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The Witch of Edmonton [Kindle Edition]

John Ford , Thomas Dekker , William Rowley
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

The play—"probably the most sophisticated treatment of domestic tragedy in the whole of Elizabethan-Jacobean drama"[1]—is based on supposedly real-life events that took place in the village of Edmonton, then outside London, earlier that year. The play depicts Elizabeth Sawyer, an old woman shunned by her neighbors, who gets revenge by selling her soul to the Devil, who appears to her in the shape of a black dog called Tom. In addition, there are two subplots. One depicts a bigamist who murders his second wife at the devil's prompting, and the other depicts a clownish yokel who befriends the devil-dog.

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'strange but spellbinding... I've never seen anything quite like The Witch of Edmonton... darkly seductive' - Times 'darkly comic' - Telegraph

About the Author

Lucy Munro is Lecturer in Early Modern English Literature at King's College London, UK. She is also Secretary of the Marlowe Society of America, Publicity Officer for the Malone Society, and a member of the Architecture Research Group at Shakespeare's Globe and the steering group of the London Renaissance Seminar.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
This play is an unusually intelligent contemporary drama about the witchcraft craze that swept early modern England. The play depicts Mother Sawyer, a lonely, feeble old woman, who is used as a scapegoat by the villagers of Edmonton for all their woes, and is believed to be a witch even though she isn't. In revenge, Mother Sawyer calls on the Devil for a Faustian pact in which she is given magical powers. She has some fun getting her revenge on the villagers, but ultimately the Devil betrays her, and she is hung at Tyburn.
The play is by no means a modern, materialist analysis of witchcraft, but it is unique in highlighting the scapegoating phenomena as a cause of witchcraft, rather than as a justified response to it, and it also hints that crop failure and disease are natural, not caused by witches. The ultimate message seems to be, 'be nice to your poor neighbours and they won't feel the need to call up the devil in revenge', which is as good a moral as any.
'The Witch of Edmonton' is a fascinating and puzzling mixture of the strikingly modern, and the deeply Jacobean. It's a brilliant piece of theatre, and ought to be a lot more famous than it is. This is the best edition available, because it reprints the original pamphlet on which the play was based.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars the witch of edmonton 30 May 2012
By m91r
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
bought it for a uni project, ended up being a very enjoyable read. well worth the money spent. buy it
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.7 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining Plot - Methuen Student Edition is Great 8 Dec. 2003
By Michael Wischmeyer - Published on
I look unfavorably upon books and screenplays rushed to the market to capitalize on recent sensational jury trials, confessions of serial murderers, and distasteful behavior by politicians and other celebrities. I would consider it unlikely that I would appreciate a play rapidly assembled by three playwrights on the recent execution of a notorious old woman condemned for practicing witchcraft. Surprisingly, I did enjoy such a play.

Admittedly, a few centuries have elapsed since Thomas Dekker and John Ford and William Rowley collaborated on The Witch of Edmonton. The Mother Sawyer subplot is apparently faithful to the actual event; Sawyer was hanged on April 19, 1621. Within days the chaplain of Newgate Gaol published a pamphlet titled The Wonderful Discoverie of Elizabeth Sawyer a Witch, late of Edmonton, her Conviction and Condemnation and Death. This document served as the primary source for Dekker, Ford, and Rowley. The first known performance was December 29, 1621 at the Court of King James, but earlier public performances are likely to have occurred.

Many books, plays, (and now screenplays) on topical events are quickly forgotten. Fortunately, after several centuries of neglect, The Witch of Edmonton was republished in the late 1800s, most importantly in the influential Mermaid Series. More recently several major production companies, including the Royal Shakespeare Company, have staged The Witch of Edmonton.

The short prologue to this play ends with the sentence: 'Here is mirth and matter.' However, most readers will agree that The Witch of Edmonton has only a few elements of comedy and that matter clearly overwhelms mirth.

The plot involves two intertwined themes, both stories of betrayal and deceit and misplaced loyalty: 1) To gain a dowry, the young Frank Thorney deceives all that trust him, commits bigamy, and even murder. 'Tis done, and I am in. Once past our height, we scorn the deepest abyss' 2) Living in isolation, feared and abused by her neighbors, Mother Sawyer pleads for help. 'Would some power, good or bad, instruct me which way I might be revenged.' The devil in the guise of a dog obliges Mother Sawyer in return for her soul.

The Witch of Edmonton is interesting, entertaining drama. The characters do not have the psychological depth found in Shakespeare's tragedies, but this play warrants reading by anyone that enjoys Elizabethan and Jacobean drama.

I highly recommend the Methuen Student Edition. The extensive commentary, plot analysis, and character reviews are excellent.
5.0 out of 5 stars Incredible Play 16 Jun. 2014
By Karen King - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Excellent example of Jacobean witch play. Great challenge for actors and directors to create a world where the devil does live among us. Based on a "supposedly" true story of the times.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars The play is good, but this edition is not 3 Jan. 2015
By Abigail - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The play is good, but this edition is not. There is no critical introduction or notes, and the formatting is not the best. It seems like someone copied and pasted from public domain, then put a binding on it. If you want the best experience you can have with the play, look for another edition such as New Mermaids or Revels.
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