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To Sleep, Perchance to Dream
James I

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James I

James I was fascinated by strange phenomena and supernatural events. He wrote a treatise on witchcraft, but later became more interested in exposing fraudulent supernatural events, such as the sermons of Richard Haydock, “the sleeping preacher.” James I’s writings on dreams reveal a deep skepticism of their significance. In 1622, however, he felt quite differently when he had a dream that foretold his own death.

James I, king of England. Daemonologie, in forme of a dialogue. Edinburgh, 1597.

King James’s treatise on witchcraft, Daemonologie, includes a section on nightmares. Although he strongly believed in the power and danger of witches, he was far more skeptical about dreams. In this treatise, James claims that nightmares result from natural causes rather than from demons, or succubi.


King James also wrote the Basilikon Doron as an educational guide for his son Henry, Prince of Wales. In a section on sleep, he advises Henry to “take no heede to any of your dreames,” because prophecies and visions no longer occur. They ceased with the coming of Christ.


Arthur Wilson's The history of Great Britain includes the story of James I and Richard Haydock, the “Sleeping Preacher,” as the prime example of  “brutish imposters” exposed by the king’s reason. Wilson also shared James’ belief that dreams are not supernatural, stating in the preface that he is “not like one in a Dream, who starts at the horror of the Object which his own imagination creates.”



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