Witchcraft In Elizabethan Era Essay

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The idea of witchcraft, first introduced in the Old Testament, persisted throughout the Dark Ages and remained important in Elizabethan England, wherein it was featured in the plays of Shakespeare, including Macbeth. In both periods, a witch was often described as an associate of the devil or other evil demon or spirit. If a person was considered a witch, that individual was assumed to have struck a deal with the devil and thus able to perform some sort of ‘dark’ magic, where dark refers to having an evil or selfish purpose or intent (Z 2). Despite the common elements, the beliefs and practices of witchcraft in the in the Dark Ages differed from those of Elizabethan Era. Whereas witchcraft in the Dark Ages was characterized by the presence…show more content…
Ironically, as the causes of more events were understood, this led to a greater recognition that many events still could not be understood, promoting wider belief in magic and the supernatural and a changed understanding of what witchcraft involved. For example, leaders accused witches of causing the black plague (Witchcraft in the Elizabethan Era 20). More broadly, accused witches were charged with having used dark forces to cause adverse events and to torture others. The definition of witchcraft came to include the idea that witches were ‘demon worshipers’ who worshiped the devil and used his magic. Not surprisingly, Shakespeare’s writing strongly reflected ideas about witchcraft in his time. In Macbeth, Shakespeare’s witch plans the harm she will cause another’s husband, who is a sailor on a ship (Levin 2), exemplifying the witch who is able able to cause adverse events, causing harm, or punishing others. Also, the witches attempted to use ‘image magic’, which is when a person creates a wax figure and then harms that figure, thus causing harm to the actual person (Levin 6). This idea of abstract magical power contrasted with witchcraft in the Dark Ages where power was derived more from knowledge and use of specific herbs and potions. The invention of the printing press similarly had the ironic effect of spreading belief in witches along
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