This thesis comprises detailed readings of nine early-modern plays featuring female witches in an attempt to recover an understanding of how they were represented on the early-modern stage and what they meant to their first audiences. Drawing on twentieth-century theories of subjectivity, it offers an avenue for the explanation of moments of misogyny in the plays and identifies an unconscious communal anxiety which was revealed and perpetuated by the stage representation of the witch. Although we cannot fully recapture the experience of an audience of 400 years ago, this study attempts to do so in order to place the plays in the context of anxieties detectable in the period. By reading the plays in reference to theatrical conditions, this thesis identifies moments when the drama enlisted the subjectivity of the audience and the witch was constructed as uncanny. Such an approach contributes to the debate on the ages of actors performing certain female characters and suggests potential staging approaches for future performances.
A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.