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Shows in the showstone: a theater of alchemy and apocalypse in the angel conversations of John Dee (1527-1608/9).

On 16 November 1582 John Dee and his assistant, Edward Kelly, gathered in the study of Dee's home in Mortlake, a small town located southwest of London on the river Thames. It was five o'clock on a Friday afternoon, and the latest in a series of dramatic events was unfolding. This event, like the events that preceded it and those that followed, involved an extraordinary cast of characters and contained a significant philosophical message. In Mortlake, England's most important natural philosopher was preparing to engage in what was becoming a habitual exercise: conversing with angels, whom Dee referred to as his "scholemasters," about matters relevant to his study of the natural and supernatural worlds.(1) Like all dramatic events, the conversations required advance preparation, in this case ensuring a degree of privacy in Dee's busy household and arranging a crystal "showstone" on a table by the window, where it could catch the natural light as it entered the room.(2) Once the physical environment was prepared, Dee and Kelly began to prepare themselves with prayers for divine guidance.

They had not waited long when Edward Kelly reported to Dee that a male angel had appeared in the stone dressed in a long, purple robe with a triple crown on his head.(3) The angel brandished a red rod, and the earth below him shook. Seven other angels approached him, and the seven angels held a seven-pointed star made of copper. The first angel spoke to Dee with Kelly's assistance, saying "I am he which have powre to alter the corruption of NATURE. with [sic] my seal, I seale her and she [nature] is become perfect. I prevayle in Metalls: in the knowledge of them." Another angel came forward and told Dee, "I am Prince of the Seas: My powre is uppon the wates. I drowned Pharao . . . My name was known to Moyses. I lived in Israel. Beholde the tyme of Gods visitation." After prophecies about the destructive power of the sea, the angel opened his robe, revealing feathers and a golden girdle. At this point, the angel took his hand from the seven-pointed star and Kelly described how a "black cloth was drawn" inside the stone, which Dee noted "is now appointed to be our token . . . that we must leave of[f] for that instant."

After a brief intermission, Dee and Kelly resumed their conversation with the crowned angel and the three angels who still held the star. One of the three stepped forward saying, "My powre is in Erth: and I kepe the Bodies of the Dead. Theyr members are in my bokes. I have the key of Dissolution . . . Behold, the bowels of the earth are at my opening." Dee, who was feeling some financial pressure at the time, asked the angel for help finding hidden treasure so that he could pay his debts. The angel of the earth chastised Dee for his request, replying that the treasures hoarded in the earth were reserved for the destruction of the Antichrist. Instead of worldly treasures, the angel was giving the natural philosopher the power of his "seal," which Dee would be able to use to govern the earth and unlock the earth's secrets. Another angel stepped forward, who was "the life and breath of all things in Living Creatures." This angel made birds, dragons, and other creatures appear in the stone and said "the Living, The ende, and beginning of these things, are known unto me: and by sufferance I do dispose them untyll my Violl be run." At this point the angel took out a vial that contained five or six spoonfuls of oil.

The sixth angel pulled open his clothes, which were red, and fire that "skarsly of mans eye can be beholden" burst from his sides. Finally, the seventh angel spoke to Dee and Kelly saying, "The powres under my subjection, are Invisible . . . I will teache the[e] Names without Numbers. The Creatures subject unto me shalbe known unto you. Beware of wavering. Blot out suspition of us for we are Gods Creatures, that have rayned, do rayne, & shall rayne for ever. All our Mysteries shalbe known unto you." The conversation ended with some final words from the first angel: "Behold, these things, and theyr mysteries shalbe known unto you, reserving the Secrets of him which raigneth for ever . . . Whose name is Great for ever . . . Open your eyes, and you shall see from the Highest to the Lowest." At last the black curtain was drawn in the stone, and the conversation concluded.

To the modern mind this "conversation" appears to be a confused jumble of strong, though mysterious, images conveyed by a flat narrative that moves through a series of circumscribed actions. But how would it have appeared to the participants? Are there relevant cultural and intellectual contexts in which we can locate the conversations that might help to make them less obscure? Or must the conversations, as many historians have suggested, remain evidence that John Dee's intellect was increasingly prone to idiosyncrasy and perhaps even instability in the latter years of his life? This paper will suggest that our understanding of the angel conversations can increase substantially if we examine them first as a type of private theater and second as a dramatization of Dee's interest in the power of alchemy to materially and spiritually transform the world. The blending of theater and alchemy present in the conversations disclosed profound revelations that Dee believed were crucial to the future of his world.

To pursue such an analysis this study will compare the symbolism and presentation techniques found in the Elizabethan theater (especially publicly staged religious dramas and spectacles)(4) and the symbolism found in alchemical narratives with examples drawn from Dee's angel diaries - the collected transcripts that recorded his conversations. Striking parallels exist between the images, special effects, and settings employed in the angel conversations, for example, and those common to Elizabethan theatrical practices. Dee and his scryers lived at a time when theater played an important, though not always positively received, role in cultural life. From the dramatization of Biblical stories to the production of court masques, English men and women were exposed to many different forms of theatrical display. The appearance of theatrical concepts and practices in Dee's angel conversations suggests that they helped to shape not only cultural life, but also intellectual life in the period.

The function of these theatrical tropes in the angel conversations was precise: they were employed to communicate particular messages to John Dee clearly and powerfully. As a result, an understanding of the angel conversations cannot depend entirely on the manner of presentation. Instead, additional attention must be given to the content of the angelic messages. On one level, for example, because some of the symbolism that appeared in the conversations derived from alchemical concepts important to Dee's natural philosophy, he was able to view the conversations as part of a divine program of study capable of instructing him about the complexities of nature. A show in Dee's showstone could convey, therefore, a dense set of meanings obscured in a symbolic language appropriate for such weighty and mystical matters which Dee and Kelly could study, interpret, and analyze for days after each conversation was completed. After recontextualizing the largely alchemical sources for the imagery of the conversations, it is possible to decipher the messages embedded in conversations such as the one described above.

On another level, because the conversations were often prophetic in tone, they suggested a role for Dee and his natural philosophy in an apocalyptic redefinition of the relationship between humanity and the natural world. When Dee was conversing with the angels in the late 1570s and 1580s, apocalypticism - a belief that the world would end through a series of divine revelations ending in a final, cataclysmic act - was widespread. Citing the decay of the earth and the heavens, the reformation of the church, and strange natural occurrences made available to an increasingly literate public, commentators lamented the final days while clerics trumpeted the news that God's displeasure with human sin was reaching a dangerous level. From the first recorded angel conversation, the angels told Dee that the events of the Apocalypse were already afflicting the earth. As the conversations developed, however, the angels were more attentive to Dee's role in the unfolding events - a role dependent upon his mastery of a restored natural philosophy and a perfected alchemy conveyed to him by the angels.

