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Emotions in The Witch of Edmonton.

In The Witch of Edmonton (1621), a diabolical dog escapes from the supernatural subplot to unleash mischief, madness, and murder in rural Middlesex. Summoned by the socially isolated Elizabeth Sawyer, who has been vilified as a witch and so decides to become one, Dog is her familiar, a canine embodiment of the devil. As a character whose emotional range might seem firmly circumscribed both by his supernatural status as defined by the longer tradition of stage devils from which he derives and by his species, Dog, doubly non-human, seems, therefore, doubly exempt from an analysis grounded in emotions; triply, if we define dramatic characters' emotions narrowly within a kind of psychological realism anachronistic to early modern performance. (1) However, Dog, as the link between the two plots of the play and between its human, animal, and supernatural realms, is a character whose actions reveal the ways in which emotions circulate within and between the various communities represented in the fictional world of Edmonton.

This idea of emotions circulating through fictional communities draws on several approaches that have been described collectively as the History of Emotions. I derive my discussion of emotions in this play from these rather than, say, acting approaches grounded in emotional realism. While the performance history of The Witch of Edmonton does yield some interesting and contrasting examples of how Dog can be performed to engender comedy, pathos, and terror, my primary interest here is in understanding how Dog serves the play in other ways that are also associated with emotions. (2)

Through its deployment of the character of Dog, The Witch of Edmonton demonstrates its high degree of intellectual sophistication, David Nicol has argued, calling this play 'the most serious and intelligent exploration of witchcraft and devils in the drama of the period'. (3) Building on his argument, I wish to suggest that it also possesses an emotional sophistication easy to overlook because of the preposterousness of a costumed actor taking the stage as a talking dog, and, moreover, an emotional sophistication that is more apparent when Dog is the focus of emotions analysis. Despite his origins in the more simplistic emotional landscape of medieval devilry, the sophistication with which he is deployed illuminates the often-complex causes and far-reaching consequences of emotions in Edmonton. He shapes the emotional landscape of this semi-fictional onstage world and energizes the circulation of emotions both within and beyond it.

As a diabolical dog, Dog represents the fusion of two strands of metaphor that run through the play. Metaphors serve a particularly strong function in early modern theatre, contributing the imagery that overlays the period's visually spare stagecraft to help create a fictional world blending real and imaginary elements. Edmonton, even before Dog arrives on the scene, is dogged by the devil's presence in its inhabitants' metaphors. Frank Thorney introduces two metaphorical devils into the opening dialogue, when he imagines the consequences that his actions in the aftermath of his secret marriage to Winifred will have for his unborn child. He and Winifred must proceed with discretion, he argues, so that their child
  may not have cause
To curse his hour of birth, which made him feel
The misery of beggary and want,
Two devils that are occasions to enforce
A shameful end. (1.1.16-20)

His metaphor represents the emotion of misery with two devils, beggary and want, who trail with them the further emotion of shame. These devils, depicted here as being conjured by one negative emotion and conjuring another, are thus both the consequences and the causes of emotions in this as-yet-unborn child. The dramatic irony of this metaphor is available only in retrospect, since the solution that Frank proposes in this opening scene, to conceal the marriage, is the path that leads to the very shame he has anticipated; in seeking to avoid two devils through duplicity and, eventually, bigamy, Frank puts himself into the power of a third devil, the play's diabolical dog.

The devil, in Sir Arthur Clarington's hypocritical condemnation of Frank's relations with Winifred, does not need to await the child's birth to make his appearance: he already lives in Frank's blood. Sir Arthur holds the devil and Frank responsible for Winifred's pregnancy:
  If the nimble devil
That wantoned in your blood rebelled against
All rules of honest duty, you might, sir,
Have found out some more fitting place than here
To have built a stews in. All the country whispers
How shamefully thou hast undone a maid
Approved for modest life, for civil carriage. (1.1.78-84)

