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Macbeth-The Mission Statement
The Jacobean Witch Project

The craze of the Jacobean times...

Fast Fact: According to the Encyclopedia of Religion, the word witch is derived from the Old English noun wicca, meaning "sorcerer" and the verb wiccan "to cast a spell".

In the 16th and 17th centuries, women were hunted down and convicted as witches. In this early modern period, it was a time in which being a woman could be a crime and of itself and a crime often punishable by death. Since the Church, men, and high ranking officials believed women, who were believed to be the weaker sex, could get power through witchcraft, their masculinity and power were threatened, and as a result they began to persecute women as witches.

One of the main reasons for withcraft becoming such a craze is that the European society was so unstable. This came from many changing things. For example, many Catholics were converting to the Protestant religion, Parliament was becoming powerful for the very first time, populations wre increasing at an enormous rate, and woman monarchs were holding high positions in society. All of these drastic changes, when combined, led to tensions and disagreements. In order to compensate for these disagreements, many times the dominant gender, at this time the men, felt the need to reassert their threatened masculinity. This led to men accusing women of practicing black magic. The male population believed that women could make themselves pwerful through the use of spells and other forms of witchcraft. The men were not used to being challenged by women, so found this very threatening.

Witchcraft, although with hindsight it seems a silly idea, was regarded as something of a science.  Even the King at the time; James I, wrote a book on it; Daemonology. Shakespeare would have wanted to appeal to what the public were interested in at the time, and also to endear himself to the new king.  So, he put witches in Macbeth; plaseing both the paupers and the powers that be.


In fact, the craze about witches has not completely disappeared.  Thankfully, the tests and punishments have.  For exaple, in Jacobean times Women witches were strapped into a seat which hung from the end of a teeter-totter type contraption. The victim was dunked into a river or pond. Not only could the temperature of the water kill the victims, but they were often left underwater for as long as 5 minutes or more!


Why Shakespeare was a filthy thief! | The Magical Climate of Shakespeare's England | The times around the play | The Jacobean Witch Project