In pursuit of a cultural history of manhood and patriarchal power in early modern English witchcraft-possession, this article examines the case against the Samuel family in Warboys, England, from 1589 to 1593. After Robert Throckmorton’s five daughters began to act as if they were possessed, they named Alice Samuel, her husband John, and their daughter Agnes as witches. The influential published narrative of the case, entitled The Witches of Warboys (1593), reveals how patriarchal claims to legitimate authority operated through the prosecution of witches of both sexes. Compared to his wife and daughter, John Samuel was able to access power differently in the crucial settings where the drama unfolded, and he and Throckmorton found themselves locked in struggles over control of the proceedings. The Witches of Warboys case modeled a respectable family’s victory against wickedness, but at its center the implicit question of patriarchy’s vulnerability in the context of witchcraft-possession remained unresolved. This article argues that a study of early modern manhood requires mindfulness of the contingent status of men and women, and that gender played a crucial role in the attempts of suspected witches of both sexes to navigate the charges against them.


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pp. 151-175
Launched on MUSE
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