Here, the devil is imagined as diminutive indeed, a creature small enough to live inside a man and guide his actions. This concept is what Gilles Fauconnier and Mark Turner, in their work on metaphors and cognition, describe as a simple, or single-scope metaphor.4 To illustrate the mechanism of the single-scope metaphor, Fauconnier and Turner compare two CEOs to boxers in the ring: one CEO grapples for control, the other ultimately delivers a knockout punch, but they both live to fight another day. Boxing provides all of the fuel for the metaphor: boxing terms are mapped onto the power struggle between the CEOs, but nothing about CEO behaviour is mapped back onto boxing: CEOs are like boxers in the metaphor, but boxers are not, therefore, like CEOs. The mapping is unidirectional, the CEOs feeling combative, the boxers not feeling whatever one might imagine a CEO to feel. In Sir Arthur's metaphor, the devil infects the blood, giving rise to lust, but the blood does not infect the devil: being small, or blood-borne, does not map onto the devil, but the devil maps onto Frank's blood, tainting it with the devil's lustful emotions just as, in the opening scene, the unborn child is tainted with misery and shame. This single-scope metaphorical use of the devil may also underpin Winifred's metaphor later in the scene, when, after rebuffing Sir Arthur's attempt to resume their intimate relationship, Winifred pleads with him: 'I was your devil, O be you my saint!' (218). Although Winifred has been apologizing to Sir Arthur for having acquiesced to his sexual advances, the line simply associates her with the devil's role of enticing the virtuous towards sin, but given the power structures that have governed their relationship, and that continue to govern it, a further reading is possible. The play soon becomes interested in the devil's incarnation as a witch's familiar, a harmless-seeming creature that does her bidding. Whether Winifred is enticing Sir Arthur or obeying him, or even, as we shall see in relation to the witch Elizabeth Sawyer and her familiar, only appearing to obey, the force of the metaphor is unidirectional: Winifred gains qualities through her association with the devil, but none of Winifred's qualities are mapped onto the devil.

The line gains a further meaning through Cuddy Banks's description of his attraction to Katherine Carter. The same kind of diminutive devil that infects Frank Thorney's blood according to Sir Arthur has attached itself to Cuddy Banks, who explains to Elizabeth Sawyer that he has been 'bewitched': 'I saw a little devil fly out of her eye like a bird-bolt, which sticks at this hour up to the feathers in my heart' (2.1.241, 244-5). Like Sir Arthur, Banks understands the devil to be already resident in Edmonton, lurking in men's blood and women's eyes undetected until his actions reveal his diminutive but diabolical presence. Even before Elizabeth Sawyer conjures the devil with her curses, he is associated with her. In 2.1, when she crosses paths with the Morris dancers, one of them remarks 'The old witch of Edmonton. If our mirth be not crossed--'. Picking up the metaphor of crossing a few lines later, he adds 'The devil cannot abide to be crossed' (100, 108). Whether the line indicates that Sawyer herself is a devil, or implies a stage direction indicating that the dancer is making a sign of the cross to ward off her evil, or simply to evoke proverbial wisdom, his words make the association between Sawyer and the devil, perhaps becoming the impetus for her decision to summon the devil as her familiar just a few lines later.

Sawyer and the devil forge their more literal association, their complicity to create mayhem in Edmonton, directly following this interaction with the Morris dancers. She conjures him out of a desire for
Revenge upon this miser, this black cur
That barks and bites and sucks the very blood
Of me and my credit. (131-3)

Sawyer, mistreated by everyone she encounters, has reached her limit of endurance and attempts to summon the devil as she has heard witches can do. He arrives on cue in the form of a black dog, as if conjured from her metaphor itself and confirming Frank Thorney's earlier, seemingly metaphorical statement: the misery of beggary and want does conjure the devil. This devil offers Sawyer love, pity, and revenge--all of the emotions that she has been denied by her neighbours. Throughout most of the ensuing scenes, this emotional content is more or less what he appears to deliver. Here, the metaphor begins to work in two directions, diabolical qualities mapping onto the black dog but caninity mapping back onto the devil.

