Date of Award

2018

Document Type

Open Access Thesis

Department

History

Sub-Department

College of Arts and Sciences

First Advisor

Kathryn Edwards

Abstract

This thesis argues that A Discourse of the Damned Art of Witchcraft by William Perkins, a prestigious Puritan theologian in Elizabethan England, highlights several themes in his witchcraft discourse which reflect his larger theology and more general trends in English theology: a world with an active Devil, predestination, providence, Biblicism, and anti-Catholicism. These central themes shape his understandings of where witchcraft fits within a world where God dominates everything. Witchcraft is an attempt to steal the dominion from God, even though the Devil only tricks witches into thinking they have power. He also tricks them into thinking he has power, since God grants him his ability over humanity. Perkins’ described witchcraft practices mirror this understanding and are circumvented by godly opportunities for Christians to avoid witchcraft. In thus painting witchcraft, Perkins demonstrates a culture he sees as far too permissive of magic in academic settings, popular culture, and Catholicism. The different theological elements Perkins presents in his Discourse coalesce to portray a man representing a fermenting Puritan culture which emphasizes the impurity of a larger culture and works to correct the moral failings of the larger world, spawning from a black and white understanding of good and evil.

Included in

History Commons

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