30 March. Witch of Edmonton

Morris Dancing Woodcut of Will Kemp dancing from Oxford London (1600)

The Witch of Edmonton was likely written in 1620, played at the Cockpit (aka the Phoenix) by Prince Charles I’s Men in 1621 & Published in 1658.

Act 1

1. What is the devil? I he supernatural, the outward show of inward failings; OR cultural practices that result in “The misery of beggary and want” (1.1.17)?

2. How does Sir Arthur persuade Frank marry Winfred? Why does he want Frank to marry her? What does Sir Arthur expect from Winfred after she marries and how does she respond?

3. Why doesn’t Frank want his father to know he married Winfred? Whom does Frank’s father, Old Thorney, want Frank to marry and why?

4. Who else wants to marry Susan? Which of her two suitors is the best match?

5. How does Frank convince his father that he is free to marry Susan despite the fact that Old Thorney already heard Frank had married Winfred?

6. Frank offers the following comment in an aside at the close of first act: “No man can hide his shame form heaven that views him./In vain he flees whose destiny pursues him” (1.2.224-6). What does he mean? Does this philosophy structure the play that follows? How does this aside compare to major themes in Macbeth?

Act 2

6. Why does Elizabeth Sawyer decide to become a witch? How does she become a witch?

7. What is Morris dancing? How do the Morris dancers comment on the other ‘folk’ elements of the play?

8. What are the terms of Sawyer’s agreement with the Devil-Dog? Does she get a good deal? What are some of his limitations? What can he do for her?

9. What does Cuddy Banks want from Sawyer? How do the comic scene comment on the more serious ones?

10. What change does Susan notice has come over Frank? To what does she attribute the change? How does he respond? Does she believe him; should the audience?

Close read and then compare the two passages below:

Passage One

Fool, because I cannot.
Though we have power, know it is circumscribed
And tied in limits. Though he be curst to thee,
Yet of himself he is living to the world
And charitable to the poor, Now men
That, as he, love goodness, though in smallest measure,
Live without compass of our reach. His cattle
And corn I’ll kill and mildew, but his life
(unless I take him as I late found thee,
Cursing and swearing) I have no power to touch. (2.1.162-170)

Passage Two

Change thy conceit, I prithee.
Thou art all perfection. Diana herself
Swells in they thoughts and moderates thy beauty.
Within the left eye amorous Cupid sits
Feathering love-shafts, whose golden heads he dipped
In thy chaste breast. In the other lies
Blushing Adonis scarfed in modesties.
And still as wanton Cupid blows love-fires,
Adonis quenches out unchaste desires.
And from these two I briefly do imply
A perfect emblem of thy modesty.
Then, prithee, dear, maintain no more dispute,
For when thou speakst, it’s fit all tongues be mute. (2.2.93-106)


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