For Cuddy Banks, the metaphors associated with Dog are more canine than diabolical, even after it become clear that Dog is a devil. Led astray by Elizabeth Sawyer's instructions to follow the first creature he sees, Cuddy Banks wonders if Dog had 'a paw in this dog-trick', and he cements their relationship by offering him treats that a stray dog would appreciate: 'jowls and livers', 'crusts and bones', and 'a brown loaf'. If Dog reacts primarily to the promise that some of these will be 'stolen goods' and to the double meaning when Banks offers the inexpensive fish he calls 'maids and soles', an additional meaning emerging from the bi-directional movement of metaphor in their interactions involves Cuddy Banks becoming the devil's purveyor (3.1.139-51). Banks may be promising only stolen goods, but the metaphor works to suggest that, even at the level of language, he may be getting into a relationship that will cost him more than he bargained for. Banks knows what kind of creature he is conspiring with, later noting that he is a 'kind cur where he takes, but where he takes not, a dogged rascal' (5.1.93). That Banks ultimately escapes unscathed from this collusion suggests that his reading of the canine-devil blend is savvier than the lonely Elizabeth Sawyer's, which, despite her awareness of his origins, sees Dog only as her companion and helper. Indeed, Banks's approach to Dog is validated in their leave-taking:
CUDDY This remember, I pray you, between you and I: I entertained you
  ever as a dog, not as a devil.
DOG True, and so I used thee doggedly, not devilishly. (5.1.116-18)

Despite his focus on Dog's dogginess, Cuddy Banks is, of course, aware that this talking dog is part devil; his approach to Dog seems to me strategic, not stupid, reflecting an emotional intelligence that Banks exhibits in his relations with other characters as well. For the emotionally intelligent Banks and for the play more generally--for spectators, too, whose knowledge of Dog's nature is superior to that of most of the characters--Dog functions as a double-scope metaphor, with bi-directional inputs creating what Fauconnier and Turner describe as a conceptual blend. In the play's single-scope metaphors involving the devil, emotions associated with the devil--lust, shame, vengefulness--map onto the actions of characters in Edmonton, creating an analogy not unlike like the boxing CEOs. The characters' actions seem, at times, inspired by the devil, just as the CEOs seem, in Fauconnier and Turner's single-scope metaphor, like boxers. The mapping does not move in both directions--the devil does not borrow from Frank Thorney or Winifred's attributes, just as boxers do not borrow from those of the CEOs in the example. A further, more complex class of metaphor, the double-scope metaphor, however, is also prevalent in Edmonton. Discussing the proverbial phrase 'you're digging your own grave', a very apt phrase to apply to the action of The Witch of Edmonton, Fauconnier and Turner explain that double-scope metaphors generate a faulty correlation between the literal meaning of digging one's own grave and its metaphorical meaning that one creates the conditions for one's own downfall. Since digging a grave does not cause death, but the force of the metaphor 'digging your own grave' is that the actions one takes are about to cause personal disaster, the correlation between the literal and the metaphorical meanings is, on the face of it, flawed. Whereas with the boxing CEOs the mapping occurs in only one direction, here the action of digging one's grave, trailing its associations, maps onto the hearer's own actions; the hearer's actions, which, the metaphor suggests, are leading towards disaster, map onto the action of digging one's own grave, which, in this double-scope analogy, becomes an action leading inexorably to one's demise. Digging a grave and creating the circumstances of one's own demise are not independent but interdependent in this example, not two parts but a blend.

Fauconnier and Turner's term for what happens in double-scope metaphors like these is conceptual blending. The metaphor, they explain, 'inherits the concrete structure of graves, digging, and burial, from the "digging the grave" input. But it inherits causal, intentional, and internal event structure from the "unwitting failure" input. They are not simply juxtaposed'. Instead, an 'emergent structure specific to the blend is created', with its own 'curious properties' that borrow from both inputs. (5) Dog, I suggest, inhabits precisely this space of curious properties, the conceptual blend. Unlike Frank Thorney, Winifred, and their unborn child, Dog's unacceptable emotions associate him with the devil, but at the same time canine aspects infiltrate his diabolical nature too, even though he is not a dog but a devil disguised as one. Characters respond to him as if he were a dog; at the same time, in keeping with the early modern period's understanding of witchcraft, Dog as a familiar takes on some of the qualities of his adopted form.

