On August 17, 2012, as part of the Capturing Witches: Histories, Stories, Images 400 Years After the Lancashire Witches conference held at Lancaster University, a semi-staged reading of Heywood and Brome's The Late Lancashire Witches was performed at Lancaster Castle; the first time a witch trial had been enacted at the castle since 1634, when the witches who are dramatized in the play were tried. When a Lancaster judge disagreed with the verdict against the women in 1634 they were sent to London for retrial by the Privy Council, articulating the tension between London and Lancaster, urban and rural societies, and local and centralized justice, with which the play is concerned. This article considers the dimensions of the play that were revealed through directing this practice-based research project. It focuses on female speech-acts and embodiment in the witch drama, the depiction of official and unofficial justice in the play, as well as its representation of community. It also reflects on some of the difficulties that arise from conducting research-through-practice in historic sites, as well as the benefits: for instance, how the spaces in the castle—a working court since the seventeenth century—interacted with the play and furthered an understanding of its preoccupations. It concludes with an analysis of the impact of economic changes on social constructions of neighborliness during the period, suggesting that traditional notions of hospitality and festivity were waning during the early seventeenth century, and that the activities of the witches in the play partly hark back to a time of integrated communality before the intervention of a new fiscal era.

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