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, <>

The Production of Early Printed Books

The production of early printed books is almost unrecognisable from the printing process of today.  Printing was an artisan skill as there was not the large scale production methods that are commonplace in the modern industry.  Books were printed sheet by sheet, rather than page by page and then these sheets were folded to form the book. The less times a sheet was folded, the more expensive the book was.  Folios, where the sheet was folded in half, were therefore the most expensive and quartos – a sheet folded four times – were cheaper. Books were printed on the Gutenberg Press with movable type, which was designed by Gutenberg (surprisingly enough) in the 15th Century but brought to England by William Caxton.

The printing of books was paid for by publishers.  Printers, who manufactured the physical book and stationers, who bind the pages and sell them to customers, were all instructed by the publishers, who would pay an author roughly £2 for a manuscript.  All of these professions had to belong to the Stationer’s Company, which the publisher paid a licensing fee for each text. The publisher also had to provide the printer with the paper and pay for a first run of 200 copies – an expensive business!  They then sold unbound copies directly to customers and stationers. Because they paid for this whole process, publishers determined the content of title pages, e.g. the advertising feature of the book.  They sometimes wrote dedications and commissioned dedicatory verses for their author.

  From the front cover we are provided with basic information about the book. We learn that the text is John Harrington’s translation of Ariostos Orlando Furioso, which was published in 1634. We also get an insight into that form, as it states that it is written in English, heroical verse. The cover states that it is “Printed in London by G. Miller for J Parker,” so we can understand that the printer was G. Miller and J. Parker was the publisher. It also states that it is “Thirdly Revised,” so we know that it is the third edition. Upon further research, we found that the editions were published in 1591, 1607, 1634. All three editions were dedicated to Queen Elizabeth the first, because she was his patron. 

The intricate illustrations show that there are clear classical and divine themes to Orlando’s Furioso, with the inclusion of Gods, cherubs and angels around the two figures. The way the two figures are positioned and the inclusion of what appears to be Cupid suggests the romance element to the narrative. There is a large illustration of Ariosto, showing that this is his original work and that this text is Harington’s English translation. The quite dominating illustration of John Harrington presents his want for authorship.

Further research on Early English Books Online proved that the title page was engraved, as were illustrations, with copper rather than wood – this would result in better quality, more intricate, more impressive illustrations with perspective and shading, which in turn would make it a more expensive text to buy. There also proved to be 142 copies of all 3 copies in existence, suggested it was a popular text as there still remains multiple copies across numerous countries’ and cities’ archives.

It would also seems that the only other surviving text Harington wrote was the ‘Metamorphosis of Ajax’, and paratexts of that such as ‘Apologie for Ajax’.

Phoebe, Holly, Pearl, Charlotte

Pastor vs actor

This week’s debate will discuss whether theatre still stands as a legitimate art form for the public to indulge. We introduce Pastor Peter Day and actor Walter Wright from the Chamberlain’s Men.


The theatre needs to go. Every week there are fewer supporters of my sermons and I have started to note, and almost expected, a rise in the shift of public morals. The theatre’s surrounding areas are riddled with brothels, gambling houses, and public drinking places. Passers-by flirt dangerously with these immoral habits, even on holy days.


Yet, the theatre blesses us all with entertainment, financial gain and explicit education on our country’s history and culture. The stories we share are before our time, and the revival of dead playwrights’ work means that I, as an actor, can express their once lively rhetoric. How are those without the ability to read allowed to learn about their own country’s heritage without a visual retelling of our past? These histories ‘plant understanding in the hearts of the ignorant.’


I cannot fathom the disrespect towards the church that has become ingrained within the theatre, as our society abides by explicit biblical readings and teaching of these through religious worship. If our society is seeing bad examples of this onstage, then they will abide by this in life itself. The minds of the idle are easily tainted by visual example and spectacle. Misbehaviour could lead to rebellion against our Lord. This will not do. How can religious minds like mine remain unscathed by the bad example that theatre brings? Even I have the potential to be persuaded by their grandeur and noble garments.


I know some might refute these statements with idle chatter about the display of immoral behaviour and cause for this to become riotous, however when the public are within the walls of our Globe, they are neither out whoring or gambling, they are being enlightened, educated and entertained.


At the very least, these plays need to be censored and abandoned. The mass grouping of immoral citizens could easily insight a moral rebellion, leading to idol minds going into promiscuous professions, such as pick-pocketing, conning the vulnerable and, even at some lengths, prostitution. Furthermore, the succeeding unproductivity of those not at work has the potential to lead to social unrest and idleness, especially with the volatile religious climate as Catholicism takes reign.


