An Essay in Illustration of the Belief in the Existence of Devils,
and the Powers Possessed By Them, as It Was Generally Held during the
Period of the Reformation, and the Times Immediately Succeeding; with
Special Reference to Shakspere and His Works
THOMAS ALFRED SPALDING, LL.B. (LOND.)
Barrister-at-Law, Honorary Treasurer of The New Shakspere Society
PRESIDENT OF THE
NEW SHAKSPERE SOCIETY,
THIS VOLUME IS DEDICATED.
PART I. - ELIZABETHAN DEMONOLOGY.
1. Difficulty in understanding our elder writers without a knowledge
of their language and ideas. 2. Especially in the case of dramatic
poets. 3. Examples. Hamlet's “assume a virtue.” 4. Changes in ideas and
law relating to marriage. Massinger's “Maid of Honour” as an example.
5. Sponsalia de futuro and Sponsalia de praesenti.
Shakspere's marriage. 6. Student's duty is to get to know the opinions
and feelings of the folk amongst whom his author lived. 7. It will be
hard work, but a gain in the end. First, in preventing conceit. 8.
Secondly, in preventing rambling reading. 9. Author's present object to
illustrate the dead belief in Demonology, especially as far as it
concerns Shakspere. He thinks that this may perhaps bring us into
closer contact with Shakspere's soul. 10. Some one objects that
Shakspere can speak better for himself. Yes, but we must be sure that
we understand the media through which he speaks. 11. Division of
PART II. - ELIZABETHAN DEMONOLOGY.
12. Reasons why the empire of the supernatural is so extended
amongst savages. 13. All important affairs of life transacted under
superintendence of Supreme Powers. 14. What are these Powers? Three
principles regarding them. 15. (I.) Incapacity of mankind to accept
monotheism. The Jews. 16. Roman Catholicism really polytheistic,
although believers won't admit it. Virgin Mary. Saints. Angels.
Protestantism in the same condition in a less degree. 17. Francis of
Assisi. Gradually made into a god. 18. (II.) Manichaeism. Evil spirits
as inevitable as good. 19. (III.) Tendency to treat the gods of hostile
religions as devils. 20. In the Greek theology. [Greek: daimones].
Platonism. 21. Neo-Platonism. Makes the elder gods into daemons. 22.
Judaism. Recognizes foreign gods at first. Elohim, but they get
degraded in time. Beelzebub, Belial, etc. 23. Early Christians treat
gods of Greece in the same way. St. Paul's view. 24. The Church,
however, did not stick to its colours in this respect. Honesty not the
best policy. A policy of compromise. 25. The oracles. Sosthenion and
St. Michael. Delphi. St. Gregory's saintliness and magnanimity.
Confusion of pagan gods and Christian saints. 26. Church in North
Europe. Thonar, etc., are devils, but Balda gets identified with
Christ. 27. Conversion of Britons. Their gods get turned into fairies
rather than devils. Deuce. Old Nick. 28. Subsequent evolution of
belief. Carlyle's Abbot Sampson. Religious formulae of witchcraft. 29.
The Reformers and Catholics revive the old accusations. The Reformers
only go half-way in scepticism. Calfhill and Martiall. 30. Catholics.
Siege of Alkmaar. Unfortunate mistake of a Spanish prisoner. 31.
Conditions that tended to vivify the belief during Elizabethan era. 32.
The new freedom. Want of rules of evidence. Arthur Hacket and his
madnesses. Sneezing. Cock-crowing. Jackdaw in the House of Commons.
Russell and Drake both mistaken for devils. 33. Credulousness of
people. “To make one danse naked.” A parson's proof of
transubstantiation. 34. But the Elizabethans had strong common sense
nevertheless. People do wrong if they set them down as fools. If we had
not learned to be wiser than they, we should have to be ashamed of
ourselves. We shall learn nothing from them if we don't try to
PART III. - ELIZABETHAN DEMONOLOGY.
35. The three heads. 36. (I.) Classification of devils. Greater and
lesser devils. Good and bad angels. 37. Another classification, not
popular. 38. Names of greater devils. Horribly uncouth. The number of
them. Shakspere's devils. 39. (II.) Form of devils of the greater. 40.
Of the lesser. The horns, goggle eyes, and tail. Scot's
carnal-mindedness. He gets his book burnt, and written against by James
I. 41. Spenser's idol-devil. 42. Dramatists' satire of popular opinion.
43. Favourite form for appearing in when conjured. Devils in Macbeth.
44. Powers of devils. 45. Catholic belief in devil's power to create
bodies. 46. Reformers deny this, but admit that he deceives people into
believing that he can do so, either by getting hold of a dead body, and
restoring animation. 47. Or by means of illusion. 48. The common people
stuck to the Catholic doctrine. Devils appear in likeness of an
ordinary human being. 49. Even a living one, which was sometimes
awkward. “The Troublesome Raigne of King John.” They like to appear as
priests or parsons. The devil quoting Scripture. 50. Other human
shapes. 51. Animals. Ariel. 52. Puck. 53. “The Witch of Edmonton.” The
devil on the stage. Flies. Urban Grandier. Sir M. Hale. 54. Devils as
angels. As Christ. 55. As dead friend. Reformers denied the possibility
of ghosts, and said the appearances so called were devils. James I. and
his opinion. 56. The common people believed in the ghosts. Bishop
Pilkington's troubles. 57. The two theories. Illustrated in “Julius
Caesar,” “Macbeth.” 58. And “Hamlet.” 59. This explains an apparent
inconsistency in “Hamlet.” 60. Possession and obsession. Again the
Catholics and Protestants differ. 61. But the common people believe in
possession. 62. Ignorance on the subject of mental disease. The
exorcists. 63. John Cotta on possession. What the “learned physicion"
knew. 64. What was manifest to the vulgar view. Will Sommers. “The
Devil is an Ass.” 65. Harsnet's “Declaration,” and “King Lear.” 66. The
Babington conspiracy. 67. Weston, alias Edmonds. His exorcisms. Mainy.
