The Bewitching of Anne Gunter: A Horrible and True Story of Deception, Witchcraft, Murder and the King of England

James Sharpe, Author, J. A. Sharpe, Author Routledge $47.95 (256p) ISBN 978-0-415-92691-1
British historian Sharpe's (York Univ.) meticulously detailed reconstruction of a sensational English witchcraft case resonates with the modern era and throws a floodlight on the psychology of fear, gullibility, scapegoating, conformity and self-delusion. In 1604, 20-year-old Anne Gunter, during fits and trances in which she writhed, seemed to vomit and void such foreign objects as pins, accused three local women of bewitching her. Anne's supposed tormentors went on trial for witchcraft in 1605 (and were eventually acquitted). The trial was a dramatic affair, with Anne running through her repertoire of fits and symptoms, lying prostrate on the courtroom floor. Then Anne came under the personal scrutiny of notorious witch-hunter King James I, the king's physicians and Archbishop of Canterbury Richard Bancroft. She confessed that, under pressure from her father, gentry farmer Brian Gunter, she had faked her bewitchment to further his feud with the family of one of the accused witches, Elizabeth Gregory--a feud that began in 1598 at a football match. In 1606, father and daughter went on trial for false accusations of witchcraft before the infamous Star Chamber; regrettably, the disposition of the case is unknown. Sharpe views Anne's charade as a desperate attempt by an unloved, coerced child to gain her father's attention. His absorbing study is crammed with lore about demonic possession and the politics of exorcism, the European witch persecution craze, the bubonic plague of 1603 (which killed off one-fifth of London's population), demonological literature, Oxford (still a walled medieval city in 1600), daily life in English villages and the haphazard free-for-all of the early English criminal justice system. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 03/06/2000
Release date: 03/01/2000
Ebook - 256 pages - 978-1-136-05598-0
Ebook - 256 pages - 978-1-136-05606-2
Ebook - 256 pages - 978-1-136-05614-7
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