The evolution of the character of 'the witch' in the performing arts: to what extent can the evolution of the character of the witch be linked to the development of feminism?

Moore, Isabelle (2011) The evolution of the character of 'the witch' in the performing arts: to what extent can the evolution of the character of the witch be linked to the development of feminism? BA dissertation, University of Portsmouth.

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    Abstract

    This essay examines the evolution in the character of ‘the witch’ in the performing arts over the last four centuries, from Shakespeare’s crones to the young empowered contemporary witches popular in the cinema and on television. Sources, primary and secondary, include films, television series and plays, along with many books and articles on the history of witchcraft and of the performing arts and on feminism. The essay suggests that the historical witches of the seventeenth century were often persecuted for their attempts to achieve some form of empowerment and independence in patriarchal society, and that their representation on stage at that time echoes contemporary events. Throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth century, with the advent of enlightenment values of rational and scientific enquiry, belief in witchcraft faded, although folkloric forms remained popular in performance. The first wave of feminists made no use of witches as exemplars of oppressed women. With only a few exceptions, it is only in the post second world war period that interest re-emerged, in film and eventually on television, and on the stage. The essay will argue that this phenomenon can be linked to the emergence of second wave feminism, and to a lesser extent to the growth of the Wiccan religion. It will in particular examine Caryl Churchill’s feminist play Vinegar Tom, which uses witches to examine the constraints placed on women by patriarchal societies. It also proposes that it is the influence of the second wave that underlies contemporary iterations of the character of the witch in the Harry Potter franchise, or such long running and successful television series as Charmed or Buffy the Vampire Slayer, among others and that the influence of the third wave of feminism is yet to be seen in current or projected performances of witches.

    Item Type: Dissertation
    Departments/Research Groups: Faculty of Creative and Cultural Industries > School of Media and Performing Arts
    Depositing User: Jane Polwin
    Date Deposited: 23 Mar 2012 11:58
    Last Modified: 28 Jan 2015 11:58
    URI: http://eprints.port.ac.uk/id/eprint/7036

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