The Elizabethan People

By Henry Thew Stephenson | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XII
GHOSTS -- FAIRIES -- WITCHES

IN spite of the space devoted to popular super-
stition in the preceding chapter, three im-
portant classes of supernatural beings have been
scarcely more than mentioned. To the average
Elizabethan the ghost of his ancestor was a very
real thing. Any ghost, in fact, might be met at
almost any place, the time, however, usually be-
ing night. Perhaps no quality is so helpful to
the would-be intelligent critic of Shakespeare as
a genuine and vivid realisation of how important
this matter was to the folk of that day.

Ghosts possessed not only the supernatural
powers and qualities acquired by death, but also
retained certain human qualities that were pe-
culiar to them in life. Thus, when a ghost ap-
peared he looked as he had looked in life, save for
his pale and bloodless face, and, often, the ex-
pression of pain, sorrow, or remorse, dependent
upon whatever way the fates were compelling
him to work out his salvation in ghost-land. He
retained his earthly voice, and generally ap-
peared dressed as he was last seen in life, or in

-317-

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