Dog's body, at once animal, supernatural, and, because it is embodied by an actor, also human, is a site of polyvalent meaning--a conceptual blend even before the character speaks a single word. The experience of Dog's uncertain ontological status is, partly, the blending of supernatural and domestic registers of feeling that make his responses unpredictable, and also the manifestation of these registers within the human registers of an actor's performance. Whether he is being diabolical or doggy, his embodiment by an actor creates a triple-scope metaphor in which all three inputs contribute to the emotional meaning-making, interdependent and inseparable.

Dog not only expresses emotions, but also magnifies the ways in which other characters experience and express their emotions. Monique Scheer's useful theorization of how emotions circulate among people helps to explain the mechanism by which Dog both shares his own emotions and affects the emotions of the characters around him. Scheer suggests that emotions are culturally produced, perceived, and received in relation to an individual's habitus, the deeply engrained habits, skills, dispositions, and experiences of living in a particular culture that shape a person's emotional range and define 'what is "feelable" in a specific setting'.6 The individual perceives emotions and others receive them through four practices: mobilizing (which seeks the experience of a feeling in oneself or others), naming (using emotive expressions to identify a feeling; emotives in Scheer's sense may be accurate or misleading), communicating (which can include non-verbal signs of emotions such as gesture and facial expression), and regulating (which works towards the containment of emotions within the bounds of what is socially and culturally acceptable). (7)

The actions triggered by Dog's presence in the play are reactions to his diabolical ability to mobilize emotions that are normally regulated in Edmonton, linked to characters' misinterpretations of his emotives (which may or may not be sincere expressions of his emotions) and his non-verbal indicators. Dog promises canine loyalty and affection, using these emotives with both Elizabeth Sawyer and Cuddy Banks. His initial approach to Sawyer is classically diabolical, serving the purpose of establishing the true nature that he will later conceal behind his doggy disguise. She has called for a devil, not a dog, and his initial behaviour corresponds to her expectations: he demands her 'soul and body' in exchange for his 'pity', 'love', and 'just revenge', threatening to tear her body in a thousand pieces if she refuses (2.1.152, 145, 146, 147, 155). Following their pact, his behaviour becomes canine: he 'fawns and leaps upon her', allowing himself to be commanded like a dog and fulfilling his side of the bargain through canine shows of affection (2.1.262). To Cuddy Banks, he is a 'Fine gentle cur', 'well brought up', a 'pretty kind rascal', a 'kind cur' (3.1.85, 86, 96). When he brushes against his victims Frank Thorney and Anne Ratcliffe, they receive his touch as a non-verbal expression of these canine emotions, not a threat. Their attitudes towards Dog reflect a habitus in which dogs are domestic pets, not predators, but Dog's actions suggest that the latter aspect of caninity maps more readily onto his character. By brushing against these other characters with his furry body, Dog mobilizes the feelings mapped onto him by Elizabeth Sawyer's vengefulness, not transmitting them through infection of the blood as the play's early metaphors suggest but freeing emotions already present in his victims, exacerbating them beyond the bounds of what is tolerable in Edmonton. After contact with Dog, Frank Thorney is not just annoyed with Susan, he is murderous, and Anne Ratcliffe's insanity turns suicidal.

