Read The Witch of Edmonton by Thomas Dekker Arthur F. Kinney William Rowley JohnFord Online


It is a historical phenomenon that while thousands of women were beingburnt as witches in early modern Europe, the English - although therewere a few celebrated trials and executions, one of which the playdramatises - were not widely infected by the witch-craze. The stageseems to have provided an outlet for anxieties about witchcraft, aswell as an opportunity for public anIt is a historical phenomenon that while thousands of women were beingburnt as witches in early modern Europe, the English - although therewere a few celebrated trials and executions, one of which the playdramatises - were not widely infected by the witch-craze. The stageseems to have provided an outlet for anxieties about witchcraft, aswell as an opportunity for public analysis. The Witch of Edmonton(1621) manifests this fundamentally reasonable attitude, with Dekkerinsisting on justice for the poor and oppressed, Ford providingpsychological character studies, and Rowley the clowning. The villagecommunity of Edmonton feels threatened by two misfits, Old MotherSawyer, who has turned to the devil to aid her against her unfeelingneighbours, and Frank, who refuses to marry the woman of his father'schoice and ends up murdering her. This edition shows how the playgenerates sympathy for both and how contemporaries would have respondedto its presentation of village life and witchcraft....

Title : The Witch of Edmonton
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780713642537
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 115 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

The Witch of Edmonton Reviews

  • Mel
    2019-05-18 16:22

    This was another play text I bought because it was one of the plays Beatrix Lehmann was in. She performed as Winifred in the 1936 performance of the play at the Old Vic. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this. The play was written in 1621, the same year the actual "Witch of Edmonton" was executed for being a witch. This version of the play had a good basic introduction to the history of witchcraft trials in the UK, as well as analysis of the play and some details of it's past performances. (It makes references to well known actors playing lesser roles including the 1936 production which mentions the character Beatrix plays but not her name). It also includes an original reproduction of the actual court case and "confession" which was very interesting to contrast with the play.The play I thought was very good. There was an awful lot being said about gender, social conditions and poverty in this play. I liked that they made the witch a sympathetic character who was driven to the pact with the devil due to harsh treatment and poverty. People accused her of being a witch before she tried to become one. This was counterbalanced with the story of the man who married two women, and seemed the most dastardly of the piece and yet also having to conform to social conventions that harmed him. It was interesting to see that the witch wasn't powerful, that the devil wouldn't perform the deeds for her that she wanted. The fact that he existed seemed to be part of the culture at the time but he was in fact quite a powerless devil. (Albeit he may have been responsible for a death). But I also liked the fact that there was a lot of ambiguity in the play as to who was ultimately responsible.Reading this I thought it would be fascinating to see on stage. As I was reading it I saw the RSC are currently doing a production which sounded amazing, but unfortunately it's only on till the end of November in Stratford so I won't be able to get to see it. Here's hoping for a London transfer.

  • Ela
    2019-05-19 20:09

    'Some call me a witch.And, being ignorant of myself, they go About to teach me how to become one'A very dramatic play, full of love, murder and witchcraft but firmly situated within a realistic Elizabethan society. The dichotomy of the ordinary and the supernatural makes for an engaging read, I would love to see this performed.

  • Jordan
    2019-05-14 19:09

    Not a fan! Other than the talking devil-dog this was pretty hard going.Might have a change of rating after studying it in a few weeks time - but at the moment it's not looking hopeful!

