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Shakespearean MaternitiesCrises of Conception in Early Modern England$
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Chris Laoutaris

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780748624362

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: September 2012

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748624362.001.0001

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Strange Labours: Maternity and Maleficium in the Theatre of Justice

Strange Labours: Maternity and Maleficium in the Theatre of Justice

(p.154) Chapter 3 Strange Labours: Maternity and Maleficium in the Theatre of Justice
Shakespearean Maternities

Chris Laoutaris

Edinburgh University Press

This chapter concentrates on the material artefacts of witchcraft and superstition. It specifically addresses the archaeological evidence and what it tells about those anxieties which surrounded domestic nurture and fertility in the early modern family. It then describes the reading of the materials of magic, and their function as the ritualised conduits of malevolent agents, in Shakespeare's Macbeth. Vital spirits liaised the biological connection between mother and child. The paraphernalia of witchcraft virtually diffuses every scene of Shakespeare's Macbeth. The prerequisite for Macbeth's usurpation of power becomes the fulfilment of the impossible fantasy of escape from the pernicious influence of the maternal body. The centrality of the female reproductive anatomy as the locus of legal truth, which found its way into the court room through the materials of maleficium, was to prove the catalyst for the eventual dissolution of the intellectual machinery.

Keywords:   witchcraft, superstition, Shakespeare, Macbeth, maleficium, fertility, maternal body

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