Dr. Thomas Fleming, “The Tedious Ways of Art” (MP3 Download)


Run Time: 58 minutes

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Shakespeare’s plays are filled with allusions and frightening manifestations of Renaissance magic, from the ghost of Hamlet to the allusions to witchcraft in Richard III. Owen Glendower, the Welsh chieftain in Henry IV Part 1, references this dark tradition when he speaks of “the tedious ways of art.” The magician approaches the natural world with instruments of torture to rend from her the powers to work out his will. One immediately recognizes this attitude in Enlightenment thinkers such as Francis Bacon, who proposed to use the natural sciences to extract powers from nature. The sciences have been more successful than magic, but their ends have always been the same, as have been their obsessions. Renaissance magic and witchcraft included the production of potions, poisons, and spells to influence or kill, but another ubiquitous feature was illicit sex and the avoidance of the natural consequences. One important difference between the witch and Planned Parenthood has always been the direct invocation of demons for contraceptives and abortions. The use of the dead, especially dead children, is a universal characteristic of magical practices.

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