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To Sleep, Perchance to Dream
Supernatural and Divine Dreams

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Supernatural and Divine Dreams



Martyrs in both Catholic and Protestant martyrologies, including John Foxe’s Actes and Monuments, were often portrayed as having prophetic dreams. It was also believed that angels regularly visited people in their dreams, and a frequent narrative technique to give a text authenticity was to describe how the author was sleeping when visited in a dream by divine beings who encouraged the writing of their work.



John Foxe. Actes and Monuments. London, 1596.

In 1556, Agnes Potten was sentenced to be burned for heresy, a victim of the persecutions of Protestants under Mary I. John Foxe relates in his book of martyrs that, the night before her death, she had a foretelling dream in which she “saw a bright burning fyre, ryght up as a pole, and on the syde of the fire she thought there stoode a number of Q[ueen] Maries friendes looking on.”

 

Other penned prophetic dreams are less dire: In The book of the city of ladies, Christine de Pisan, who made her living as an author prior to the printing press, writes that she was inspired by a dream to build an allegorical city honoring women. In a fifteenth-century French manuscript copy of her masterpiece, on loan from The Trustees of the Boston Public Library, Christine is depicted being pulled out of bed by the three female virtues—Reason, Rectitude, and Justice—who assist her in building her city.

 

In his poetical work, The hierarchie of the blessed angels,  the playwright Thomas Heywood writes about the many properties of angels, one being their ability to enter a dream and help a good Christian find the right path in the waking life.

 

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