Though at first glance the angel conversations may appear to be of little intellectual worth, in actuality they provide valuable insights into the reasons why alchemy and other branches of the occult sciences were of such interest during the early modern period. An understanding of the rationale behind the occult sciences has eluded scholars for some time and while most occult literature hints at the profound cosmic changes that will result from the practice of kabbalah, astrology, and alchemy, there are rarely any details about the nature of these changes or the mechanisms by which the changes should occur. The angel diaries, however, capture the moment when the larger purposes for Dee's mastery of the natural and supernatural worlds were revealed to him by God's angels. That these revelations were made at a time when many Europeans were concerned about the end of the world is a further indication that Dee's conversations can help to inform our understanding of broader cultural and intellectual issues. Far from being the isolated products of a brilliant - though erratic - mind, the conversations emerge instead as cultural artifacts deeply immersed in their own time.


It is not clear when Dee first became involved in conversations with angels, and scholars have found it difficult to understand the high place he accorded the angels within his natural philosophy despite a resurgence of interest in Neoplatonism and the occult sciences during the period.(5) Our perceptions are made more uncertain because Dee, like many of his contemporaries, engaged in an assortment of intellectual activities that escape the confines imposed by modern disciplinary boundaries and the established canon of scientific discourse. Interested in alchemy as well as Euclidean geometry, terrestrial explorations as well as astrology, complicated calendar reform and curious genealogical researches, Dee's portrait is on the verge of collapse under the weight of its apparent contradictions. Yet Dee's conversations with angels have been persistently brushed aside as an intellectual irregularity that threatens to upset Dee's delicately balanced position between the "occult" and the "scientific." John Heilbron's negative opinion of Dee's interest in angels is representative, and he paints a vivid picture of the natural philosopher wandering "through Europe without reason or direction, asking recalcitrant angels for revelations that never came."(6) Given the sheer volume of the transcript diaries, which were never published during Dee's lifetime, and his comparatively small catalogue of printed writings, the existing lacuna in scholarship indicates a resistance on our part to see the angel diaries as a potentially valuable source of information about Dee and his natural philosophy.

Avoiding the angels' importance to Dee's inquiries into the natural world has become a historiographic tradition. As Frances Yates noted, the angel diaries served as an impediment to a serious appraisal of other aspects of Dee's natural philosophy, and only "in the present century has the rehabilitation of Dee been begun by historians of science, who, ignoring the spiritual diaries and their reputation, have rediscovered Dee the scientist."(7) In most scholarship since this rehabilitation, Dee has been cast necessarily as the victim of a fraud perpetrated by his scryers, most notably Edward Kelly. The angels thus become something entirely separate from Dee's intellect, a feature of Dee's life that we cannot associate with any other. Peter French, the modern scholar most sympathetic to Dee's interest in angels, was still unable to incorporate the conversations satisfactorily into his portrait of Dee's life and work. Nonetheless, French had to conclude that "Dee undoubtedly believed that his angelic communications were the crowning success of his career."(8) Recently Nicholas Clulee devoted a portion of his intellectual biography of Dee to an examination of the angel conversations. Clulee's focus on the connections between Dee's natural philosophy and his religion - an ideal place to begin an analysis of the angel conversations - helped to illuminate the role that theories about the magical importance of language played in the angel conversations. Nonetheless, the angel conversations remained something of an oddity. Clulee argued, for example, that the angel conversations "cannot be considered as science or natural philosophy" despite their inclusion of concepts from the kabbalistic and alchemical traditions.(9)

Yet it is clear from the remarks that precede his angel diaries that John Dee decided quite deliberately to contact the angels because they were integral to his study of nature. Dee described his youthful prayers to God for "pure and sownd wisdome and understanding of ^some of^ thy truths natural and artificiall" that would bring the world "under the Talent of my Capacitie to thy honor & glory, & the benefit of thy Servants, my brethern and Sistern."(10) Dee first made orthodox attempts to gain such wisdom at Cambridge University. At Cambridge he followed the standard curriculum, which remained Aristotelian despite the infusion of Platonic and Neoplatonic texts into European intellectual life through the efforts of scholars like Marsilio Ficino in the latter part of the fifteenth century.(11) Yet Dee's college, St. John's, differed from many Cambridge foundations in its emphasis on the study of mathematics as well as the study of languages and rhetoric.(12) Dee went on to receive an appointment as a fellow of Trinity College. Thus far Dee was following a successful trajectory. From this point we would expect him to progress further on the academic ladder, make important contacts at the Tudor court, utilize Cambridge associates with whom he was already acquainted, and, in due course, dedicate a few works to his patrons.

In 1547, however, the first of a series of incidents occurred that began to shed doubts on Dee's ability to blend seamlessly into the academic and court cultures that surrounded him. At Trinity, Dee produced Aristophanes' Pax - a suitable enterprise for a young scholar who was well-versed in Greek literature and mathematics since the play calls for a beetle to fly through the air, something that Dee was able to engineer by means of a simple mechanical device. The frightened public reaction to this bit of stagecraft demonstrated that a knowledge of mechanical marvels was not common, even among educated people, and the ensuing publicity about the mysterious beetle was to tarnish Dee's reputation with the stigma of sorcery for decades. As late as 1592 Dee was still trying to rid himself of the "vaine reportes spread abroad" about how the beetle was contrived, repeating to all who would listen that he had used only natural materials and mechanical methods.(13)

Dee's first publications did little to alleviate suspicions that he was capable of manipulating occult forces. While his preface to John Feild's Ephemeris (1556) was understandable and orthodox, two later works for which he is best known today, the Propaedeumata aphoristica (1558) and the Monas hieroglyphica (1564), contained occult material that stymied even the most learned natural philosophers. The first, Propaedeumata aphoristica, provided an introduction to the basic influences between celestial and terrestrial levels of the cosmos on which astrological theory depended as well as Dee's own advanced and arcane insights. Dee's Monas hieroglyphica is more difficult to decode and may not have been understood in his lifetime. The work is based on a complex symbol which Dee constructed from a combination of alchemical, astrological, and kabbalistic signs and concepts. The Monas hieroglyphica demonstrates Dee's familiarity with symbolic systems and his advocacy of the power of symbolism to instruct as well as to obscure.(14) Though Dee published other works on less controversial subjects, such as the Generall and Rare Memorials on the Art of Navigation (1577), these works were written to establish Dee's public persona as a scholar with skills valuable to the Elizabethan state and were not able to completely discount his earlier magical reputation.(15)

Dee's work on astrology and symbolism makes it clear that at some point he had become proficient in what we would call the occult sciences - alchemy, kabbalah, astrology, mnemonics, and other disciplines. While these subjects were seldom listed in the university curricula, the growing interest in the occult sciences in the period appears to have fostered an informal tutorial system at major universities like Cambridge in which students would gather with an expert in a specific subject to read and discuss key texts and concepts.(16) Dee never identified his tutors in the occult sciences, however, and it is impossible to determine who at St. John's or within the university might have been offering instruction in alchemy or kabbalah in addition to their regular subjects. It is worth remembering, however, that St. John's was unusually strong in mathematics for a Cambridge college, and that the university had a professorship in Hebrew, which was the foundation of the kabbalah.(17)

