Shakespeare's Witch

Pages of Darkness - Book One

Fiction - Historical - Event/Era
314 Pages
Reviewed on 03/03/2019
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Emily-Jane Hills Orford for Readers' Favorite

The three witches cast an eerie aura on the story of Macbeth, the story as told in Shakespeare’s play. Written and first performed in 1606, the tragedy dramatizes the physical and psychological effects caused by greed and ambition (particularly political ambition). As with all Shakespeare’s plays, there was a parallel relevance to the playwright’s era. The Jacobean era was rife with fear of the powers of darkness. Anyone, male or female, accused of witchcraft was instantly executed. It is into this world, the world of theatre, of Shakespeare, and the threatening dark powers of witches that Samantha Grosser leads the reader in her novel, Shakespeare’s Witch: Pages of Darkness – Book One. The story, the plot, like Shakespeare’s play, is an allusion loaded with dramatic irony. Sarah Stone has dreams, and she can read people’s dreams through the use of a shewstone. She is beckoned to interpret Shakespeare’s dreams and what she sees frightens her because it foretells the fate of herself and those she holds dearest. She begs Shakespeare to cancel the opening of his new play, Macbeth. She claims the witches cast an evil glow on the production and the cast. He refuses and the rehearsals commence.

As the actors (all male, because women were not allowed on stage in the Jacobean era) work through their assigned roles, one of the actors portraying the part of one of the witches becomes unhinged and starts accusing Sarah and her brother, Tom, of being witches. As the darkness of evil threatens those who prepare for opening night, the plot thickens and the witches’ paradox, in both Shakespeare’s play and the story of his actors preparing to perform it, reverberates through the darkness that threatens to tighten its web of deceit. So, who is Shakespeare’s witch? Sarah? Her brother Tom? Or the three witches in the play itself? Everything is not as it would, or should, appear.

The author has woven her plot around the initial production of Shakespeare's Macbeth. The two stories run parallel, both beginning and ending with the witches. The characters, many of whom are the actors in the play of Macbeth, are realistic and are well developed. The seventeenth-century setting is very well described, from the clothing (both on and off stage) to the community beyond the theatre itself. The reader gets a good view of what it would be like living in Shakespeare's England, from the Puritan beliefs that stifle and frighten the population to the living conditions and strict code of conduct that dictates who can do what and how things can be done. As the plot thickens and the darkness moves in, both the play and its actors fall victim to its evil enchantment. This is a complex tale set in the latter years of the great bard. A refreshing look at the life and times of Shakespeare, and the creation and production of one of his greatest plays, Macbeth.