All posts by Omer Dagan

The discoverie of witchcraft by reginald scott

This book, published in 1584, intends to prove that those that claim to be witches may be false.

The title page.

The Title Page

The purpose of this page appears to be an effort to prove that Reginald Scott’s goal is not opposite to God’s, but is aligned with Christianity. Scott refers to a verse as evidence that God is against those that pray on the superstitious, which warns to ‘try the spirits, whether they are of God; for many false prophets are gone out into the world.’ Furthermore, Scott even groups atheists together with ‘soothsayers’ (fortune tellers) and ‘conjurers’, depicting these as, like atheists, not of God.

The Reader

An interesting element of the title page is the owner’s writing; it appears as though the owner did not only mark the book with his name, Rockson, but also was interested in the book’s font, and tried to practice writing in this style. Printing was a relatively new technology at the time, and books being mass printed with beautiful fonts, not by hand, while being expensive were also more accessible and therefore seeing this must have been interesting to the reader.


Reginald Scott dedicated his book to three figures (four including the reader, which reveal some interesting things about the authorial intention.

Manwood, Sir Roger (1524/5–1592), judge

Reginald first dedicates this book to Sir Roger, praising his judgement. This could be because Reginald, again, seeks to justify himself, and prove that he is not against judges which may condemn witches, merely wanting to aid their efforts. This grovelling could be because he is afraid that the publishing of this book may cause him to be in trouble with the law, especially if he insults such an esteemed member of the government.

Reginald’s dedication to Sir Roger Manwood.

Scott, Sir Thomas (1534×6–1594), landowner

Reginald Scott spends a generous amount of time exalting his cousin, Sir Thomas Scott. While it seemed as though this is because this cousin was an influence of some sort, research has revealed that Reginald’s fervent worship of his cousin was probably due to the author’s financial reliance on this very cousin, a man which inherited from their grandfather ‘thirty manors.’

Coldwell, John (c. 1535–1596), bishop of Salisbury

Reginald dedicates his book also to a man named John Coldwell with great admiration, stating that he is interested in continuing the bishop’s work. While Coldwell had not publish anything witchcraft related, at least nothing surviving, the character’s background, which involves both achieving a master’s in Cambridge as well as becoming a man of the church, is much like Scott’s stated goal. While Reginald believes in logic rather than blind belief, at his core he is a man of God, wanting to separate religion from superstition.

Reginald’s dedication to Doctor Coldwell.

Dedication to The Reader

This dedication is interesting because it assumes that the reader is already prejudiced about superstition, therefore it seems to be to a person engrossed in popular culture. This passage simply asks the reader to be open minded, because if they are a participating in groupthink and following their emotions, their bias will deny the contents of the book. Therefore, Reginald is seeking to use logos rather than pathos to convince the reader.

Reginald’s dedication to the reader.

The Diagram

This illustration is especially interesting as it is a look into how illusion was used in the theater. Reginald portrays how a decapitation may be created in a performance, and uses this as evidence to show that those that claim they are magical can use these same techniques to depict a false illusion.

A diagram portraying how an illusion can be created on stage.

List of Authors

This appears to be an early form of citation. The reason for this could be not only to give credit, but a way of using ethos. As the list of references is so large, this proves that Scott was involved in a lot of research, therefore is very knowledgeable on the subject, which may sway the reader into agreeing with Reginald’s stance on superstition.

The list of Authors.


There is a list of amended sentences in this book, which is likely due to the infancy of publishing at the time. Because books were mass printed, which was expensive, it would be difficult to correct individual pages. Therefore, perhaps it was cheaper to later print a page with the corrected sentences, with references to those pages.

The list of corrections.


Pictures taken by Victoria Mezzetto

Jack, Sybil M. “Manwood, Sir Roger (1524/5–1592), judge.” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.  January 03, 2008. Oxford University Press. Date of access 30 Oct. 2019, <>

Knafla, Louis A. “Scott, Sir Thomas (1534×6–1594), landowner.” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.  January 03, 2008. Oxford University Press. Date of access 30 Oct. 2019, <>

PlantinMoretusmuseum. “DVD – Museum Plantin-Moretus (English).” YouTube, YouTube, 5 Nov. 2015,

Rundle, Penelope. “Coldwell, John (c. 1535–1596), bishop of Salisbury.” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.  May 21, 2009. Oxford University Press. Date of access 30 Oct. 2019, <>

Wootton, David. “Scott [Scot], Reginald (d. 1599), writer on witchcraft.” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.  September 23, 2004. Oxford University Press. Date of access 30 Oct. 2019, <>

Archival document depicting a theatre debate

Archiver’s Note: 

This exchange was discovered in the archives of Dormition Cathedral, London, in 2019 and believed to have been performed during several sermons in the late 1590s. The author is unknown; however, it is likely that this exchange was written by the church heads in order to educate the population on the immoralities of the theatre and to dissuade them from attending. Despite this, they were not able to prevent dwindling church attendance and the dialogue was never performed again. 