We are supported generously by our sovereign Queen’s opinions of the stage. Surely her opinion should be paramount for our populous. As she is the earth’s representative of God, how can this not be enjoyed by the religious? ‘Since God has provided us of these pastimes, why may we not use them to his glory?’

By Felix, Ross, Joumana, Rebecca and Francesca

In Defense of the theater


  • Audiences can learn from the imitation of the stage if they themselves imitate virtuous characters – plays provide a “map of morality” by showing which virtues to embrace and shows the ugliness of vices
  • All theatre shouldn’t be banned just because of a few immoral plays
  • Jesus and The New Testament never banned theatre
  • By acting out histories, it gains respect for forefathers: “every succeeding age hath recorder their worths unto fresh admiration.” The “wonder” and “valour” of figures of the past should be shown to others and this can only be done by acting. 


  • “Stage plays are the doctrine and invention of the devil.” 
  • “Plays are the proceedings and the practices of the gentiles in their idolatry” – worshiping something that isn’t God – the plague spreading in playhouses is punishment for this idolatry 
  • Plays do not teach the audience or actors anything – they serve no higher purpose
  • Men dressing as women may make the men effeminate, or confuse the audience – it is against God’s law
  • “comedies / tragedies/ romances teach us the wrong lessons- they are lecherous, desirous, unlawful, adulterous, murderous” 
  • Theaters are breeding grounds for the plague and “contemporary religious thought held that the plague was a punishment for sin”- therefore the theater and sin are intertwined. 
  • The theater allows entertainment to be available in the day time, it could lead to a lack of productivity and laziness. 


A: More mead, Sir?  I’ll call the serving wench.

D: Nay not for I, or I’ll be late to the theatre.

A: The theatre?!

D: Yes, that chap Shakespeare’s latest offering.  Sorry old boy, I’d have got you a ticket if I’d known you were interested.

A: I am as far from interested as the sun is from the moon.

D: No, well, more of a bear-baiting fan myself too, truth be told, but the missus likes it so to the theatre I go. Why are you so dreadfully opposed to a little theatre?

A: Because of the blasphemy, old friend, the blasphemy! How can we forget that all theatre is idolatry, and what’s more, the very embodiment of sinful deception. It’s like the saying goes, “Stage plays are the doctrine and invention of the devil.” Don’t you worry about catching the plague? It’s not just the close proximity with all those rough types – it’s the judgement of the Lord.

D: The plague, I shall grant you, is a fair warning against an evening at the stage. But after all, Jesus in the New Testament of the Holy Book never banned theatre, so who are we to condemn it so?

A: Those lazy, immoral ‘actors’ (I hasten to even suggest that title as a real profession) strut about the stage in the garb of a lord, all the while being a lowly peasant underneath! What’s to stop them thinking they can carry on this charade off the stage…or even worse, giving your labourers lofty ideas? A good portion of mine already leave their posts in the mid-afternoon to indulge in such silly fancies at the Rose. It’s a disruption to the workforce.

D: Ah, but you seem to be forgetting, rogues and knaves are punished for their wrongdoings in stage plays of the moment, and the noble, virtuous hero, he triumphs: a play can be the very map of morality if one reads it properly. And for those uneducated theater-goers in the audience, the performance provides a perfect display of what is true and proper: they only have to copy the virtuous characters to be moral members of our society. The theater isn’t all that bad, fine sir, but now, I must be off – the missus will chew my ear off if I’m late.

Charlotte, Holly, Phoebe, El, Pearl

Two Brits Walk into a pub

Image result for trainspotting pub
Source: Trainspotting (1996):

Two young Southern English boys, THOMAS and EDWARD (20s), walk into a busy working man’s pub. The loud pub quietens as the pair walk in. The locals eye them up suspiciously.
Edward tugs on Thomas’s shirt. He gives him a nervous look but Thomas just gives him a bold smile back.

THOMAS Can I get two pints of Guinness please?
BARMAN Yeez goat any ayy-dee?
Thomas confidently slides out his driving license whilst Edward fumbles for his. The barman examines both before serving the pints.
The pair sit in the corner of the room. Edward looks around nervously whilst Thomas triumphantly gulps his stout.

