Shayne Confer

Defense Date


Graduation Date

Fall 2009


Immediate Access

Submission Type


Degree Name





McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts

Committee Chair

Bernard Beranek

Committee Member

Stuart Kurland

Committee Member

Laura Engel

Committee Member

Albert Labriola


Greene, Robert, Jonson, Ben, magus, Marlowe, Christopher, Munday, Anthony, occult


The enormous amount of research on the subject of early modern magic indicates clearly that magical thought occupied a significant place in contemporary mental patterns. Its existence was widespread enough to cause popular prejudice against its most esoteric forms combined with tacit acceptance of "folk" magic, the kind employed by local men and women for the benefit of their neighbors. The early playwrights who dramatized the magus were thus fairly constricted in how the magus could appear without unduly scandalizing the popular audience. Robert Greene, Anthony Munday, and Christopher Marlowe all drew upon characters from popular chapbook romances and dramatized them in accordance with audience expectations, demonizing them when their aims became selfish or esoteric and applauding them when the magic was used to benefit the community. These plays achieved great success and spawned a host of imitations. This essentially created a sub-genre of the "magus play" that established a self-perpetuating theatrical tradition formed largely by audience prejudice. As this prejudice began to wane (for reasons still only partially understood), later dramatists such as Shakespeare and Jonson found themselves in possession of an increasingly stale tradition that had become shackled to a public morality no longer in existence. They were then capable of utilizing the outer shell of the tradition to take the magus play in shocking new directions, alternately adapting and utilizing its generic conventions to create a new theatrical experience for what had by then become a largely upscale audience. The magus is perhaps the best figure to explain how the taste and prejudice of the popular audiences of the 1580s and 1590s influenced the development of the later Jacobean private theater.