What was the role of prophecy/curses in Elizabethan life? We're they believed? Why?

aszerdi | Student

Both the essays at the links below concur that Elizabethan society was full of highly superstitious individuals, and that these beliefs contributed to the appeal and success of Shakespeare's plays.

"With this execution the Londoners could heartily sympathize, for they were superstitious to a degree incomprehensible at the present day. None was so ready as Sir Walter Scott himself to acknowledge that the fatal flaw in The Monastery was the demand put upon the credulity of an incredulous people by the introduction of the White Lady of Ayenal. Nothing so well illustrates this difference between the time of Shakespeare and our own as a comparison of the failure of The Monastery and of the success of Hamlet. A serious tragedy based upon a trivial motive is likely to degenerate into out and out farce. Had the audience of Shakespeare believed as we do in regard to superstition, both Hamlet and Macbeth would have probably missed the public approbation."

King James, who was Elizabeth's successor, was also fascinated with witchcraft and the study of the supernatural. Shakespeare, in plays such as Macbeth, included supernatural characters and sorcery to pay a kind of respect to James in the Jacobean era.