John Dee emerges from this combination of traditional and innovative interests as a Renaissance virtuoso, conversant in the latest Pythagorean and Platonic mathematical speculations as well as the standard approaches, such as the geometry of Euclid; skilled enough in astrology and astronomy to suggest his own set of aphorisms to guide practitioners in their studies; eager to develop practical applications for his knowledge, such as calendar reform and plans for the further exploration of the world's newly-discovered regions; and adept at occult systems of knowledge, such as alchemy and kabbalah, which found a synthesis in Dee's own hieroglyphical symbol. Yet these studies "in many bokes, & sundry languages" still did not provide Dee with the insights into the natural world that he desired. In 1582 Dee wrote that "after all my . . . endevor I could fynde no other way, to such true wisdom atteyning, but by . . . [God's] extraordinary gift: and by no vulgar Schole doctrine or humane Invention." Knowing that God had sent to many biblical prophets and holy men "good Angels . . . to instruct them, informe them, help them . . . in worldly and domesticall afaires . . . and sometimes to satisfy theyr desyres, dowtes & questions of thy Secrets," Dee began his attempts to win God's favor and the assistance of the angels.(18) Evidence from a prayer in the angel diaries suggests that as early as 1569 Dee was making special supplications to the angels Michael and Raphael for guidance in his philosophical studies.(19)

Dee had become convinced after consulting authoritative sources that it was possible to access the angels through a combination of prayer and the concentration of occult rays through a medium. This practice blended a traditional means of divination known as scrying with medieval optical theories. Scrying was most frequently used for the purpose of finding lost items or buried treasure and involved the use of shiny objects (such as stones, mirrors, and pools of water) to see visions. Christopher Whitby points out that there are subtle differences between the crystallomancy that Dee advocated, where the scryers used a crystal stone to see visions, and the scrying that used mirrors, known as catoptromancy. While in catoptromancy visions can be seen that do not involve the agency of angels or other spirits, all known examples of crystallomancy do include the appearance of divine assistants such as Dee's angels.(20) Dee possessed at least three different stones: a "great Chrystaline Globe," a crystal sphere mounted in a wooden frame, and a stone that the angels delivered to him.(21)

Though Whitby does not explore the significance of Dee's decision to use a crystal stone instead of a mirror, it is probable that the decision stemmed from Dee's familiarity with the work of his medieval English predecessors, Robert Grosseteste and Roger Bacon. Both Grosseteste and Bacon advocated the study of light as a means of understanding the creation of the cosmos, using the first passage in Genesis as their source. This passage relates how the supernatural and natural worlds proceeded from an emanation of divine light created through the force of God's word.(22) In addition, Grosseteste emphasized the connection between divine light and the angels, which were God's first creatures.(23) Both Bacon and Grosseteste feature prominently in Dee's library catalogue, and Dee's frequent annotations in their works indicate a high level of intellectual engagement with their theories.(24) Dee's contact with the angels, therefore, is far different from other sixteenth-century attempts to invoke or control simple spirits, either good or maleficient, through binding spells or magic circles, since it appears to be facilitated not solely by the power of the natural philosopher, but also by the ability of the crystal to concentrate the angelic light.

There are indications that Dee's decision to communicate with angels was not uncommon in the sixteenth century.(25) Girolamo Cardano, for example, was devoted to his guardian angel, whom he credited with assisting his escape from prison.(26) Marsilio Ficino advocated the use of hymns and other techniques drawn from the Platonic and Neoplatonic traditions to facilitate communication with spirits and angels.(27) Keith Thomas noted the existence of many "experiment books" that include records of attempts to scry and conjure spirits.(28) None of these accounts of interest in angels, however, are as refined as the angel diaries of John Dee. Dee's interest in angels may have differed from the norm in its particulars, but it appears to have been based on a customary blend of medieval authorities and ancient geo-centric cosmologies. These cosmologies, which differed in detail, shared a belief in intermediary agencies between humanity and divinity and a continuum of influence between the celestial and supracelestial worlds.(29) In the Judaeo-Christian tradition the intermediary agencies were called angels, and they became omnipresent and necessary features of the divine plan for the cosmos, carrying out God's will, communicating with the Deity, and serving as messengers to the human inhabitants of the created world. Dee subscribed, therefore, to a worldview that believed that angels were not only an aspect of faith, but significant features of the natural and supernatural worlds. With the disintegration of the geocentric worldview on which ancient and medieval angelologies depended, angels ceased to be important in the cosmos. Angels became extensions of theological beliefs instead of movers of the celestial spheres, messengers of the divine cosmic order, and instructors in the working of the natural world.

Communicating with the angels was a chief feature of Dee's life from 1582 to 1587. Detailed transcripts have survived for this five-year span, rescued from the hands of a confectioner (whose maid destroyed "about one halfe" of the manuscripts by using the pages to line pie-plates) by Elias Ashmole in the middle of the seventeenth century.(30) A few much later conversations, dating from 1607 and 1608, also have survived. Dee organized his transcript diaries chronologically and carefully included the date, place, and time of each conversation, as well as an account of who was present. During the conversations Dee spoke with the angels about personal concerns, philosophical issues, and the future of his nation and the world. The records that survive are therefore quite lengthy and occupy several separate manuscripts. If Dee first began conversing with angels in 1569 and continued the practice until 1608, however, then the existing diaries account for only a fraction of Dee's efforts. The fragmentary nature of the surviving diaries can help to explain why the conversations are so hard to interpret.


The incomplete documentation of Dee's conversations is not the only obstacle to our complete understanding, however. The style of the transcripts, which reads like a playscript, also presents difficulties. If we begin to consider the angel conversations as multi-dimensional dramatic events rather than two-dimensional transcript diary entries, they become more lucid and we are free to apply analytical techniques borrowed from other disciplines. The scholarship of historians of the theater is especially well-suited to this task and can help to reveal how the conversations were structured in terms of dramatic space, cast, settings, costumes, and special effects. Current research on the socio-cultural dynamics of the theater is also a valuable tool, since this work has been able to shed light on the reciprocal relationship between actors and audience in early modern dramatic productions.

These insights are instrumental in furthering our understanding of the symbiotic and problematic relationship between John Dee and Edward Kelly that emerged through their conversations with the angels. Dee, despite his efforts, was unable to access the world of angels without the assistance of scryers - individuals able to see visions in the showstone and articulate those visions. Thus, Dee's conversations with the angels were carried out through the intermediary agency of a scryer such as Edward Kelly. Like an actor on the stage who gives voice to a variety of characters and personalities, Kelly was responsible for giving voice to the angels' messages. As we saw in the opening example, Dee's conversations with angels were primarily verbal exchanges, despite the rich imagery that surrounded them. This is in keeping with the verbal nature of the early modern theater. It differs in this respect from the modern theater, which relies more heavily on a series of explicit actions to propel the narrative. Stephen Orgel points out that though today we go to see a play, the early modern audience went to hear a play. The symbolism and special effects employed in the drama were used to enhance the words that the characters spoke, the characters in effect uttering the same messages in both verbal and visual languages.(31) This layering of verbal and visual imagery is evident in the opening example when the action that did occur, such as the presentation of the fabulous animals by the angel governing living creatures, provided added visual support for the angels' verbal messages.

