James Vi's Argumentative Analysis

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Daemonologie and the religious tensions of late 16th Century Scotland

In the second half of the 16th century, Scotland was experiencing a political and religious revolution with war between Catholics and Protestants, the progression of the Reformation and tensions between church and state. In 1597, following his involvement in the North Berwick Witch Trials, James VI published a treatise called Daemonologie. This work had a significant impact, sparking a widespread national witch hunt. Arguments as to the purpose of the treatise vary widely; Christina Larner argues that the Treatise was to justify witch-hunting activities and attack skeptics, Julian Goodare argues that the treatise was a response to the critics of the excesses of the 1597 witch panic, Daniel Fischlin differs by seeing the work as a way to assert the King’s “absolute power” and Timo Ryynänen adds that the use
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This essay borrows elements from each of the scholars, culminating in the argument that Daemonologie was highly political, with James VI using religious elements and divine right theory strategically in order to consolidate his power. This essay begins by examining the contextual background of the treatise and then assesses the text in light of the background, looking how proof of witches and the kings role to punish them asserts James’s idea of absolute power as does as the deliberate use of religious references. Ultimately this essay demonstrates that the treatise Daemonologie was a political text, revealing the religious and political challenges faced by James VI in the late 16th Century and his strategic use of divine right theory and
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