In his canine guise, Dog is a specifically English devil. Only in early modern English witch lore are 'familiars' associated with witches, as Charlotte-Rose Millar elucidates in her analysis of early modern witchcraft pamphlets. Sawyer's relationship with Dog illustrates the prevalent tendency that Millar has identified in these pamphlets, in which witches were thought to turn to the devil out of 'anger, malice, a desire for revenge, greed, hatred, love and lust'. (8) This understanding of the relationship between a witch and the devil reveals what Peter and Carol Stearns have termed the 'emotionology' of the period, in this case the understanding of the emotions associated with witchcraft in early modern England. (9) This emotionology is specifically English and includes the original audience as well as the characters, since it is not invented for the fictional world of the play but transported into it from the playwrights' own culture; pamphlet literature, specifically Henry Goodcole's The Wonderful Discoverie of Elizabeth Sawyer (London, 1621), contributes both the title of the play and the character of Elizabeth Sawyer.

Within this play drawn partly from life, what Anthony Dawson has described as Edmonton's 'sharply delineated material context' is a richly inhabited emotional context recognizable because it overlaps in many ways with the London of its original audience, including its emotionology. (10) The play depicts the struggles faced by many of the characters when their individual emotions conflict with what Edmonton will tolerate. Edmonton is a strict emotional regime, in William M Reddy's useful theorization: strict emotional regimes 'achieve their stability by inducing goal conflict and inflicting intense emotional suffering on those who do not respond well to the normative emotives'. (11) In the gendered social hierarchy of Edmonton, characters who do not know their place, whose emotions are in conflict with the prevailing emotional regime, suffer in ways that are exacerbated by Dog's interventions in this human realm. While Reddy, an anthropologist, primarily investigates real communities, The Witch of Edmonton is a perfect case study in this kind of goal conflict in a fictional, or semi-fictional, world. Elizabeth Sawyer, denied her anger and its related emotions of indignation and resentment, is in goal conflict, suffers greatly, and takes on the only identity for which such emotions are possible. The emotions that she cannot be allowed to express as a woman, she is granted as a witch. Indeed, these emotions betray her, since her inability to hold her tongue during her interrogation leads to her conviction and execution, the necessary proof that she is what she has been called. The resolution of her goal conflict leads to death. This goal conflict induces Frank Thorney's bigamy: unable to choose between his father's wishes and his own, he attempts to fulfil both, to disastrous result. Both characters have dug their own grave, and the goal conflict is ultimately resolved in their deaths.

Dog's hunting ground is precisely this goal conflict: when he nudges characters, he pushes them out of goal conflict and towards acting on their individual emotions in a way that threatens the emotional regime. Their inner struggles create outward strife. Dog himself exists in an apparent goal conflict of sorts, since his double identity as both a devil and a dog seems to constrain his emotional range or at least shape the societal expectations that adhere to his canine appearance. Dogs are not always domestic companions, and early modern drama draws on dogs to fuel metaphors about hunting and war as much as loyalty and domesticity. Dog's vicious and fawning aspects are present in the play, but only the latter are acknowledged by the other characters, even, arguably, by Elizabeth Sawyer, who misjudges the extent to which she can count on his dogged loyalty. The emotional regime of Edmonton, which expects dogs to behave as companions, leads her astray. Her relationship with Dog is the perfect illustration of George Gifford's contention in Dialogue Concerning Witches and Witchcrafte (1593) that familiars are not witches' servants, but their masters, who only pretend to obey their orders to better ensnare them. (12) Within the habitus of Edmonton, villagers perceive dogs as companions, not killers, a misreading of Dog's emotions that allows him to prey on multiple characters simply by brushing companionably against them.

While a dog's or a devil's emotions may be unfathomable, Dog's expressions of emotion are readily accessible because he is no ordinary dog but a talking one; as a devil, he is apt to mislead through these emotives, whether spoken or otherwise expressed. His predatory emotives are essentially canine, but some of Dog's predatory behaviour is also recognizable as the malicious mischief of a medieval Vice, which underpins early modern stage villainy. In this mischief, both his diabolical and his doggy aspects are present: laming a horse is a devilish act, nipping a baby is a canine one, but both are Vice-like, and in 4.1 Dog reports having done them at Sawyer's bidding, as her familiar. His Vice heritage is also apparent in the trick that leads Cuddy Banks into a pond, and in his final exchange with Elizabeth Sawyer, when he appears as a white dog. When Sawyer does not accept that he is her familiar with a coat of another colour, his response, which to me reads as sardonic, is 'Bow-wow' (3.1.85, 86, 96). He describes himself as 'dogged', but Sawyer, now emotionally estranged from her familiar, is the one who vows to 'muzzle up my tongue from telling tales' as he 'stands aloof' from her (5.1.77, 70). As a familiar, Dog is both loyal and predatory, just as a dog is; he is also both malicious and mischievous, just as a stage devil is.