While evidence exists for Dee's use of at least four scryers, the long gaps in the spirit diaries suggest that the identities of some scryers may not be known.(32) Edward Kelly was Dee's most notorious scryer, and their fortunes and misfortunes in England, Poland, and the court of Rudolf II in Prague dominate the extant spirit diaries. While little is known about his life, Kelly does appear to have been educated and to have known the rudiments of alchemy before his association with Dee.(33) Kelly was thirty years younger than Dee and probably attended Oxford University using the name of Edward Talbot. Dee's contact with Kelly appears to have been extensive, and for a time exclusive. The relationship between Dee and Kelly was not smooth, however, and frequent interruptions in the conversations caused by friction between Kelly and other members of Dee's household were noted faithfully by Dee in his personal and angelic diaries. Despite these difficulties, the relationship between the two men was not dominated by Kelly. Instead, the relationship between the natural philosopher and the scryer was interdependent. Without Dee's interest in the angels, Kelly would have had no suitable audience for articulating the angelic messages, no position in a well-connected household, no source of income. Without Kelly and his other scryers, Dee would have been unable to access the higher world of spirits and attain the knowledge of the cosmos that he had searched for in the standard authoritative texts. Whether or not the angels were "real" will never, of course, be absolutely determined; but it is self-evident that Dee, with an arsenal of authorities to support him, believed wholeheartedly in the angels and the dramatic presentation of their messages.

Dee's belief in the angel conversations may in part stem from the integral, though often underestimated, role that Dee played in the conversations. Within the conversations Dee was not only the chief spectator to whom the angels' messages were directed; he was also a primary participant, the angels' secretary, and the person responsible for interpreting the angel's words. Dee's pervasive influence on the angel conversations becomes most apparent on those occasions when another spectator was present and the relationship between Dee, Kelly, and the angels was altered. When visitors were present, Dee stepped down from being the chief spectator, deferring that role to the guest who had the higher social status. The angels' messages changed in accordance with the new dynamic, and Dee was less likely to feature in the angels' prophetic pronouncements. When Count Albert Laski took part in several angel conversations in 1583, for example, the conversations were preoccupied with the role that Laski was to play in the transformation of the world.(34) For the most part, however, the angels' messages were shaped to catch Dee's attention and Dee's own responses provided an essential component of the narrative as it emerged over time. John Dee - and not the angels, or the scryer - therefore, provided the coherence to the angel conversations. When Dee's role in the conversations is minimized or seen to be of secondary importance to that of the scryer, the content of the conversations becomes muddled and the messages which were primarily directed to Dee are lost. While most people consider the audience's role in a dramatic event to be passive, current research suggests that theatrical productions are a creative event shared by actor and spectator alike, rather than an dramatization of discreet texts for passive public consumption. Marvin Carlson encourages us to think of drama as "a sociocultural event whose meanings and interpretations are not to be sought exclusively in the text being presented but in the experience of the audience assembled to share in the creation of the total event."(35)

To demonstrate the importance of audience-performer interactions in the early modern period, it is helpful to make an analogy between the role of the monarch in a royal entertainment and Dee's role in the angel conversations. In many of the entertainments presented to Elizabeth I, mythological themes were employed to create a dramatic space where reality and fiction were not distinct, but intermingling. Within this "fictional reality" nymphs praised the Queen for her chastity, Wild Men of the forest beseeched Elizabeth to marry, and other goddesses gave pride of place to the English goddess Diana.(36) Elizabeth was aware of the power of symbolism and enjoyed manipulating the symbols associated with her to her advantage in court ceremonies and pageants. The queen could just as easily be moved to anger, however, when she felt theater was being used to reproach instead of praise her. To read the accounts of these progress entertainments without understanding their audience, Queen Elizabeth I and her court, is to miss their most powerful messages. No one would suggest that the queen wrote the progress entertainments, nor was she solely responsible for enacting them on the day of performance. But an understanding of Elizabeth's role as the active and essential audience member for whom and about whom the pageants were written has been necessary in order to decipher the pageants' symbolism and significance. Dee, therefore, played as important a role in the generation of the angelic conversations as his monarch played in the genesis of the dramatic entertainments that were presented to her in the court and the countryside.

Understanding the role that Dee played in the angel conversations is not the only way that these events can be understood as fundamentally dramatic in their presentation. Additional links between Elizabethan theater and the angel conversations can be detected in the settings and costumes that appeared as well. The visions that appeared in the showstone, for example, were obscured initially by a curtain "like a black cloth" that may have had theatrical precedents. In time, the cloth came to be used as a sign that the day's shows were completed. In a conversation dated 15 November 1582 Dee wrote that the cloth appeared and covered "all the forepart of the stone, so that nothing appeared in the stone: then was h[e]ard a voyce saying. Loke for us no more at this tyme: This shalbe a token, (from this tyme furth) to leave."(37) Yet this particular use of a curtain to signal the beginning and end of a conversation is puzzling, for most scholars believe that curtains in the Elizabethan theater were hung on the back and side walls and functioned as screens. In the early modern theater curtains were not used to open and close scenes or draw a halt to a dramatic action, but to conceal actors until they entered onto the stage. On 26 October 1583, however, Kelly mentioned specifically that he saw a man's legs up to the knees showing under the edge of the curtain.(38) And it is clear from previous examples that the showstone's curtain did function as a device for opening and closing scrying sessions. While historians who specialize in the theater of the period will decide on the significance of these references in the debate over stage arrangements, it seems possible that there was a theatrical precedent for this use of curtains.

When the curtain drew aside and the images finally appeared, additional parallels emerge between the shows in Dee's showstone and contemporary theater. The visions were not set, as one might initially think, in a scholar's study, alchemical laboratory, or church. Instead, the settings resembled those common to the Elizabethan stage, such as roads, meadows, forests, mountains, streets, market-places, gateways, bridges, and great halls.(39) Typically the visions began in an interior setting, where the angelic spirits gathered around a "chair of perfection."(40) The chair thus becomes an authoritative device similar to the throne which Elizabeth I occupied in a pageant and the "Judgment seat" occupied by Christ in a religious play. The angel with the highest rank in the spiritual hierarchy sat in the "chair of perfection" to introduce the show, and after the show ended, the angel returned to the chair to explain it in more detail. As the show began and new characters were introduced, the interior setting dissolved, giving way to a series of outdoor spaces. One show, for example, followed a spirit as she moved along a road from a banquet hall to a hill, a bog, a thorned hedge, a "fair place," and a castle exterior.(41) Another featured a spirit moving from a hill to a garden and continuing on to a bridge, gates to a castle, and a wilderness.(42)