  • Elisa
    2019-05-24 16:10

    Written in 1621, in the midst of dozens of witchcraft trials taking place in England, “The Witch of Edmonton” provides a fascinating insight into the happenings. The play is inspired by a true event, but beyond the main character’s name, Mother [Elizabeth] Sawyer, it bears little in common with its real-world counterpart. Instead of trying to stick to facts, the authors, Dekker, Ford and Rowley, choose to utilize their tragic-comedy as a forum for commentating about various societal and religious beliefs of the period. The main way they accomplish this is through their use of two parallel plotlines detailing the exploits of Mother Sawyer and the character Frank Thorney. In both stories, there is a representation of the criminal behavior that can result from lack of money and the overwhelming burden of social pressure. This pressure is complicated further by an intervention of the Devil, who deceives the characters into committing horrendous crimes.Thorney is meant to serve as a warning to the reader about the power of the devil’s influence over one’s soul. Although noone would question the devil’s ability to tempt an old Crone such as Mother Sawyer, it is harder to imagine Thorney, an upstanding citizen, being just as easily coerced. In the seventeenth century, society viewed the devil as holding a very real place in their lives. Danger and sin were lurking around every corner and if one was not careful, it could be very easy to fall prey. By opening themselves up to sin, Thorney and Sawyer become his victims and serve as warnings to the rest of society. Initially, Thorney’s sin is born of overwhelming outside social pressure. Upon finding out that his mistress, Winnifrede is pregnant, Thorney makes the decision to secretly marry. It is shortly after this, however, that Thorney’s father makes a speech threatening Thorney that if he does not marry the wealthy Susan Carter, his inheritance will be null. Thorney concedes to the threat in the name of maintaining peace. The message is clear to the reader that even small sins can easily lead to much larger ones, and that if Thorney had chosen to avoid sin from the beginning, he would not have been put in the position of becoming a pawn for the devil later on. The same can be said of the main character, Mother Sawyer. In the beginning of the story, she is portrayed much as an innocent. Because of her deformed appearance she is rejected by society and horribly harassed. She is forced to endure abuse from her neighbors in many forms including the burning of her own thatch roof, a “test” the villagers perform to determine her status as a witch. When she can take it no more, Sawyer succumbs to the village’s opinion of her and begins to actively play the part of a witch. It is at this point that the devil dog intercedes and Sawyer agrees to sell her soul. Like Thorney, Sawyer begins with a small sin (cursing) which becomes the gateway for much more serious offenses. It is at this point though, that the two stories diverge and the playwrights’ intentions are called into question. Besides the intervention of the devil in both Mother Sawyer and Frank Thorney’s lives, and their mutual subjectivity to intense social pressure, the two characters’ situations bear little resemblance to one another. Thorney’s case overall exudes a much more psychological nature. However, as previously mentioned, Mother Sawyer begins the story as an innocent or and the devil dog only introduces himself to her after she has come to the realization that no matter the balance of good and evil within her, she will be viewed the same by the larger community.

  • Mac
    2019-05-07 16:21

    "The Witch of Edmonton" was the next play covered in my online course about early modern English theater. It was very interesting in its portrayal of the title character (apparently based on a real case contemporary with the play's writing in 1621). She essentially states that she was forced into witchcraft because her neighbors accused her of being a witch already. This seems like an adept depiction of the mania about witchcraft in 17th-century England and its colonies. People found witches because they wanted to find witches. However, Mother Sawyer, the witch of Edmonton, is shown actually carrying out nefarious deeds with the help of the devil in the form of a talking dog. One has to assume that some of these scenes were played for laughs.If the scenes with Mother Sawyer were the main part of the play, it could have been quite powerful. However, her story is at best a subplot. The main storyline follows a man who has been forced to marry two different women, one to appease his landlord and the other to enable his father to get out of debt. The only connection between the two stories is that he also has dealings with the talking dog, who inspires him to kill his second wife. There are also scenes involving morris dancing, only tangentially connected with the two main plot lines."The Witch of Edmonton" has three credited authors, and I am tempted to blame the lack of a unified voice for the scattershot nature of the play. But collaborative authorship was evidently quite common in this era of theater; scholars believe that many of Shakespeare's plays were written with a co-author. Whatever the reason, the play struck me as a bit of a mess, though it contains within it some really good material.

  • Spencer Miller
    2019-05-03 19:33

    I read this play for school, and was quite impressed. It's not the typical type of book I read, but I still enjoyed it. A great alternative if you want to hit up some old school drama, but are are sick of the Bard.

  • Terri Lynn
    2019-05-06 20:34

    I just didn't like it. It wasn't the Elizabethan language (play was written centuries ago during Shakespeare's time) because I regularly re-read Shakespeare's sonnets and plays and am well-versed in the language of the times. It was that I thought the play was awful. It centered around a young man who wants to get his inheritance yet fears losing it because he secretly married a house maid after knocking her up, thinking she had been a virgin and not realizing she was already in an affair with their boss and his father threatened to disown him if he married her and tries to force him into marriage with the daughter of a wealthy friend with a second story going on about Elizabeth Sawyer, a poor old woman who gathers some rotted branches to try to have heat in her little hovel only to be attacked by the cruel landowner and then subsequently makes a deal with Satan to get revenge which gets her tried and executed for a bunch of things she never did including killing cows, children and crops. Ah, the ignorance of it all. I did see the message in the play- the sexism of the time which made it okay to abuse and use women both old and young and appreciate that the playwrights were compassi0nate men who didn't approve and had much empathy for the poor, working class people, and women. I just wish they had written it better.

