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date: 25 August 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter shows that, despite changes brought about by the Reformation, Shakespeare’s contemporaries understood the devil as a real presence in their world. It explores his roles in theology, as the source of evil; in ecclesiology, as the embodiment of the corrupt Church; in spirituality, as a genuine threat to believers; in popular culture and literature, as a sensationalist and didactic figure; and in demonology, as an aide to witches and cunning folk and an intrusive figure in demonic possessions. The reciprocal influences of these fields are stressed and used to contextualize the devil’s appearances in theatrical performances promoting the Reformation and subsequently the gradual, but belated, demonisation of the theatre. The chapter closes with some application of this analysis to the treatment of the devil in early modern drama as source of explicit temptations and psychological corruption.

Keywords: devil theology temptation spirituality demonology

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