EDWARD Thomas, I don’t think this is a good idea. Mother said that I should-
THOMAS Shut up Edward. For Christ’s sake. Your mother isn’t here, is she?
THOMAS We’re paying customers, alright. No one is going to cause us any harm. We’re supporting their economy.
A half-empty glass of lager slams down on their table, proceeded by a very drunk man, STEVEO (50s).
STEVEO De fook de yeez young English conts think yeez doing in ma tavern?
EDWARD Thomas.
THOMAS Sorry, I didn’t quite catch that.
STEVEO Yeez fookin’ foreign conts are askin’ for a skelp.
Steveo’s friend calls from behind him.
KEV (Laughing) Steveo here’s askin’ why yeez in Edina?
STEVEO Yeez wee sooks ah askin’ fer a wallop, Kev.
THOMAS Uhh we’ve come up early for the Edinburgh Fringe festival.
STEVEO Yeez bufties?
THOMAS I’m an aspiring director, but Edward, Eddie, he’s a writer and an actor. We’re actually students at the moment at Oxford. We’re uhh putting on a play here in a couple of weeks.
STEVEO Ahh cannae believe me fookin’ cluas. Yeez wee players.
Edward and Thomas look at each other in confusion.
STEVEO (CONT’D) What yeez puttin’ on?
THOMAS Uhh Macbeth. That’s why we’re up early. We’re trying to get some local inspiration to help our actors for their performances.
STEVEO Dee fook do ya need dat fer. Tee English ahh doin’ fooking Macbeth, Kev. Yeez are takin’ the piss aren’t yeez?
EDWARD No no. We’re not. We’re just passionate about theatre and want to learn more about this great country.
Thomas gives Edward a look as if to say ‘too much’.
STEVEO Fookin’ waste ahh teem. Yeez conts shoodn’taa be doin’ such immorality.
THOMAS How do you mean?
STEVEO Yee looky here laddy, ahh wiz always like, and me mam and her auld mam an’ aw wiz like, never go t’ da theatre cus cannae know goin’ ta corrupt ya meend n ya morals. What tee point n givin’ poppy te fookin’ actors. Da fook do tey do wiv their lives. Only conts look up ta actors cos te got nowt else on ter lives. Actors da same as criminals n dat they lie to ya face n expect fookin’ poppy for it n they’re fookin’ lazy at it man.
THOMAS I don’t know if lazy trickery is how I’d define actor. I mean many of them are professionally trained and-
STEVEO And te bampots ta go see theatre. ‘Ahh ooh te so good. Aw so good’. Ye fook. And fookin’ Shakespeare. Ahh cannae understand what te writs. Load a pish. And when he fookin’ says sumin’ comprehensible, it’s all about fookin’ swedges. His plays ah fookin’ radge man. When te killed te King cos his lassie say so, ya think he was meltit for writin’ sumin’ so mince.
THOMAS See, I would disagree.
You can see the panic in Edward’s eyes.
STEVEO Ye what?
THOMAS Actors, writers, and directors are skilled and talented, and extremely hard working. I mean, Shakespeare has taught generations after generations about how to live. How to express. How can you just ignore all of that?
STEVEO Te fook are yeez callin’ ignorant. Teez askin’ for a swedge. I’ll take yeez oot seed and fookin’ skep yeez.
Steveo staggers up. Kev sees what happens and jumps in.
KEV Ahh calm it Steveo. Tee laddies are causin’ nae danger. Go get aws ah pint. It’s yeez round anyway man.
Steveo eyes Thomas and Edward before staggering to the bar.
KEV (CONT’D) Sorry about him. He’s a good laddie n that. Just goes a bit radge and talks some keech after he’s got a bit steamin’. Gets ah bit a spondoolyitis. Ay’d da fookin’ sup up and get oota here whilst he’s gone walkaboots if ahh wa yeez.
EDWARD Thomas, we’re going.
THOMAS Yep. You’re right about that one Edward.
The pair hurry out of the pub.

Group: Louis Linsey, Amy Sandbach, Helena Eades, Helena Hussey, Ruairidh Watt

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. 


Becky, Luke, Elli, Kelly, Sophia

A cosy tavern on the North bank of the river Thames. Bestfriends Edmond and Arthur are having a tankard of ale. 

Edmond Theakston: Hallo Arthur my man, you’re looking particularly fine today, Martha can’t make the theatre this afternoon and I was wondering if you would accompany me. 

Arthur Murray: Is this a joke? 

Edmond Theakston: No, I thought it would be a really nice Wednesday afternoon activity for us to do together! 