Much of the simple symbolism associated with the colors and costumes that appeared in the angel conversations can be traced to traditional, dramatic sources. Because of their subject matter, Corpus Christi or mystery plays have especially strong visual and thematic links to Dee's angel conversations. The conversations, with their angelic characters, heavenly special effects, and prophetic speeches, are strikingly similar to these religious dramas that drew on the Bible for their narratives. The Corpus Christi plays depicted events from the creation of the world to the Last Judgment joined together into a cycle. The cycle was performed in a variety of civic venues - churches, churchyards, play and game spaces, streets, and market squares - making it easy for audience members of all social classes to witness the spectacle.(43) Most plays were performed on large vehicles known as "pageant carriages," which contained the actors, sets, and special effects devices necessary for the play. These carriages were pulled throughout the town, stopping at key locations to perform for the civic spectators.(44) Corpus Christi plays were performed in many English towns (such as Chester, Wakefield, and York) beginning in the fourteenth century and continued to be produced well into the sixteenth century. It is highly probable that Kelly was exposed to religious dramas in some form prior to his contact with Dee. The religious dramas could have therefore provided Kelly with most of the symbolism and dramatic techniques which assisted him in conveying the angels' messages.

Angels appeared regularly in the Corpus Christi cycles, especially in the texts preserved in the city of York where angels appeared in twenty of the forty-eight plays. In the final play, which reenacted the Last Judgment, Jesus and Mary appeared with "twelve apostles, four angels with trumpets and four with crowns, lances, and two scourges; four good spirits and four bad spirits, and six devils."(45) Here the angels appeared with some of their traditional attributes and performed one of their essential tasks, which was to serve as messengers for God's judgment and redemption of mankind. The angels that appeared in the Corpus Christi plays were costumed in ecclesiastical robes, armor, wings, and feathers attached to the body.(46) Each of the angels featured in the Dee conversations appeared with distinct articles of clothing, ornaments, accessories, and colors. Through these devices, an angel was capable of "speaking" to Kelly simply by appearing in the vision. Scholars have recognized the importance of visual signs in early modern drama for some time.(47) These signs allowed an Elizabethan audience member to instantly associate, for example, war with a character clothed in red and carrying a sword and peace with a character clothed in blue carrying an olive branch. Signals that would have helped Dee identify particular angels include the lily that Gabriel brought to Mary in the Annunciation, and Michael's sword. In the conversations Michael bore "a sworde in his right hand: all his hed glystring like the sonne. The heare of his hed was long: He had wings: and all his lower parts seamed to be with feathers. He had a roab over his body: and a great light in his left hand."(48) Michael's sword was the angel's traditional attribute, a symbolic representation of the Church militant; other aspects of this description would be appropriate to any angel.

Costume could be a risky way to positively identify an angel or a character on the stage, however, for just as costume could be used to exemplify and display a set of virtues and attributes, it could also be used to deceive. A great deal rested on Dee's ability to discern truth from falsehood, an angel from a demon. For this reason Dee noted carefully when Uriel changed in appearance on 4 May 1582. "Uriel semeth to be all in a white long robe tucked up: his garment full of plightes [pleats] and seemed now to have wyngs (which, hitherto, from the begynning of these kinde of Actions he did not) and on his hed a bewtifull crown, with a white Cross over the Crown."(49) Keeping close track of such changes was essential, as demonstrated in an action of 11 March 1582 when Dee and Kelly were deceived by an evil spirit named "Lundrumguffa" who donned the long purple robe and garland of gold habitually worn by Uriel and delivered false messages to them.(50)

The words spoken by characters on the Elizabethan stage were often supported by special effects. In Dee's angel conversations, the angels emphasized the importance of their messages by exhibiting supernatural powers. These powers - ascending and descending from the heavens, causing thunder and lightning, spitting forth fire from eyes and mouths - were all within the special effects capabilities of an Elizabethan producer. We have already seen how Dee made a beetle fly through the air, and this was for a relatively simple university production. In most public playhouses, and even in outdoor temporary stages, there was a "roof of the heavens" made of canvas or wood to facilitate the special effects needs that the public theaters inherited from the mystery plays.(51) These specially designed ceilings concealed mechanisms that permitted the heavenly canopy or superstructure to open, allowing angels and other heavenly figures to ascend or descend.(52)

The superficial similarities of cast, settings, and special effects shared by the angel conversations and the theater are no coincidence, for Elizabethan theatrical techniques mark the imaginative boundaries that confined Dee's scryers. In contrast, if a scryer was employed to realize spirits in the late twentieth century, the spirits would be capable of winging through an infinite cosmos and fighting with bolts of jagged lightning - in short, anything a Hollywood special effects director could produce for the camera. Edward Kelly and Dee's other scryers could not have realized these images; their limits were the claps of thunder and flaming swords of the Elizabethan theater. Within the imaginative boundaries of any particular place and time exist the vocabulary, images, and ideas that can be employed to express fantastic and supernatural concepts. Even extraordinary events need to be described in a language that can be understood and related to common experiences. It was only by drawing on a common vocabulary and common images that Dee could perceive the occult and supernatural events that unfolded in his showstone as extensions of reality, heightened and perfect examples of the imperfect natural world.


An examination of the connections between the angel conversations and plays presented in Elizabethan England will only take us part of the way toward understanding the messages delivered to Dee. To understand the remaining symbolism, we must turn from theater to alchemy. Alchemy was one of Dee's life-long passions, and the spiritual and material quest involved in acquiring the philosopher's stone was as appealing to him as communicating with the divine levels of the cosmos. Dee's interest in alchemy became more marked during the period when he was engaged in the angel conversations, and his scryer Edward Kelly was a key participant in the alchemical experiments that Dee undertook between 1583 and 1587.

The goal of alchemy was a state of spiritual perfection represented on the material level by a transmutation of base metals into gold. Alchemical texts varied regarding how this transformation was to take place. Simply stated, the process involved the purification of various materials, the application of heat while the materials were in an enclosed vessel which engendered color changes, increasing the strength of the mixture through multiplication, and finally projecting the resulting mixture onto other matter to cause transmutation.(53) The result of this transmutation was the elusive philosopher's stone, which was believed to bestow immortality and to have the power to perfect all that came into contact with it. Changes in the color of the materials progressed from black to white, green or yellow, and finally red. These four colors predominate in the angel conversations, and when the colors are considered in light of Dee's interest in alchemy, our interpretations of some shows can be altered. While a figure in red garments in traditional symbolism might have meant war, or the god Mars, in alchemical terms such a figure also would have suggested additional meanings related to the alchemical process, specific metals, or planetary influences that affected the transformation.

