Magic through ritual objects and stage props: Early Modern practices and Modern adaptations


Pierre Kapitaniak (University of Montpellier)

Natalia Brzozowska (Kujawy and Pomorze University in Bydgoszcz)


Even the most sceptical theory of magic – confining all supernatural practices to the realm of imagination, delusion, and fraud – still has to account for the physical traces of magical activities from the past, such as the buried witch bottles that archaeologists still unearth in England or the United States. The panel will analyse Shakespeare’s and other contemporary playwrights’ plays and their use of such props in scenes of magical incantations, and other supernatural events. One way of approaching the subject could be the correspondence of stage props with magic folklore as found in contemporary pamphlets and treatises, confronting beliefs and representation. Another angle could be that of materiality of the stage practices using for instance Henslowe’s papers and studying the popularity and evolution of magical special effects and props on early modern London stages, but also during the Restoration period. An additional perspective could be to examine how such props and the beliefs associated with them are negotiated in modern adaptations of those plays in theatres and on screen. A sample of the range of various props may include wax images (The Witch), cauldrons (Macbeth, The Witch), a talking head (Friar Bungay), a wizard’s robes (Tempest), “a cloak to go invisible” (Henslowe’s diaries), ointments, philters, potions and various ingredients composing the witches’ brew as well as books and grimoires, and many others.


Please send 250-word abstracts and biographies to and before 31 March 2017.