Edmonton constitutes an emotional regime in Reddy's sense, with a social hierarchy that governs which emotions are permissible and, when goal conflict arises, a clear sense of whose emotions matter. The bigamy plot arises precisely out of this goal conflict: Frank Thorney communicates dutifulness to both his lover and his father, but when these duties are in conflict his resolution is to abrogate his duty to Winifred in order to honour his competing duty to his father. Likewise, Elizabeth Sawyer's feelings of social isolation and her anger are in goal conflict, since expressing her anger in curses only serves to create further isolation, eventually leading not only to the conjuring of Dog but, later, to her death: her cursing during her interrogation places her irredeemably beyond the emotional regime, uncontainable within it. Within the emotional regime of Edmonton, a woman cannot name or communicate the kind of anger that Sawyer is feeling, so she is constrained to regulate her emotions; Susan, who communicates meek tolerance and forgiveness even in extremis, is the acceptable woman that Sawyer is not, but both of them end up dead, suggesting that compliance with the emotional regime is not, in itself, a guarantor of personal safety.

Within the emotional regime of the play's fictional world, each individual is compelled to work out his or her relationship to Edmonton's structures of feeling, and to suffer the consequences of any attempt to resolve the ensuing goal conflict. Between Edmonton and the individual, however, are affinity groups that share some emotional characteristics. Women relate to Edmonton's emotional regime differently from men, and the servant class differently from the upper class, for example. Barbara Rosenwein's concept of emotional communities helps to frame the ways in which gender and class complicate emotions in Edmonton, and the ways in which these affinity groups can create emotional refuges in which they can share the emotions inexpressible within Edmonton at large. (13)

The amicable relationship that develops between Cuddy Banks and Dog is, for all its supernatural strangeness, consistent with the gendered emotional communities of Edmonton. Unlike Elizabeth Sawyer, excluded from fellowship within any emotional communities until she conjures Dog out of her resentment and loneliness, Cuddy Banks is a hail-fellow-well-met friend to all, including Dog. Unlike her, Banks escapes unscathed from his complicity with Dog, perhaps because of his canny management of the relationship but also, arguably, because within the emotional regime of Edmonton men are not held responsible for the consequences of their emotions in quite the same way women are. After all, Elizabeth Sawyer goes to her death unforgiven and unlamented, while dutiful Frank Thorney is, at least to some degree, rehabilitated as a 'sad object' of pity, worthy of 'comfort', 'repentant' and forgiven (5.2.73-5). Class and gender coalesce in the figure of the witch Elizabeth Sawyer, the least privileged character in Edmonton. The play may end with the 'social restoration' that Cox sees as 'the pattern of restoring charity through forgiveness' in witch plays, but that forgiveness is not extended to all characters. Frank Thorney, a bigamist and murderer, is forgivable, but Sawyer is emphatically not. (14)

If Edmonton is a strict emotional regime in which goal conflict is intolerable, it is stricter for women than for men. Cox argues that the fictional world depicted in The Witch of Edmonton 'literally enacts the moral assumption usually symbolic or metaphorical in other plays that a world without charity is hell', but it is indisputably more hellish for its women than for its men. (15) Since I have been arguing that metaphor plays an important role in the emotional practices of this play, I want to reframe Cox's argument slightly, not to suggest that he is wrong but rather that he is right in an additional way. The presence of the devil within the recognizable community of contemporary Edmonton creates a blended space in which antisocial emotions exist--a kind of hellscape mapped onto a familiar world. In this blend, The Witch of Edmonton explores the origins of this hellscape in the failure of prosocial emotions, which serves to summon the devil, and also the way out of it through the restoration of charitable feelings. Ultimately, this play promotes prosocial emotions such as compassion, pity, gratitude, dutifulness, and shame that, in Edmonton, would have prevented both the witch plot and the bigamy plot.

