Skip to main content
Shakespeare & Beyond

Some spellbinding October reads

Detail from Henry Howard, artist; John Thompson, engraver. Macbeth, Act IV, scene 1. Print, 19th century.

The spookiest month is upon us and with it come the staples of the season: ghosts, ghouls, monsters, and, of course, witches. Witches and magic appear again and again throughout Shakespeare’s plays, most notably in Macbeth but also scattered through histories (King Henry VI, Part 2) and comedies (Bottom’s new look in A Midsummer Night’s Dream). This is hardly surprising, as Shakespeare was writing during an intense period of witchcraft paranoia in Europe, during which an estimated 50,000 people lost their lives. Those accused were often women—many of them older—who were simply outside society in some way, and their stories deserve to be told.

Witches and witchcraft have remained at the forefront of our collective imagination, evolving from subjects of persecution and sources of fear to something that can be explored, celebrated, and even emulated. Exploring early modern witchcraft through historical fiction is one way we can better appreciate how far we’ve come.

In that spirit, we have curated a trio of contemporary novels which offer contrasting views of early modern witchcraft for you to enjoy during these autumnal nights — including our latest selection for the Folger Book Club on Thursday, October 7, Everyone Knows Your Mother Is a Witch.


[…] insights, explore our recent list of contemporary novels that include early modern witchcraft, Some spellbinding October reads, as well as last year’s Shakespeare Halloween Guide: What to watch, listen to, read—and […]

Digital Humanities and Macbeth's "Creepiest" Word - Shakespeare & Beyond — October 26, 2021