Strange Labours: Maternity and <i>Maleficium</i> in the Theatre of Justice

Chris Laoutaris

in Shakespearean Maternities

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print June 2008 | ISBN: 9780748624362
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748671687 | DOI:
Strange Labours: Maternity and Maleficium in the Theatre of Justice

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This chapter concentrates on the material artefacts of witchcraft and superstition. It specifically addresses the archaeological evidence and what it tells about those anxieties which surrounded domestic nurture and fertility in the early modern family. It then describes the reading of the materials of magic, and their function as the ritualised conduits of malevolent agents, in Shakespeare's Macbeth. Vital spirits liaised the biological connection between mother and child. The paraphernalia of witchcraft virtually diffuses every scene of Shakespeare's Macbeth. The prerequisite for Macbeth's usurpation of power becomes the fulfilment of the impossible fantasy of escape from the pernicious influence of the maternal body. The centrality of the female reproductive anatomy as the locus of legal truth, which found its way into the court room through the materials of maleficium, was to prove the catalyst for the eventual dissolution of the intellectual machinery.

Keywords: witchcraft; superstition; Shakespeare; Macbeth; maleficium; fertility; maternal body

Chapter.  22586 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Shakespeare Studies and Criticism

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