But color is not the only way in which the angels' messages could be related to alchemy. Materials and steps in the alchemical process were often personified in contemporary texts. Typically these personifications involved masculine and feminine figures representing Sophic Sulphur and Sophic Mercury who were joined in a chemical wedding. The philosopher's stone resulted from this union, which was variously personified as an androgyne or "royal child." The androgyne appeared in many of Dee's angel conversations, as did male and female crowned figures. In one show, for example, a boy wearing a crown transformed a woman into a man and then wed this androgyne to a queen.(54) Personifications of alchemical ideas were common during the period and are displayed in collections of alchemical emblemata first published in the seventeenth century.(55) Unlike two-dimensional emblem books, however, the shows in Dee's showstone were three-dimensional representations of the alchemical art, capable of speech and gesture. Many of the shows, then, may be seen as a theatrical expression of philosophical ideas mediated through a figural language of signs, colors, and symbols. Yet neither the alchemical color symbolism nor the personifications that occur in Dee's actions with spirits adhere strictly to the body of alchemical theory. The colors, for example, though they appeared throughout the conversations, were seldom arranged in the traditional progression, and the personifications of elements appeared in unusual sequences and combinations. While these inconsistencies may well indicate an imperfect knowledge of the alchemical art, these points of departure did not undermine Dee's confidence in his scryer. Instead, Dee was inclined to see the alchemical methods then in practice as flawed and the information in the conversations as a more direct reflection of true alchemy.

The reasons for Dee's position are complex but not unique. Dee, like many of his contemporaries, was convinced that human knowledge had been steadily declining since the expulsion of Adam from Paradise and in the intervening millennia much true wisdom became corrupted.(56) Knowledge was not the only victim of the Fall, however. The natural world had been corrupted through mankind's sin as well, and in the sixteenth century many natural philosophers saw that corruption spreading into the "incorruptible" heavenly spheres. Tycho Brahe's discovery of a new star in 1572 was seen by many contemporaries as evidence that "God had now visited the sins of men on to the whole universe."(57) Only the redemption of humanity and the natural world through the apocalyptic return of Christ could reverse these trends. Apocalypticism, which had long and distinguished medieval roots, gained new force with the discovery of the new star in 1572 - the first new star recorded since the birth of Christ, commentators were quick to point out. This extraordinary event was not the only natural occurrence to gain public attention, however. In 1577 a particularly bright comet had blazed across the heavens, and in 1580 an earthquake was felt in London. When Dee and Kelly were engaged in their shows in the showstone the most eagerly anticipated apocalyptic event of the century had not yet taken place, however. Commonly referred to as the "grand conjunction" of 1583, western European astrologers predicted a planetary conjunction that would mirror the configuration of stars and planets present at the birth of Christ.

As signs of imminent Apocalypse increased, people throughout Europe attempted to prepare for the coming changes by comparing recent events to biblical prophecies, especially those contained in the book of Revelation.(58) Dee studied the text of Revelation while engaging in the angel conversations, and discussed the significance of the book's symbolism with Kelly.(59) Biblical symbolism could provide an additional symbolic system for Dee and his scryer to draw upon, for angels play a prominent role in the Bible's apocalyptic book of Revelation. In Revelation the angels bear the seven vials that hold the seven plagues that infest the earth during the final days, exercise supernatural powers over the natural world by causing earthquakes and making stars fall from the sky, warn humanity of the imminent catastrophe, and conduct human souls to the judgment seat to hear their fate. They also sound the six trumpets that announce the final battle between good and evil, and the seventh trumpet that announces the arrival of Christ to rule the world. Trumpets, keys, scrolls, and locked books are symbols shared by Dee's angel conversations and the book of Revelation.

The Apocalypse was relevant to Dee's alchemy as well as his angel conversations. In alchemy, apocalypse is clearly related to the idea of material corruption and redemption that provided the basis for alchemical doctrines.(60) Many alchemical theorists, including Paracelsus, believed that the redemption of metals that occurred in alchemical transformation must concur with the redemption of humanity and the natural world and usher in the age of apocalyptic rebirth.(61) In Dee's conversations angelology, apocalypticism, and alchemy collapse into a single narrative designed to present one message concealed among layers of imagery and symbolism: that Dee and Kelly, together, were to be instrumental in the world's progress toward Apocalypse. If we refer back to the conversation of 16 November 1582, we see that the first angel who spoke to Dee had the "power to alter the corruption of nature," and would perfect nature. This angel also had power over metals. The second angel had power over the seas, and told Dee to expect the time of "God's visitation." These powers were not reserved for the angels, however. The angels had been divinely instructed to share their powers with Dee - and thus Dee, too, would possess similar supernatural mastery over the natural world. The angels, in essence, were delivering the philosopher's stone that could perfect all things.

This message was not delivered once, but repeatedly during the course of the five-year association between Dee and Kelly. Another conversation, which took place earlier in the same year on 4 May 1582, was infused with a particularly dense assortment of speeches, gestures, special effects, and symbolism that deliver a similar message. On this particular day Edward Kelly was professing doubts about their angelic conversations and refused to begin the prayers that served as a preamble for each attempt to contact the angels. Dee, undeterred by Kelly's doubts, went into a part of his study reserved for prayer, "and called unto God, for his divine help for the understanding of his laws and vertues . . . which he hath established in and amongst his Creatures for the benefyt of mankinde."(62) Soon Kelly reported seeing two angels, Michael and Uriel, "comyng to the Stone." After their arrival, the two angels kneeled in prayer. Kelly told Dee that seven bundles appeared suddenly "from heavenward." While Michael collected the bundles, Uriel placed "a thing like a superaltare" on the table "and with a thing like a Senser doth make perfume at the fowre corners of the Table." The censer disappeared, sinking through the middle of the table, and Uriel took the seven bundles from Michael and "with reverence layeth them on the forsayd Superaltare." A "Glorious man" man appeared who unwrapped the bundles on the superaltar, and each bundle contained animals. The "Glorious man" took a bird, "as byg as a sparrow," and the bird began to increase in size, seeming "to be as great as a swanne: very beutifull [sic]: but of many cullours." The man took another bird, who went through the same metamorphosis and joined their wings together. Kelly reported that "All is suddenly dark, and nothing [is] to be seen," but he heard a voice like the angel Michael's saying "It was a byrd, and it is a byrd, absent their [sic] is nothing but Quantitie. Beleve. The world is of Necessitie: His Necessity is governed by supernaturall Wisdome. Necessarily you fall: and of Necessitie you shall rise again." The darkness in the crystal stone was alleviated, and Michael and Uriel returned. The two birds reappeared and grew even larger until they were "as big as mowntaynes." They flew toward the heavens, their wings touching the sky. One bird took stars into his beak that the other bird returned to the heavens. The two birds then flew over cities and towns, striking down bishops, princes, and kings with their wings as they passed. The "Simple" folk - beggars, the lame, children, old men and women - were left standing, untouched by the birds.

