irregular rough and lurching prosody verse movement is not however the result

Irregular rough and lurching prosody verse movement

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irregular, rough, and lurching prosody (verse movement) isnot, however, the result of a text faultily transmitted butintegral to the nature of a text that embodies (like Macbethhimself) deeply unnatural speech and behavior. Betrayal ofearthly and heavenly kings, and of many earthly dwellers, be-comes in this play a kind of infection of language itself. Attimes, indeed, it almost seems as if Shakespeare is so at onewith his sub- ject that he finds it hard to say virtually anythingof importance in straight, unequivocal terms. Equivocation—which was then seen, in England, as the brand and trademarkof evil and threaten- ing Jesuitical language—can thus appearto us, in the early twenty-first century, every bit as bedevilingas the words of equivocators seemed to the men and women ofthe early seven- teenth century.We are not as shocked (or asbetrayed) as England then felt itself. But we can often beconsiderably confused.Let me begin, as Shakespeare does in Macbeth, withwitches and witchcraft. A witch, in KeithThomas’s usefuldefinition,“was a person of either sex (but more often female)who could myste- riously injure other people.”1 There are twoxxi
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basic components, here: (1) the supernatural (“mysterious,unnatural”) nature ofxxii
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what witches do, and (2) the doing of harm. Maleficium,meaning “mischief, evil,” may not have been what all witches,without ex- ception, were intending to accomplish. Yet the“white,” or “good,” witch can more usefully be termed a magicworker of a wholly dierent ffsort—a sorcerer or perhaps amagician. The great majority of witches clearly intended to doharm, whether they in fact succeeded or did not. A massiveand widely relied upon compilation of witch lore, MalleusMaleficarum (The ham- mer of witches), published inGermany in 1486, indicates by its very title how basic aningredient of witchery maleficium was con- sidered to be.Often reprinted, the book was meant and did in- deed serve asa major handbook for later witch hunters. In En- gland, in1689, the licensing of midwives still required an oath “thatyou shall not in any wise use or exercise any manner ofwitchcraft, charm or sorcery.”2Those who believed in the power of witchery of coursefeared it; its ability to make the supernatural world impinge onthe nat- ural one created, in their minds, immensely practicaland often terrible dangers. The groundwork for witchery, inthat world- view, has been vividly evoked by Thomas:“Insteadof being re- garded as an inanimate mass, the Earth itself wasdeemed to be alive. The universe was peopled by a hierarchyof spirits, and thought to manifest all kinds of occultinfluences and sympathies. The cosmos was an organic unityin which every part bore a sym- pathetic relationship to therest. Even colours, letters and num- bers were endowed withmagical properties. In this generalintellectual climate it was easy for many magical activities togain a plausibility which they no longer possess today.”3 Thebeliefs and operational procedures of religion often operate
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according to this same view of the world. The essentialdi erence,ffplainly, is
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