Without the antisocial emotions that Dog embodies, mobilizes, and transmits, there would be no plot to this play. This is not to say that Dog is the cause of these emotions, which, as I have suggested, predate his arrival in Edmonton; indeed, since Elizabeth Sawyer summons Dog as her familiar out of her isolation, rage, and despair, it might be more apt to see her emotions as the cause of his conjuring, not the effect--and, underlying her emotions, the emotions that her neighbours express towards her. The citizens of Edmonton deride, decry, and deny her even such bare necessities of life as a bundle of sticks, no devil required. Sir Arthur's plan to cover up Winifred's illegitimate pregnancy, Frank Thorney's acquiescence in his father's plan to acquire a dowry through bigamy, Susan's father's plan to achieve upward mobility for his family through her strategic marriage, are all formed without Dog's influence. Dog's role is not to invent these plans or to create the social conditions that lead to them. At most, Dog's touch unleashes emotions that Edmonton's strict emotional regime fiercely regulates. When Dog touches Frank Thorney and then Anne Ratcliffe, these characters are already experiencing feelings that, when freed from the constraints of emotional regulation, push Frank towards murder and Anne towards suicide. By denying Sawyer's emotions resulting from their lack of compassion for her, Edmonton has in effect unleashed its own suffering.

The emotional communities of Edmonton are, the play is careful to convey, contiguous with the emotional communities inhabited by the London audience. The play invokes London place names like Katherine's Dock, Newgate, Tyburn, and Westminster, and London fixtures like bear-baiting and the roaring girl Moll Cutpurse, in conjunction with Dog, creating the sense of a community that, both geographically and metaphorically, is not many miles away from the audience's lived reality (3.1.82-3; 4.2.200; 5.1.215, 217, 176-7). In this blended space created between the fictional and real worlds, this dual-scope metaphor, real London maps onto fictional Edmonton, and fictional Edmonton maps onto real London. The play, Viviana Comensoli has argued, 'forces the audience to confront the destructive effects of marginality and patriarchal claims on the individual'.16 If Edmonton without charity is hell, so, in this conceptual blend, is London. When Dog exits for the final time, he lopes off to London, looking for his next victim, perhaps even among the spectators at the Cockpit.

The play thus concludes by infiltrating the emotional regime of early modern London with its plea for compassion and charity, if not arising from fellow-feeling then from an instinct for self-preservation. Dog, excluded from the real world where talking dogs do not exist, is returned to the realm of metaphor, the genie put back in the bottle, the emotions he has mobilized now contained within a moral lesson that the 'distich' prefacing the 1658 quarto expresses:
Forced marriage murder, murder blood requires;
Reproach revenge, revenge hell's help desires.

The roots of bigamy and witchcraft in Edmonton are not diabolical but emotional; their cure, too, is emotional, in the prosocial emotions that Edmonton has put aside at its peril. Shame, repentance, forgiveness, comfort, and duty are the emotions that dominate the play's denouement, but the final scene only partially rights Edmonton's wrongs, depicting Frank Thorney's repentance and his community's forgiveness while Elizabeth Sawyer, whose final words express repentance (5.2.70), dies still defending herself against false and uncharitable accusations. As a dramatization of a society falling short in its prosocial emotions, and, crucially, a society only imperfectly restored, The Witch of Edmonton makes a convincing emotional plea centred on the emotions that mobilize, and are mobilized by, the diabolical dog at its heart. The wrongs done to Elizabeth Sawyer, the antisocial emotions that attract Dog's predatory interest, persist and move outward, loping, like Dog, towards London.


