The Witch of Edmonton
  • Publication Date: December 20, 2021
  • ISBN: 9781554814169 / 1554814162
  • 162 pages; 5½" x 8½"

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The Witch of Edmonton

  • Publication Date: December 20, 2021
  • ISBN: 9781554814169 / 1554814162
  • 162 pages; 5½" x 8½"

At the center of this remarkable 1621 play is the story of Elizabeth Sawyer, the titular “Witch of Edmonton,” a woman who had in fact been executed for the crime of witchcraft mere months before the play’s first performance. Described by the authors as a tragi-comedy and drawn in part from a pamphlet account of the trial then circulating, the play not only offers a riveting account of the contemporary superstitions embodied by the figure of the witch, but also delivers an implicit critique of the society that has created her. This edition of the work offers a compelling and informative introduction, thorough annotation, and a selection of contextual materials that helps set the play in the context of the “witch-craze” of Jacobean England.


“What a pleasure to have in one’s hands a brilliant play which inquires, ‘A witch? Who is not?’ as well as excerpts of those contemporary texts and pamphlets which sought to answer Elizabeth Sawyer’s query. This edition renders accessible to all a vital piece of the Jacobean debate over witchcraft, which is itself a debate about the nature of language, performance, and reality, waged between playwrights, pamphleteers, and kings.” — Meg Pearson, University of West Georgia

“This excellent edition offers a comprehensive look at one of the most compelling plays of the Early Modern period. With its examination of intolerance, bigotry, and scapegoating in communities, The Witch of Edmonton is still a relevant text for readers today. The text of this edition is accompanied by informative and thorough footnotes that ensure the accessibility of the play to students and researchers alike. They provide essential information for understanding the period, political milieu, and culture in which the play was produced. The edition’s convenient source texts provide helpful context and encourage discussion, making the book ideal for use in the classroom for both upper and lower division literature courses. A thoughtful introduction ties it all together with important commentary on the play’s continuing relevance and the enduring effect of the witch-panics in seventeenth-century England.” — Thea Tomaini, University of Southern California

The Witch of Edmonton's three collaborating playwrights—Dekker, Ford, and Rowley—conjure Tom the Devil-Dog to conjoin their two disparate plots, either one of which, bigamist homicide or paranoid witch-burning, generates plenty of excitement for the stages of their era or our own. Generously printed and scrupulously glossed, Shelby Richardson's fine edition contextualizes this compelling Jacobean drama in the contemporary documentary record of ordinary peoples’ superstitious terrors and all-too-human sin.” — Joseph Roach, Sterling Professor of Theater and Professor of English Emeritus, Yale University

”Shelby Richardson’s excellent edition of The Witch of Edmonton reveals the play’s enduring power and provides an insightful introduction, clear and useful explanatory notes, and an abundance of well-chosen contemporary sources to contextualize the work for the modern student. This should be the go-to edition for anyone studying this great early modern tragicomedy.” — Jo Devereux, University of Western Ontario

“…[T]he work is a highly successful teaching edition, one that lays out the intricacies of early modern language and cultural references painstakingly but without unnecessary complications.” — Laura Jayne Wright, Early Theatre


The Witch of Edmonton: A Known True Story. Composed Into a Tragicomedy

In Context

  • from James I (James VI of Scotland), Demonology, In Form of a Dialogue, Divided into Three Books (1597)
  • from William Perkins, A Discourse of the Damned Art of Witchcraft; so far forth as it is revealed in the Scriptures, and manifest by true experience (1608)
  • from John Cotta, The Trial of Witchcraft, Showing the True and Right Method of the Discovery: With a Confutation of Erroneous Ways (1616)
  • Henry Goodcole, The Wonderful Discovery of Elizabeth Sawyer, a Witch, late of Edmonton, her conviction and condemnation and death. Together with the relation of the Devil’s access to her, and their conference together (1621)

Shelby Richardson is Assistant Professor of English at the University of New Orleans.