  • Hannah
    2019-04-30 16:25

    I don't usually enjoy reading plays from this era. I had to read this for a graduate level British literature class, but I enjoyed it far more than most old British lit. Of course I made long annotations in my own vernacular, which helped me better understand it, but it's still easier to read than Shakespeare or Chaucer or Spenser.I subjectively enjoyed this play because it was both funny and creepy, and I was able to see it all happening as it went along. It did have a moral-of-the-story, or multiple, as this time's literature often did, but it humanized the witch and showed parallels to present issues in Christian communities (as in, how do we stereotype the poor, the old, the women of our societies to be less-than, even when young, rich men are committing sins as well?)Reading the end interview between Goodpole and Elizabeth Sawyer made the play all the more animated in my head. I don't think I'd want to see it played out. I like it the way I envisioned it as I read.

  • M
    2019-05-19 13:30

    This play was interesting. I certainly like Mother Sawyer's portion of the plot, as I find her reasons for making a deal with the Devil understandable, and she is in general a sympathetic character who makes a lot of good points about the unfairness of her position in life. The demon in the guise of a dog that serves her is also an interesting character, and the parts of the plot focused on him and a foolish young man are also fairly good. I didn't really enjoy the part of the plot focused on Frank the polygamist murderer, however - none of the characters were particularly sympathetic and the connection to Sawyer's plot was fairly tenuous. Thus, I think I would have enjoyed this play a lot more if it were focused entirely on the titular witch. However, it was enjoyable enough, and I certainly don't regret reading it even if I don't know that I'd do so more than once.

  • Jennifer
    2019-05-15 18:07

    I thought Elizabeth Sawyer (the eponymous witch) had some excellent speeches. I think the portrayal of her transformation from an isolated old woman who is suspected of witchcraft, into an actual witch that seems to communicate with the Devil was really well-written and interesting. However, 'The Witch of Edmonton' suffers as a whole from forced, jarring plot points such as (view spoiler)[Frank's abrupt, unquestioning murder of his second wife, Susan. I also found Susan's meek acceptance of her imminent death utterly ridiculous. (hide spoiler)] The fact that the play is based on the true story of a woman who was hanged for practicing witchcraft does add an interesting dimension, but I feel like this is more due to the circumstances of the case than to the authors.

  • Nicole
    2019-05-24 15:36

    It was good to read a play from 16th Century England that wasn't written by Shakespeare. Although there were some similarities between this play and Shakespeare, it was overall a different reading experience. The Witch of Edmonton is described as a tragi-comedy - although there is the deaths expected in a tragedy, there are marriages, reconciliations and humour that you expect to see in a comedy. I am interested in the use of witchcraft as a storytelling device and reading this play has made me want to re-read The Crucible by Arthur Miller (which I last read in high school).

  • Edwin John Moorhouse Marr
    2019-05-05 18:21

    Another play/book I've read for study, but a fascinating play nonetheless. It provides a much more realistic understanding of what witchcraft looked like during the reign of King James, and only circa 9 years after the Pendle witch trials. I did find myself wondering whether the original audience would have laughed (as I did) at the idea of a man playing a dog, crawling around the stage and biting people to a backdrop of thunder and lightening, or if the very concept of a demonic dog would have been terrifying to an early modern audience.

  • Celeste
    2019-05-16 16:09

    I read this Renaissance tragedy in grad school and it intrigued me so much I made it the topic of my thesis. It is a rarely studied play that centers around the true story of a old woman charged and hanged for witchcraft in 1621. At the time (back in 1989) when I was working on my thesis, I was heavily into deconstruction and thought to take this very modern critical approach to the play. It is still of interest to me and is a play that I think bears up well even today.

  • Marilyn
    2019-05-10 13:13

    it was to support an annotated bibliography about magic, interesting though.

  • Keely
    2019-05-15 17:15

    I had to read this for an essay. It was okay, a bit confusing at times but I think I understood what I needed to for my essay.

  • Mary Vogel
    2019-05-19 15:19

    This play is about the importance of words and the power of speech acts to transform individuals and how they relate to society. I think of it has a domesticated version of Marlowe's Doctor Faustus.

  • Rob
    2019-04-27 13:07

    But see, the bridegroom and bride come; the new pair of Sheffield knives fitted both to one sheath.