Although there was hostility towards witchcraft and sorcery well before the 16th century, it is in this time period where we see religious and legal punishment juxtaposed with the increasing use and enjoyment of special effects in plays to convey magic and the supernatural. Laws and statues against witchcraft were passed, the popularity of witch trials was beginning to rise, yet such an atmosphere did not discourage Shakespeare and other playwrights from incorporating otherworldly elements in their works. Early modern drama involved Fairy Kings and Queens, devils and demons, human magicians, minor fairies and sprites, and ghosts and apparitions, all with different levels of power. Depending on the play, a being might have a number of abilities and serve a number of different purposes — be it corrupting humans, serving masters, prophesying, or casting spells. Discover more about Shakespeare and the supernatural via the graphic below.
Featured image credit: “Oberon, Titania and Puck with Fairies Dancing”, by William Blake. Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.