The Witch of Edmonton


Red Bull Theatre

@Theatre at St. Clement’S


January-February 2011

So in 1621, the small village of Edmonton, about 10 miles north of London, put a woman named Elizabeth Sawyer to death for witchcraft. It was a sensational case, and a couple of weeks later, the play The Witch of Edmonton, hastily put together by Thomas Dekker, John Ford, and William Rowley (and “etc.,” as the byline on the manuscript reads), was completed in London.

As the frontispiece of the play read,

“The whole Argument is this Distich:

Forced Marriage, Murder; Blood requires.

Reproach, Revenge; Revenge, Hell’s help desires.”

That kind of sums it up, but it’s much more than that.

The play had three plots going on -- each the product of each playwright’s forte, with William Rowley penning the clowny part. Rowley also apparently played Cuddy Banks in the production that December of 1621.

Fun facts!

From 1645-7, if you asked Matthew Hopkins, son of a popular clergyman, what his profession was, the answer would be “Witch-Finder General.”

This occupation and epithet was not sanctioned by Parliament, but a somewhat self-appointed title. Hopkins went around on literal witch-hunts, finding and “exposing” supposed witches using phyiscal torture -- sleep deprivation, arm-cutting, attempted drownings, and the like -- to force confessions.

The 1960s English movie Witchfinder General (retitled The Conqueror Worm in America) was very loosely based on Hopkins’s three-year career, and has a large cult following.


Director: Jesse Berger

Playwright: Thomas Dekker, John Ford, & William Rowley, etc.

Set Design: Anka Lupes

Costume Design: Cait O’Connor

Lighting Design: Peter West

Sound Design: Elizabeth Rhodes

Composer: Daniel Levy

Movement: Tracy Bersley

Stage Manager: Damon Arrington

With: Craig Baldwin, Justin Blanchard, Christopher Innvar, Christopher McCann, Carman Lacivita, Christina Pumariega, Amanda Quaid, Everett Quinton, Andre de Shields, Miriam Silverman, Derek Smith, Raphael Nash Thompson, Sam Tsoutsouvas, and Charlayne Woodard.

The Devil-Dog and Cuddy play around on the mulch.

The Devil begs Cuddy

for his blood and fealty.

Plot 1 concerns a young servant who secretly marries a serving girl, and is then forced to marry the daughter of a yeoman as well. He’s touched by the Devil and kills his second wife. Bigamy! Murder!

Plot 2 concerns an old hag who’s been ostracized by the community and blamed as a witch for the village’s poor crops and misfortune. She makes a deal with the Devil (who appears in the form of a Dog) -- her soul for his loyalty and vengeance. Devil pacts!

Plot 3 concerns a foolish young man who asks the Witch’s help in love; she sics the Devil-Dog on him, and the Devil and this foolish,  uh, me, start hanging out. And it’s this young man who ultimately rebukes the Devil.

The Witch and Cuddy make a deal, of sorts.