At this point the show's imagery took a different turn. The two birds lifted the bodies of three dead men and a child, all wearing crowns, from the ground. The four began to quicken from their death and then rose up and departed. The birds rested upon a great hill where the first bird "gryped the erth mightily and there appeared diverse Metalls." Next an old man's head appeared, which the birds tossed between themselves until it broke open. Instead of brains, the head contained "a stone, rownd, of the bignes of a Tennez ball of 4 cullours, White, black, red, and greene." The birds nibbled at the stone and were transformed into crowned men with golden teeth, hands, feet, tongues, eyes, and ears. The men carried "Sachels . . . full of gold," which they "seemed to sow . . . as corne, going or stepping forward, like Seedmen." Here the show ended, and Michael informed them that he had shown Dee and Kelly how they would be joined, by whom, to what intent and purpose, what they are, what they were, and what they shall be. If one reads the show alchemically and apocalyptically, it stated that glorious times of redemption and plenty were ahead if Dee and Kelly could be joined in a common purpose. The show can be divided into two symbolic cycles: the first extending from Uriel's actions at the altar until the kings and bishops were struck down, and the second extending from the revivification of the dead to the sowing of gold in the earth. The first cycle appears to have been shaped with more traditional symbols than the second, which relied heavily on alchemical imagery.

At the beginning of the first cycle of images, Uriel's consecration of the altar with a censer bears a striking similarity to a passage in Revelation. In Revelation 8:3-6, an angel consecrates an altar in the same fashion, and this action serves as a link between the opening of the seventh seal that brings a profound silence to the world and the sounding of the first trumpet of the war between good and evil. Kelly and Dee were cast into the show as birds transformed from sparrows - the most humble of birds - into swans, which were joined together wing to wing. Generally, birds symbolized the human spirit, and throughout the Middle Ages the swan symbolized the soul's journey toward salvation through its ascension to the kingdom of heaven.(63) The symbolism of spiritual transformation and salvation was mimetically underscored by the words of the angel Michael, who said "Necessarily you fall: and of necessity you shall rise again." The notion that spiritual redemption will lead to a mastery over the natural world was dramatized when the two birds reached into the heavens and reordered the stars. The reordering of the stars had its own apocalyptic overtones, and, as we have seen, any change in the pattern of the heavens was viewed as a sign of great importance in the sixteenth century. The significance of the new heavenly order might have been revealed in the birds' next action, when they leveled the mighty with their wings, leaving the weak standing.

The second cycle of images, though it has apocalyptic significance, appears to have been drawn primarily from the alchemical tradition. The cycle begins with the birds' revivification of the dead. Death followed by rebirth was a common motif in alchemical literature, and alchemical theory posited that nothing could "be multiplied or propagated without decomposition."(64) A more explicit link to alchemy occurred when the earth opened to reveal the hidden world of metals to the birds. This revelation was followed by the appearance of the philosopher's stone - the multi-colored stone the size of a tennis ball - which the birds ingested. The divine food of the philosopher's stone transformed the birds, which symbolized Dee and Kelly, into men of perfect gold, thus linking the goal of the alchemical process with the redemption of their souls. This state of perfection was to enable them to sow the seeds of perfection and rebirth in the world around them, as demonstrated when the two men began to sow their bags of gold in the earth.(65) These images were common in alchemical texts, but one example must be brought forward. In Mylius's Philosophia reformata (1622), an engraving appeared that included not only the revivification of the dead, but also the philosopher sowing gold and an angel blowing a trumpet signaling the Apocalypse when the dead shall rise and be damned or redeemed [ILLUSTRATION FOR FIGURE 1 OMITTED]. This alchemical emblem came to life within the dramatic space of Dee's showstone.


In the show described above, Dee and Kelly became partners in the cosmic cycle of redemption and creation. Dee alone could not rise to this level of perfection; he was able to do so only through his relationship with his scryer Edward Kelly and the angels. Whether we are inclined to see the conversations as the work of a charlatan or a true representation of God's wisdom mediated by angelic spirits, Dee himself took them seriously and considered the shows that appeared in his showstone a mark of divine favor. Every time Dee engaged in the angel conversations, he received symbolic confirmation that this work was of great significance as well as confirmation of his long-held belief that a true knowledge of the cosmos "could not be come by at mans hand or by humane poure, but onely from the[e] (O God) mediately or immediately."(66)

No printed text could adequately represent the dynamism of this cosmic cycle, and so the angels could convey their message most effectively through the dramatic medium of a conversation. Just as the cosmic drama produced by the Deity could be reproduced on stage in the Corpus Christi plays, Dee's showstone was able to contain the world in microcosm. In this microcosm, the drama of natural and human rebirth unfolded. Dee was cast into this drama as the catalyst for human redemption and a cosmic force facilitating apocalyptic change. It should come as no surprise, then, that Dee was so fascinated by the shows in his showstone as articulated by Edward Kelly since they focused on the role that Dee as a natural philosopher and angelic communicator would be required to play in the future.

The angel conversations when decoded reveal messages that were alchemical and apocalyptic, presented in the manner of a theatrical production. The conversations prophesied the apocalyptic end of the known natural world and its redemption and rebirth under the guidance of Dee, Kelly, and their associates. In the new cosmos a perfect knowledge of the natural and supernatural worlds was to replace the old, corrupt knowledge, and the decline of humanity would be arrested and reversed. The themes of death and resurrection we see in Dee's angel conversations figured prominently in both the religious dramas of the period and alchemical literature. While R.J.W. Evans notes that "alchemists sought not only the regeneration of metals through the stone, but also the moral and spiritual rebirth of mankind,"(67) finding explicit contemporary evidence linking alchemy with the Apocalypse has been difficult. Within the pages of Dee's angel diaries, however, evidence abounds.

While alchemy and apocalypticism are not the only important features of the conversations, they represent two of the most significant. Dee found the shows in the showstone fascinating and vitally important to his natural philosophy because the shows resonated with the imagery, themes, and concerns of his life, his time, and his world. To understand the angel conversations and Dee's interest in them, we need not make recourse to a showstone or even a philosopher's stone. Instead, we need only set the conversations in the context of Dee's intellect and culture. When this is achieved, the conversations deliver rich, new information about natural philosophy and the sixteenth century.


Versions of this paper were presented to the History and Philosophy of Science Program Group of the University of California, Davis, and at the Shakespeare Association of America Annual Meeting in 1993. I am indebted to all those who commented on the paper, especially Nicolas Clulee, Betty Jo Teeter Dobbs, Paula Findlen, William Sherman, Barbara Traister, and Thomas Willard.

1 Dee, 1659, 102. The holograph transcripts of Dee's angel conversations are contained in a number of scattered and imperfect manuscripts at the British Library, London, and the Bodleian Library, Oxford: British Library Sloane MS 3188-3189; British Library Sloane MS 3191; British Library Cotton Appendix MS XLVI, 2 vols.; British Library Add. MS 36674; and Bodleian Library Ashmole MS 1790. Printed editions of selections from the manuscripts are available and their reliability varies. Meric Casaubon was the first to print excerpts from the angel diaries in 1659 (Dee, 1659), but the work includes only conversations dated after 1583 and is not without textual inaccuracies. The seventeenth-century collector Elias Ashmole attempted to make corrections in the Casaubon edition. His corrections exist in manuscript annotations in Bodleian Library Ashmole MS 580. The early spirit diaries, which date from 1581 to April 1583, have received much less attention. A complete edition of the earlier diaries was available only in manuscript until Christopher Whitby's careful transcript of John Dee's Actions with Spirits made them available to a wider audience (Dee, 1988).