Fool. What a glorious time to act upon the stage! Theatre doth grow in in popularity more and more each day. The rising men of about town are attending and it is attracting the attention of many a aristocrat. (Pollard, xii) The theatre has the power to change individuals just with words, that is some power that those actors hold and should not be ridiculed by the likes of you. The theatre has the power to enlighten and open minds as well as to teach. “What coward to see his countryman valiant would not be ashamed of his own cowardice?” (Heywood, 221). The plays can teach the proper manners expected of our nobles and our countrymen, set examples for thine own followers. 

Friar. Fool! How far thee have strayed from the arms of our Lord and saviour. Your blasphemous disregard towards our teachings, replaced with vile sins and vanities, has brought about thy own damnation! Tragedies encourage wrath, cruelty, incest, injury, murder either violent by sword, or voluntary by poison; the persons gods, goddesses, furies, fiends, kings, queens and mighty men!” “the ground work of comedies is love, cozenage, flattery, bawdy, sly conveyance of whoredom; the persons, cooks, queans, knaves, bawds, parasites, courtesans, lecherous old men, amourous young men.” (Gosson, 94). Thou must return to thy holy Father! 

FoolHow can thou call it a sin when your own Lord hath never done, “Neither Christ himself, nor any of his sanctified Apostles, in any of their sermons, acts, or documents, so much as named them, or upon any abusive occasion touched them.” (Heywood, 223). 

T’was your very own clergyman who hath engaged in this art. Many preachers have in fact written for the stage and have provided us with many moral lessons within them (Pollard, xvii). How can the likes of ye argue against the immorality of plays when you yourself hath written and acted for the masses. Even your Sunday sermons could be seen as a performance with the intent on teaching. Ye argue that we encourage the wrath and sins of mortals and that we perform “the work of the devil” (Gosson, 84), why not then create your own work of God to counteract our deceitful act? “Since God hath provided us of these pastimes, why may we not use them to his glory?” (Heywood, 224) 

The Fool appears in many plays from the Works of William Shakespeare. Vintage etching circa mid 19th century.

Friar. Plays may be used by the Lord to teach and to guide in the right hands, but these theaters are filled with the devil’s very own lies and slander! “The proof is evident, the consequent is necessary, that in stage plays for a boy to put on the attire, the gesture, the passions of a woman; for a mean person to take upon him the title of a prince, with counterfeit port and train; is by outward signs to show themselves otherwise than they are” (Gosson, 102). There are no morals to be found in the bawdiness of theatre! “Hail the horse whose mischief hath been discovered by the prophets of the Lord…damnable, because we profess Christ, and set up the doctrine of the devil.” (Gosson, 89) 

Fool. The theatre hath been used to perform the very truthful acts of mortals. “Plays hath taught the unlearned the knowledge of many famous histories” (Heywood, 241). The histories of our country hath been depicted on these very floors to inform and teach these good countrymen of their own past. The past itself hath believed our art to be one of taste. “Thus our antiquity we have brought from the Grecians in the time of Hercules; from the Macedonians in the age of Alexander; from the reigns of Romans long before Julius Caesar” (Heywood 246-247) 

Friar. Thou thinkst that in the hands of fools knowledge will be used for the betterment of all? Dost thou proclaim that thou knowst better than thy Lord? “The devil, not contented with the number he hath corrupted with reading Italian bawdry, because all cannot read, presenteth us comedies cut by the same pattern” (Gosson 90). What use is history, will it teach our youth to fear our God? Let the history rest in the past, the only thought tat is needed in the hands of peasants and fools is the fear of God! 

A depiction of Friar Lawrence from the Shakespeare’s famous play ‘Romeo and Juliet’.

Fool. Hark! The gates of hell have opened! And yet, I cannot repent this addiction to the sin the theatre! I shall spend the rest of my days in the arms of sloth and lust. But, hark a second time! There is water arising from every corner of the world! God has brought upon us a second flood! Jesus, save us! 

Friar. For shame! I pray for thee and thy sinful nature! God have mercy on thy soul, that you thee repent your Devil father. And I pray for this sheer crowd of a thousand sinners that flock to your feet, that they too repent and revoke this devil’s work! 


Omer, Ciara, Alfie D, Alfie P, Alice, Emma


Pollard, Tanya‘Introduction’ in Shakespeare’s theater: A sourcebook. (2003). Oxford: Blackwell. 

Gosson, Stephen, ‘Plays confuted in five acts’ (1582) in Shakespeare’s theater: A sourcebook. (2003). Oxford: Blackwell. 

Thomas Heywood, ‘An Apology for Actors’ (1612) in Shakespeare’s theater: A sourcebook. (2003). Oxford: Blackwell.