A Detection of that Sinful Shameful Lying and Ridiculous Discourse of Samuel Harsnett

Shakespeare’s Library –  Witchcraft

#17 John Darrel, A Detection of that Sinful Shameful Lying and Ridiculous Discourse of Samuel Harsnett (1600)

The most spectacular and successful exorcist in the period was John Darrel, whose notoriety derived from a series of events in 1597-1598. After claiming to exorcize seven demons in a single Lancashire household, he sought to publicize his apparent achievement in print. His fame led to a protracted encounter with William Somers, who later confessed to fraudulently pretending to be possessed. Darrel nevertheless claimed success, but was pursued by the ecclesiastical authorities. His True Narration was an attempt to vindicate himself, while his Detection was likewise aimed at denigrating the credibility of Samuel Harsnett (see item 13) who had exposed his tactics. The imprint of both books states only that they were printed in the year 1600, with no further information; they seem to have been produced by a secret press to avoid detection. Darrel was subsequently imprisoned and convicted of fraud, thereby ending his career. His exploits reveal a popular and profound fascination with the extravagant performances associated with witchcraft.

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