(1) John D. Cox's inventory lists thirty extant early modern English plays with stage devils, in The Devil and the Sacred in English Drama, 1350-1642 (Cambridge, 2000), appendix 209-11, See also Stuart Clark, Thinking with Demons: The Idea of Witchcraft in Early Modern Europe (Oxford, 1997); Nathan Johnstone, The Devil and Demonism in Early Modern Drama (Cambridge, 2006),; Charlotte-Rose Millar, Witchcraft, the Devil and Emotions in Early Modern England (London, 2017),; Kristen Poole, Supernatural Environments in Shakespeare's England: Spaces of Demonism, Divinity, and Drama (Cambridge, 2011),; Diane Purkiss, The Witch in History: Early Modern and Twentieth-Century Representations (London, 1996),; Lyndal Roper, The Witch in the Western Imagination (Charlottesville, 2012).

(2) Lucy Munro's edition (London, 2017) contains a lively performance history, including some non-professional productions. For a close analysis of one production from the perspective of a spectator/participant, see Bridget Escolme, 'Putting It on the Floor: Naturalism and the Verfremdungseffekt in The Tempest and The Witch of Edmonton', Shakespeare Bulletin 31.4 (2013), 689-707,; see also Rowland Wymer, 'A Performance History of The Witch of Edmonton', EMLS 17.2 (2014),; though not about The Witch of Edmonton, some performance possibilities relating to stage devils are discussed in Andrew Sofer, 'How to Do Things with Demons: Conjuring Performatives in Doctor Faustus', Theatre Journal, 61.1 (2009), 1-21,

(3) David Nicol, 'Interrogating the Devil: Social and Demonic Pressure in The Witch of Edmonton', Comparative Drama 38.4 (2004-5), 425, 427,

(4) Gilles Fauconnier and Mark Turner, The Way We Think: Conceptual Blending and the Mind's Hidden Complexities (New York, 2002), 126-7.

(5) Ibid, 132-3.

(6) Monique Scheer, 'Are Emotions a Kind of Practice (and is That What Makes Them Have a History)? A Bourdieuian Approach to Understanding Emotion', History and Theory 51 (2012), 200, 205,

(7) Ibid, 209-17 discusses the four practices.

(8) Millar, Witchcraft, the Devil, and Emotions, 17.

Kathryn Prince ( is an associate professor of theatre at the University of Ottawa, and vice-dean of the Faculty of Arts.

(9) Peter Stearns with Carol Stearns, 'Emotionology: Clarifying the History of Emotions and Emotional Standards', American Historical Review 90 (1985),

(10) Anthony Dawson, 'Witchcraft/Bigamy: Cultural Conflict in The Witch of Edmonton', Renaissance Drama 20 (1989), 77,

(11) William M. Reddy, The Navigation of Feeling: A Framework for the History of Emotions (Cambridge, 2001), 126,

(12) George Gifford, Dialogue Concerning Witches and Witchcrafte (London, 1593: C4r). David Nicol, 'Interrogating the Devil', also considers the relationship between Gifford's Dialogue and Dog, 433-7.

(13) Barbara Rosenwein, Emotional Communities in the Early Middle Ages (Ithaca, 2006). See also her 'Writing Without Fear About Medieval Emotions', Early Medieval Europe

(10) (2001), 229-34,, and her edited collection Anger's Past: The Social Uses of an Emotion in the Middle Ages (Ithaca, 1998).

(14) Cox, The Devil and the Sacred, 174.

(15) Ibid, 176.

(16) Viviana Comensoli, 'Witchcraft and Domestic Tragedy in The Witch of Edmonton', The Politics of Gender in Early Modern Europe, ed. Jean R. Brink, Allison P. Coudert, and Maryanne C. Horowitz, Sixteenth Century Essays and Studies 12 (Kirksville, MO, 1989), 48.
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Author:Prince, Kathryn
Publication:Early Theatre
Date:Dec 1, 2018
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