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What were commonly held beliefs about ghosts, witches and witchcraft, other supernatural phenomena, fairies, and other mythical creatures in Shakespeare's England? How are these beliefs reflected in Shakespeare's works?
The belief in ghosts became very common. In 1572, Lewes Lavatory wrote a book called, Of Ghosts and Spirits Walking By Night. This book explains how ghosts have occurred in everyday life. For example, it explains how you may hear sudden cracks or footsteps before you die, or you might see the dead person walking. Doors and windows would open randomly and footsteps would be heard in the dead of night. Encounters from ghosts and supernatural beliefs were common. William Shakespeare is a prominent example of a person who would incorporate the supernatural world in his writings and plays. Hamlet was a great play written by Shakespeare and it really displays that supernatural things can happen in everyday life!
Many people were fearful of witches due to acquisitions towards them, regarding disease and death. "White Witches" would be separated from the "black witches"according to race and there powers would become electrified by the devil. Witches were often known as the heelers or the wise woman and were highly respected for their abilities. Access to doctors and medicine was limited and minimal, so it was up to the housewives to figure out a cure on their own. The wise women would use plants, herbs, or anything natural to create cures for the unhealthy. Since the cities were small before the renaissance period, people who practiced these medical ways were able to live in peace.
Though fairies and mystical creatures were popular at the time, they were not well regarded. A lot of people, back then, may have thought that fairies would come out at night to play jokes on you in your sleep. They believed that fairies and sprites had the ability to make you go insane, give you nightmares, or even drag you to hell. Superstition and mystical beliefs were often important to very religious people. “Serpents often represented women,” because “both female and snake bodies are cold and moist.” In conclusion, fairies and mystical creatures were considered disturbing creatures among the people of England.
Many of Shakespeare’s works are incorporated with Mystical beings. For example, in
Midsummer Nights Dream
, Robin, Titania, and Oberon are fairies in this fantastic play. This shows how people during Elizabethan times, would combine there every day lives with the supernatural world.
. New York: St. Martins Griffin, 1927. 123-146 and 271-278. Print
. Dewaware: Mitchell Lane, 1953. 53. Print.
The World Of Shakespeare
. The US Borne, 7. Print.
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