Arthur Murray: Our theatres and playhouses in London are as full of adultery as they were in Rome. I would rather eat a rat than attend that devil’s playhouse Edmond.

Edmond Theakston: Oh Arthur, surely what can sooner print the modesty in the souls of the wanton than by discovering unto them the monstrousness of their sin? 

Arthur Murray: Stage plays are the doctrine and invention of the devil!!! I will not be persuaded otherwise. You can not be taught morals through the words of the devil. 

Edmond Theakston: Cannot morals be taught through history plays of courage and shame? So bewitching a thing is lively and well spirited action, that is hath power to new mold the hearts of the spectators and fashion them to the shape of any noble and notable attempt. 

Arthur Murray: No Edmond, the theatre is an immoral industry! Draw your sword, we’re taking this outside.

Edmond Theakston: Now now Athur, stop this tomfoolery!! You sound straight out of one of those Shakespeare plays! 

Arthur Murray: Don’t align me with that pagan devil worshipper. I thought better of you. 

[Arthur draws sword]

Edmond Theakston: Woah! Lets just have another tankard and calm down. 

[Arthur replaces sword to its sheef]

Arthur Murray: I may have got a little ahead of myself but this theatre business just really grinds my cogs. 

Edmond Theakston: I understand you’re a Godly man but the Bible provides no clear orders against the theatre and were content to pass over them, as things tolerated and indifferent. 

Arthur Murray: You have a point there Eddy, but I’m not utterly convinced viewing a play is right for me, I would be more than content to read one of these Shakespeare plays you so highly commend, but to see it acted out in the flesh would overstep the mark. 

Edmond Theakston: One step at a time Arthur. Why don’t you read some first and then maybe we can try attending a play when you’ve gotten over this silly fear. 

[They hug and head out of the tavern]

gosson vs heywood

Theatricalist vs Anti-Theatricalist 

A Live debate between Stephen Gosson and Thomas Heywood, transcribed here for your enjoyment. 


Stage plays are not to be suffered in a Christian commonwealth (88). They are go against Christianity! 


 How can you prove they are unchristian? 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 (223). And as for the state of the commonwealth,  I never yet could read any history of any commonwealth which did not thrive and prosper whilst these public solemnities were held in adoration (224).


How can you say that the theatre has moral value!? The devil, forseeing the ruin of his kingdom , both invented these shows and inspired men with devices to set them out the better thereby to enlarge his dominion and pull us from God (89). The theatre draws people away from the Church, playing is one of those politic horns which our enemy dosseth against the gospel (91), abandoning sermons to watch baudy and lascivious performances. 


Plays do offer moral teachings. What coward to see his countryman valiant would not be ashamed of his own cowardice? (221). The theatre presents countless models of good behaviour in it’s representation of heroic characters such as in heroic Hector, Troilus and Caesar. It inspires people to be better citizens, more courageous and just. Even comedies have the power to make men see and shame at their faults (243) in their ridicule of the foolish and admiration of the wise and witty. 


Watching plays doesn’t inspire courage and action! It inspires laziness! We must be persuaded that their idle occupation, having no stout, so strong, so puissant, so mighty an enemy as the word of God (88). Acting is for those who don’t have the strength to do real work. Actors forsake their natural calling to play dress up, just because they vainly desire to walk gentlemanlike (110) instead of getting real, honest work. 

 Far from advocating strength, the theatre aims to turn people soft and effeminate. Indeed, these outward spectacles effeminate and soften the hearts of men (107-8). Everyone knows that the law of God very straightly forbids men to put on women’s garments (101). 


Actually, theatres were in the greatest opinions amongst the romans (223). I don’t think anyone would call them feminine or accuse them of a lack of industry. 

Moreover, you neglect to acknowledge that the theatre offers an education to the common man. Plays have…taught the unlearned the knowledge of many famous histories (241). Have you considered that most people can’t read? Going to the theatre is a way that common people can learn about their history and cultural heritage. Additionally, to go to the theatre is to learn the art of rhetoric which instructs a man to speak well, and with judgement (227). Clarity of speech and eloquence are good skills to have. 


To imitate others on stage is a blatant deception. God hath made us in his own likeness (88-89). To impersonate someone else is to defy God’s wisdom in creating us how we are. Where is the transparency in theatre? How do we know if the actors are speaking in character or in truth. It’s as sinful as lying to be an actor! It is to mimic the character of the devil to turn himself sometimes to an angel of light, to deceive us the sooner (95). 


