Faery Queene (1635) is a narrative and allegorical work, which weaves together a complex collection of tales and episodes, featuring knights, ladies, sorcerers, monsters, vertiginous fortresses and deadly battles – a chivalric romp in Spenser's cod medieval style. The poem shadows recent English history, and the major military and political events of the Thirty Years War. But the Supplement is also an ambitiously intertextual poem, weaving together materials from mythic, literary, historical, scientific, theological, and many other kinds of written sources. Its encyclopaedic ambitions combine with Knevet's historical focus to produce an allegorical epic poem of considerable interest and power.

This new edition of Knevet's Supplement, the first scholarly text of the poem ever published, situates it in its literary, historical, biographical, and intellectual contexts. An extensive introduction and copious critical commentary, positioned at the back of the book, will enable students and scholars alike to access Knevet's complicated and enigmatic meanings, structures, and allusions.

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Shakespeare and the supernatural
Victoria Bladen
Yan Brailowsky

Shakespeare wrote in, and for, an enchanted world but one that was on the cusp of change, with the emergence of observational methods, proto-empiricism and sceptical discourses, as exemplified by works such as Reginald Scot's The Discoverie of Witchcraft (1584) and Francis Bacon's Novum Organum (1620), which reflected the impact of Protestant scepticism. 46 Scot argued that the time for miracles, oracles and prophecies had ‘ceased’, and that the preaching of a reformed faith had done away with

in Shakespeare and the supernatural
Eric Pudney

order. This claim suggests that Reginald Scot’s work on witchcraft – entirely orthodox in its declarations of Protestant faith, opposition to superstition, and 10 John Hall, A Poesie in Forme of a Vision (London, 1563), sigs A7v, A8r, A8v. 11 SP xv.25, fol. 212 (5 November, 1578). Witchcraft in Elizabethan drama 63 anti-Catholic rhetoric – might also have been seen as troubling, and even politically subversive, in its main conclusions. Witchcraft prosecutions in Elizabethan England overwhelmingly targeted women, but magic in general was far from being a female

in Scepticism and belief in English witchcraft drama, 1538–1681