2 The word showstone may have been unique to Dee, who uses a variety of spellings. No reference to the word appears in the Oxford English Dictionary, and I have not been able to find any earlier usage.

3 The action appears in Dee, 1988, 2:147-57. When quoting from the Whitby edition of Dee's diaries I have retained Dee's spelling, punctuation, and capitalization. Any marks of emphasis that appear are Dee's own. Caret marks indicate text that has been inserted by Dee above the line in the manuscript. Additional letters are supplied in square brackets when Dee's spelling might lead to a misreading of the text.

4 Though aspects of the angel conversations may well relate to other modes of dramatic expression in the period, such as the masque, I deliberately limit the analysis of the conversations to a comparison with other, more public, forms of theater.

5 For an brief overview of the varied forms taken by contemporary interest in the occult sciences during the period, see Shumaker, passim. The literature on Platonism and Neoplatonism in the period is rich. See, for example, Cassirer, passim, for a discussion of English Neopatonism. Connections between Neoplatonic and magical thought are complicated and often confused. See Copenhaver, 441-55, for one of the most recent and important attempts at clarification.

6 J.L. Heilbron, "Introduction," in Dee, 1978, 43.

7 Yates, 1969, 6. For a survey of attitudes toward Dee and his angel conversations, consult Barone.

8 French, 118-19.

9 Clulee, 1988, 203.

10 Dee, 1988, 2:8.

11 Leader, 1:308-10. For Ficino's influence on early modern intellectual life and his interest in Platonism, see Allen, 1984.

12 Leader, 312.

13 Dee, 1851, 5-6.

14 A number of studies examine the early modern interest in hieroglyphics, emblems, and symbolism. See, for example, Wittkower, 58-97; Singer, 49-70; Ashworth, 303-32. For a more detailed survey of relevant literature, see the essay review by Findlen, 511-18. An interpretation of the modes of symbolism employed by one of Dee's contemporaries, the natural philosopher Giordano Bruno, can be found in Yates, 1943, 101-21.

15 A detailed discussion of Dee's public persona is available in Sherman, passim.

16 See Feingold, [1984.sup.2], 73-94.

17 For more information on Cambridge as a center for mathematic and Hebrew studies during the period see Feingold, [1984.sup.1]; Jones, passim.

18 Dee, 1988, 2:8-9.

19 Ibid., 2:6.

20 Whitby, "Introduction," in Dee, 1988, 1:76. See also de Bellis, 67-114.

21 Ibid., 1:137-38.

22 McEvoy, 1979, 124-43.

23 McEvoy, 1982, 58-140.

24 See Roberts and Watson, 209-10 and 217. See also Clulee, 1984, 57- 71, which discusses Dee's use of optical theories derived from Bacon and Grosseteste.

25 An introduction to the range of interest in angels can be gathered from Agrippa, passim; Allen, 1975, 219-40; Walker, 1975, passim.

26 Cardano, 240-47.

27 See Allen, 1984, passim.

28 See Thomas, 229-30. For a more extensive history of scrying and other forms of divination related to scrying, see Besterman; and Delatte.

29 The literature on the subject of cosmology is vast. A few relevant titles are Lovejoy; Heninger; Kuntz and Kuntz.

30 British Library, MS Sloane 3188, f. 3a. Reprinted in Dee, 1988, 2:4.

31 Orgel, 16-17.

32 Dee's four known scryers were Barnabas Saul, Edward Kelly, Arthur Dee, and Bartholomew Hickman. The first mention of Barnabas Saul appears on 8 October 1581 in the private diary and on the following day Dee mentions that Saul was "strangely trubled by a spirituall creature abowt mydnight." See Dee, 1842, 13. The only extant transcript of proceedings involving Saul are from 22 December 1581, however. See Dee, 1988, 2:12-16. Bartholomew Hickman arrived at Mortlake on 22 June 1579 with his uncle Richard Hickman and a "Mr. Flowr," all recommended to Dee by Sir Christopher Hatton. This is some time before the first transcript of a scrying session involving Hickman in 1607. See Dee, 1842, 1, and Dee, 1659, *32-*44. Arthur, Dee's son, was used as a scryer only once on 15 April 1587 and was not adept at the practice. See Dee, 1659, *4. Edward Kelly's efforts dominate the existing angel diaries, and he appears to have been Dee's most influential assistant.

33 On Edward Kelly's life, the most reliable accounts are in the Dictionary of National Biography; French, 113; and Whitby's "Introduction," in Dee, 1988, 1:43-49.

34 See, for example, Dee, 1659, 23-24.

35 Carlson, 2.

36 Further information on the entertainments presented to Elizabeth I can be found in the works of Strong; Wilson; and Yates, 1985.

37 Dee, 1988, 2:144-46.

38 Dee, 1659, 41.

39 Chambers, 1923, 3:51-57.

40 Dee, 1988, 2:21.

41 Dee, 1659, 11.

42 Ibid., 112.

43 Wickham, 2:181. See also Woolf.

44 Marshall, 17-48.

45 "Jesus, Maria, iiij apostoli, iiij angeli cum tubis et iiij cum corona, lancea, et ij flagellis; iiij spiritus boni et iiij spiritus maligni, et vi diaboli." Quoted in Purvis, 373.

46 Twycross, 101-23, esp. 111.

47 Hunter, 16-47.

48 Dee, 1988, 2:26.

49 Ibid., 2:131.

50 Ibid., 2:25.

51 For the appearance of meteorological effects in sixteenth-century plays such as the Battle of Alcazar, see Chambers, 3:76. For a similar example in the spirit actions, see Dee, 1988, 2:46-47.

52 For aerial ascents and descents, see Wickham, 94; and Dee, 1659, 57.

53 See Read, 118-63, for a more detailed description of this complex process.

54 Dee, 1659, 16.

55 See, specifically, Heym, 69-75; and Klossowski de Rola.

56 See Walker, 1972, for a discussion of the impact of this idea on the intellectual life of early modern Europe.

57 Quoted in Toulmin and Goodfield, 76-77.

58 The literature on apocalypticism is vast. Works that focus specifically on the sixteenth-century interest in the end of the world include Aston, 159-87; Ball; Bauckham; Camden; Patrides.

59 Dee, 1659, 59.

60 See Sheppard, 42-46. Linden points to a similar fusion of alchemy and apocalypse in seventeenth-century religious poetry in Linden, [1984.sup.1], 102-24; and Linden, [1984.sup.2], 79-88.

61 Barnes, 176.

62 The conversation appears in Dee, 1988, 2:130-38.

63 Charbonneau-Lassay, 251-52.

64 Valentine, quoted in Reed, 202.

65 For the significance of the vegetation of metals, see Dobbs, 10; and Reed, 94-95.

66 Dee, 1988, 2:8-9.

67 Evans, 201.


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Author:Harkness, Deborah E.
Publication:Renaissance Quarterly
Date:Dec 22, 1996
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