I have come across many instances in which people have actually confessed to crimes and revealed truth because the theatre has inspired them to. Two women confessed to the murders of their husbands (245,246) after they were driven by guilt when watching a play. Even a Spanish invasion was foiled because the sound of an army on the stage scared them flee back to their boats believing it was a real army (245)

Finally, it is my strong belief that playing is an ornament to the city, which strangers of all nations report of in their countries (240). Our theatres put us on the map in Europe. They are something to be proud of, building our literary heritage and attracting the admiration of the world. 

Heywood, Thomas. An Apology for Actors (1612). p. 85-111

Gosson, Stephen. Plays Confuted in Five Actions (1582).p 213-247

Alex, Gabs, Patrick, Pauline, Zoe

Stop the presses! was shakespeare a fraud???

Issue #46 17/10/19

Welcome, dear readers, to Stop The Presses, a frightening exposé on Elizabethan celebrity culture which has somehow been successful enough to last 46 issues. In our last issue, we discussed which lead-and vinegar based makeup is most suitable for your complexion, and the secret betting method guaranteed to win you big money at cockfights. But today’s issue is rather special- today we will be discussing the bard himself, with the help of three of our budding new journalists. Our topic- just how authentic was Shakespeare’s writing? Our first writer, Skipp McFinnigan, arranged a meeting with academic heartthrob Janet Clare, and her findings were nothing short of scandalous…


“Nothing said that hasn’t been said before” Is a Latin tag that some paint the labeled “copycat” Elizabethan era and with it a scandal simmering round Shakespeare’s celebrity status. We managed to get insight on this notion during an interview with Janet Clare.  Janet stated that the debate of “good and bad imitation” or “acceptable or unacceptable” borrowing drew opportunity for writers to shoot ammo against their opponents through “Charges of slavish imitation, mere translation” or accusations of “borrowing”. Where, “good” Imitation was seen as positive and was linked to “high culture” (when in tune with the classics), “bad” imitation was branded as amateur or juvenile, due to it being borrowed. So comes the question of, was Shakespeare a “good” or “bad” writer/imitator? Did he simply borrow and recycle literary genius or innovate it creatively into his own textual art? . His early works such as the Taming of the Shrew and The Comedy of Errors could arguably be labeled as more “borrowed” than innovated however, a more creative turn could be seen taken much later in the Elizabethan era. This refined version of imitation can be seen when Shakespeare took a dip in courtly aesthetics in his midsummer night’s dream. Clare claims that there is a “generic intertextuality” between Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and the works of earlier court dramatist John Lyly. Shakespeare experimented with the themes and styles seen in court comedies such as their “mediation of romance; courtly rhetoric and classical materials” which although, drew similar to John Lyly’s work it however differed in its accessibility to the public theatre, making it more popular with its audience. The comedic twist of romance and love in Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream is heavily influenced by Lyly’s playful writing of myth and folklore. So is this enough to call out Shakespeare as unoriginal? Not necessarily. Plays may “share stories” however the way they are adapted change the way they are presented and performed. These changes can thus shift the way an audience responds to the performance in mental and emotional aspects. To add, Lyly’s dramaturgy was aimed to win royal favor, being set mostly in the “court world”. Shakespeare however mixes the “rustic and the courtly” together thus taking a diverse approach to imitating Lyly’s dramaturgy by intermingling “incompatible traditions”. To conclude, although similarities may be drawn between Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream and John Lyle, it is important to point out the innovation of style, themes and structure that he implements to transform something exclusive into a more relatable performance that anyone could enjoy.

Thanks, Skipp. As Clare was getting up to leave, however, our second writer, Barry McCool pressed her even further, and scooped up this hot take:


