Witches on the Jacobean Stage

William Shakespeare, Macbeth (1606), in The Riverside Shakespeare, ed. G. Blakemore Evans and J. J. M. Tobin, 2nd ed. (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997):

  Ban.  What are these
So wither'd and so wild in their attire,
That look not like the inhabitants o' the earth,
And yet are on't? Live you? or are you aught
That man may question? You seem to understand me,
By each at once her choppy finger laying
Upon her skinny lips: you should be women,
And yet your beards forbid me to interpret
That you are so. (1.3.39-47)

John Marston, The Wonder of Women or The Tragedie of Sophonisba (1605):

  [Sy.]  Here in this desart the great soule of Charmes,
Dreadfull Erictho liues whose dismall brow,
Contemnes all roofes or ciuill couerture.
Forsaken graues and tombes the Ghosts forcd out
Shee ioyes to inhabit.
Infernall Musicke plaies softly whilst Erichtho enters and & when she speakes ceaseth.
A loathsome yellowe leannesse spreades hir face
A heauy hell-like palenes loades hir cheekes
Vnknowne to a cleare heauen.

Francis Beaumont, The Knight of the Bvrning Pestle (1607):

There is a pretty tale of a witch that had the devil’s mark about her, that had a giant to her son, that was called Lob-lye-by-the-fire.

Ben Jonson, The Masque of Queenes (London: N. Okes. for R. Bonian and H. Wally, 1609):

The last Year, I had an Anti-masque of Boys: and therefore now, devis'd, that twelve Women, in the habit of Hags, or Witches, sustaining the Persons of Ignorance, Suspicion, Credulity, &c. the Opposites to good Fame, should fill that part; not as a Masque, but a Spectacle of strangeness, producing multiplicity of Gesture, and not unaptly sorting with the current, and whole fall of the Device.

These Witches, with a kind of hollow and infernal Musick, came forth from thence. First one, then two, and three, and more, till their number increased to eleven; all differently attyr'd: some with Rats on their Head; some on their Shoulders; others with Ointment Pots at their Girdles; all with Spindles, Timbrels, Rattles, or other veneficall Instruments, making a confused noise, with strange Gestures. The Device of their Attire was Master Jones his, with the Invention, and Architecture of the whole Scene, and Machine. Only, I prescrib'd them their Properties of Vipers, Snakes, Bones, Herbs, Roots, and other Ensigns of their Magick, out of the Authority of ancient and late Writers.

Thomas Heywood, The Brazen Age (London: Nicholas Okes for Samuel Rand, 1613):

Two fiery Buls are discouered, the Fleece hanging ouer them, and the Dragon sleeping beneath them: Medea with strange fiery-workes, hangs aboue in the Aire in the strange habite of a Coniuresse.

  Medea.  The hidden power of Earth, Aire, Water, Fire,
Shall from this place to Iasons helpe conspire.
Fire withstand fire, and magicke temper flame,
By my strong spels the sauadge monster's tame.

Robert Aylett, The Valiant Welshman (London: George Purslowe for Robert Lownes, 1615):

  [Gloster].  A Witch, as vgly to confront,
As are the fearefull Furies she commaunds,
Liues in this solitary vncouth place. (3.3)

  [Bluso]  In this horrid Caue
There liues my aged mother, deepe in skill
Of Magicke Exorcismes….
  Cara.  Rise, come forth, thou vgly Hagge, from thy darke Cell.
He plucks the Witch out by the heeles.
Cousin Morgan, throw her into the flames
Of the burning Temple.
Hee carries her, and throwes her in.
  Morgan.  I warrant her. By shesu, tis a hote whore. (4.2)

William Rowley, Thomas Dekker, and John Ford, The Witch of Edmonton (1621), anonymous ed. (London: J. Cottrel for Edward Blackmore, 1658):

  Sawy.  And why on me? why should the envious world
Throw all their scandalous malice upon me?
'Cause I am poor, deform'd and ignorant,
And like a Bow buckl'd and bent together,
By some more strong in mischiefs then my self?
Must I for that be made a common sink,
For all the filth and rubbish of Men's tongues
To fall and run into? Some call me Witch;
And being ignorant of my self, they go
About to teach me how to be one.

  [Sawy.]  'Tis all one,
To be a Witch, as to be counted one.

  Just.  Yes, yes, but the Law
Casts not an eye on these.
  Sawy.  Why then on me,
Or any lean old Beldame? Reverence once
Had wont to wait on age. Now an old woman
Ill favour'd grown with yeers, if she be poor,
Must be call'd Bawd or Witch. Such so abus'd
Are the course Witches.