English, Department of


First Advisor

Julia Schleck

Date of this Version

Spring 4-20-2020


Kanninen, Hannah. "'You Have Witchcraft in Your Lips': Sensory Witchcraft in Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra and Macbeth." MA Thesis, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 2020.


A THESIS Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at The University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts, Major: English, Under the Supervision of Professor Julia Schleck. Lincoln, Nebraska: April, 2020.

Copyright (c) 2020 Hannah Kanninen


Scholarship on witches and witchcraft within Shakespeare’s plays has been a popular subject for many scholars. But one of Shakespeare’s most famous characters has not yet been integrated into this scholarship: Cleopatra from Antony and Cleopatra. Although scholars have often noted her “witchiness,” none have argued for an interpretation of Cleopatra as a witch. This is because traditional definitions of witchcraft have not been able to include Cleopatra. In comparison, Lady Macbeth from Macbeth has often been cited as the fourth witch in the play. But this interpretation relies upon examining Lady Macbeth’s perceived masculinity, which subsequently also makes her the most reviled in the play. Both Lady Macbeth and Cleopatra are powerful female characters who have witch-like qualities. They are seductive and intimidating and consider their own passions first and foremost. Using the tools within the domestic sphere and their own feminine wiles, the power of witchcraft allowed women to move from affairs of the household to affairs of the state. Shakespeare was clearly interested in the connection between female power and witchcraft. He was not afraid to utilize this feminine power for dramatic purposes, but also recognized its chaotic potential, thus ensuring those endowed with such power must perish or fail. In this thesis, I will explore the historical depiction of the power of witchcraft in conjunction with the senses, arguing that Cleopatra and Lady Macbeth’s manipulation of the senses can be interpreted as witchcraft. This form of witchcraft, which I will refer to as sensory witchcraft, stems from the characters’ innate feminine qualities rather than the taking on of masculine qualities.

Advisor: Julia Schleck