Theatre and/as Witchcraft: A Reading of The Late Lancashire Witches (1634)

  • Charlotte A. Coffin University of Paris Est-Créteil, France
Keywords: Thomas Heywood, Richard Brome, witchcraft, subversion, metatheatricality, gender,


Richard Brome and Thomas Heywood's The Late Lancashire Witches (1634) is a journalistic play so clearly inspired by judicial records of the contemporary trial that it has been characterized as a commission from the privy council, destined to further the case of the prosecution — but opinions diverge as to the authors’ obedience to or challenge of political authority. This close reading re-examines the ambiguous subversiveness of the play, highlights the pervasive destabilization of patriarchal authority, and shows how by equating witchcraft with theatre the play may expose the fictitious bases of the trial. On the other hand, the reciprocal notion that theatre is witchcraft epitomizes the playwrights’ exploitation and promotion of the public theatre’s resources.