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Title: The devil in the detail : demons and demonology on the early modern English stage
Author: Johnston, Bronwyn
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2013
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"The Devil in the Detail" explores the rationality of magical belief on the early modern English stage. I examine how demons and demonic magic were depicted in the theatre, arguing that playwrights ascribed a sense of realism to the devil’s methods. In explaining the devil's modus operandi and exposing the limitations of his magic, the stage validates supernatural belief and depicts the devil’s craft as plausible. More broadly, this thesis is situated within the ongoing debate over the relationship between magic and scientific thought in early modern Europe, confirming that demonology was not an irrational superstition but a valid pre-science. Set against a background of witch persecution and the widespread belief that demons were a material reality, the devil was both the subject of prevalent intellectual inquiry and a popular figure on the early modern English stage, featuring in at least fifty-two plays between 1509 and 1638. Underpinning this particular brand of entertainment is a cohesive and consistent ontological framework that dictated the extent to which the devil could - and could not - operate in the material world, entirely in keeping with the dominant demonological thought of the time. "The Devil in the Detail" focuses on seven devil plays: Marlowe's Doctor Faustus (c.1590), Greene's Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay (c.1590), John of Bordeaux (c.1590), Jonson's The Devil is an Ass (1616), Dekker, Ford and Rowley's The Witch of Edmonton (1621), Brome and Heywood's The Late Lancashire Witches (1634) and Shakespeare's The Tempest (1611). In each chapter, I demonstrate how these texts both adhere to orthodox demonology and emphasise the devil’s humanlike qualities. The final chapter presents the case for demonism in The Tempest.
Supervisor: Lewis, Rhodri Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: English Language and Literature ; Early modern English literature (1550 ? 1780) ; Devil ; Early Modern ; Demonology ; Theatre ; Magic