The basis of Harsnet's statements. 69. The devils in “Lear.” 70. Edgar
and Mainy. Mainy's loose morals. 71. The devils tempt with knives and
halters. 72. Mainy's seven devils: Pride, Covetousness, Luxury, Envy,
Wrath, Gluttony, Sloth. The Nightingale business.
PART IV. - ELIZABETHAN DEMONOLOGY.
73. Treatment of the
possessed: confinement, flagellation. 74. Dr Pinch. Nicknames. 75.
Other methods. That of “Elias and Pawle”. The holy chair, sack and oil,
brimstone. 76. Firing out. 77. Bodily diseases the work of the devil.
Bishop Hooper on hygiene. 78. But devils couldn't kill people unless
they renounced God. 79. Witchcraft. 80. People now-a-days can't
sympathize with the witch persecutors, because they don't believe in
the devil. Satan is a mere theory now. 81. But they believed in him
once, and therefore killed people that were suspected of having to do
with him. 82. And we don't sympathize with the persecuted witches,
although we make a great fuss about the sufferings of the Reformers.
83. The witches in Macbeth. Some take them to be Norns. 84. Gervinus.
His opinion. 85. Mr. F.G. Fleay. His opinion. 86. Evidence. Simon
Forman's note. 87. Holinshed's account. 88. Criticism. 89. It is said
that the appearance and powers of the sisters are not those of witches.
90. It is going to be shown that they are. 91. A third piece of
criticism. 92. Objections. 93. Contemporary descriptions of witches.
Scot, Harsnet. Witches' beards. 94. Have Norns chappy fingers, skinny
lips, and beards? 95. Powers of witches “looking into the seeds of
time.” Bessie Roy, how she looked into them. 96. Meaning of first scene
of “Macbeth.” 97. Witches power to vanish. Ointments for the purpose.
Scot's instance of their efficacy. 98. “Weird sisters.” 99. Other
evidence. 100. Why Shakspere chose witches. Command over elements. 101.
Peculiar to Scotch trials of 1590-91. 102. Earlier case of Bessie
Dunlop—a poor, starved, half daft creature. “Thom Reid,” and how he
tempted her. Her canny Scotch prudence. Poor Bessie gets burnt for all
that. 103. Reason for peculiarity of trials of 1590. James II. comes
from Denmark to Scotland. The witches raise a storm at the instigation
of the devil. How the trials were conducted. 104. John Fian. Raising a
mist. Toad-omen. Ship sinking. 105. Sieve-sailing. Excitement south of
the Border. The “Daemonologie.” Statute of James against witchcraft.
106. The origin of the incubus and succubus. 107. Mooncalves. 108.
Division of opinion amongst Reformers regarding devils. Giordano Bruno.
Bullinger's opinion about Sadducees and Epicures. 109. Emancipation a
gradual process. Exorcism in Edward VI.'s Prayer-book. 110. The author
hopes he has been reverent in his treatment of the subject. Any sincere
belief entitled to respect. Our pet beliefs may some day appear as dead
and ridiculous as these.
PART V. - ELIZABETHAN DEMONOLOGY.
111. Fairies and devils differ in degree, not in origin. 112.
Evidence. 113. Cause of difference. Folk, until disturbed by religious
doubt, don't believe in devils, but fairies. 114. Reformation shook
people up, and made them think of hell and devils. 115. The change came
in the towns before the country. Fairies held on a long time in the
country. 116. Shakspere was early impressed with fairy lore. In middle
life, came in contact with town thought and devils, and at the end of
it returned to Stratford and fairydom. 117. This is reflected in his
works. 118. But there is progression of thought to be observed in these
stages. 119. Shakspere indirectly tells us his thoughts, if we will
take the trouble to learn them. 120. Three stages of thought that men
go through on religious matters. Hereditary belief. Scepticism.
Reasoned belief. 121. Shakspere went through all this. 122.
Illustrations. Hereditary belief. “A Midsummer Night's Dream.” Fairies
chiefly an adaptation of current tradition. 123. The dawn of doubt.
124. Scepticism. Evil spirits dominant. No guiding good. 125.
Corresponding lapse of faith in other matters. Woman's purity. 126.
Man's honour. 127. Mr. Ruskin's view of Shakspere's message. 128.
Founded chiefly on plays of sceptical period. Message of third period
entirely different. 129. Reasoned belief. “The Tempest.” 130. Man can
master evil of all forms if he go about it in the right way—is not the
toy of fate. 131. Prospero a type of Shakspere in this final stage of
thought. How pleasant to think this!