Hamlet, arguably the most famous and loved of all Shakespeare’s plays, is still not something existing in its own place in the history of theatre. It, like all else, was part of a network of inheritance and influence, connected to different texts both before and after it. First of all, it’s important to remember that Hamlet was not a completely new, original idea invented in Shakespeare. There is a lost play, known as the Ur-Hamlet, that was performed in a Shoreditch theatre years before. This play is known to have had a character known as Hamlet, and a scene involving a ghost. However, perhaps the most interesting aspect of the Ur-Hamlet is that it’s writing is attributed to Thomas Kyd. Kyd was later the author of popular revenge play The Spanish Tragedy, which is seen by many as a major influence on the version of Hamlet known to modern audiences. This is not to say that the ideas were co in Shakespeare’s plays were copied, though: some of Hamlet’s most defining features are actually in contrast and response to Kyd’s play. For example, as Janet Clare observes, Hamlet the man is defined by his interior and covert emotional struggle, whereas the Hieronimo of Kyd’s play is much more external in the way he shows his feeling. However, whether by drawing on or responding to Kyd’s revenge tragedy, it’s nonetheless clear that Shakespeare’s writing was informed by it. In fact, there is even a strong academic opinion that the first Quarto text of Hamlet, a version viewed as of lower quality and value, perhaps adapted from a performance by a third party, is actually Shakespeare’s first adaptation of a previously existing Hamlet. After all, a play of that name is listed in the repertory of a playhouse at which the bard’s company, the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, performed years before we know of Shakespeare’s Hamlet being performed. We can’t be sure of any of these assertions, but if true they imply that Shakespeare did not even write Hamlet from scratch, but rework it version by version from an existing play. This isn’t a criticism of Shakespeare, or an attempt to call him unoriginal, but a sign of the unusual way of theatre writing at the time: not one of originality but adaptation and reworking. And if anything is to confirm this, it is this: The Spanish Tragedy was eventually republished to renewed success in 1602, having been worked on and changed from the original. The most likely candidate identified by literary historians for the adapter? William Shakespeare.

Our journalists seemed to be of the belief that while Shakespeare’s plays drew inspiration from a variety of sources, their thematic individuality and writing process made the intertextuality more appropriate. But what about the complexity of Shakespeare’s characters? Our final journalist Pepper McSalt was on the case…


When comparing Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice to Marlowe’s The Jew of Malta , Hussein Ibish argues: ‘I think the reputation of the Jew of Malta as an anti-Semitic play rests on the absolutely immoral and stereotypically evil character of Barabas and the contrast with the Merchant of Venice and its more nuanced portrayal of Shylock who can be and now usually is portrayed sympathetically’. (The Atlantic). Whilst it is generally agreed amongst critics that Marlowe’s play served as a template for Shakespeare’s, it is in the subversion of Shakespeare’s ‘Barabas character’ where he reverses the expectation and makes the character more layered. While Shylock is presented as a dehumanised moneylender in some scenes, it could show to highlight the prejudice that exists within Shakespeare’s society:  “I will buy with you, sell with you, talk with you, walk with you, and so the following; but I will not eat with you, drink with you, nor pray with you” (MV 1.3.28-29). Shylock is aware of his discrimination and it inhibits him from forming genuine connections across the play. Barabas, however, is more Machiavellian, a traditional villain who ‘smiles to see how full his bags are crammed’. Rather than experiencing prejudice, Barabas seems more than happy to instigate it (“I would have brought confusion on you all, / Damned Christians, dogs, and Turkish infidels.”) outlining him as a champion of violent thought rather than an outsider. His indulgence in prejudiced language also inhibits sympathy from the audience, automatically making him less layered than the more complex Shylock. As Israel Davidson states in his study of the two, ‘One is the devil in the guise of a man, the other is a man with just enough of the devil in him to make him appear terrible’ (Shylock and Barabas: A study in Character). But Shylock only appears terrible because of how we’re supposed to view him. Audiences who had watched The Jew of Malta would automatically expect villainy from the ‘Barabas archetype’, but instead they would witness a more complex antagonist, who cares deeply for his daughter even after being manipulated. Compare this to Barabas, whose closest friend is his slave, literally regarded as a ‘second self’, and we can observe how Shakespeare’s replication of source material allowed him to subvert expectation and surprise audiences, in a subtle and artful way.

at 6:00pm last night, we managed to track the Bard himself down to the George Inn in London, where we confronted him on his fraudulent behaviour. He was very angry and gave us an evil glare

look at all that disdain

we asked, ‘Shakespeare, is it true you ripped off Lyly, Marlowe, Ovid, Jonson, and piggybacked off their hard-earned material, adding a few small details to make your work more thematically complex despite never acknowledging your source material and basking in the God status you acquired?’

And he said: ‘Hahaha no, you IDIOT! This is totally what we did at the time. I mean, what we’re doing right now. Shut up! Trust me it’s very very clever. In 350 years time someone will write an essay on how it’s actually art, and then they’ll see. People will think it’s really intelligent. They will be teaching modules on me, maybe, someday.’

Then Shakespeare did a playful wink and went back to his beer. What could it all mean?

Frankie, Rebecca, Felix, Ross, Joumana