Series of sporadic civil wars among contending factions of the English royal family and their aristocratic supporters (1455-1485). The underlying causes of the wars were the unresolved questions of the extent of the king’s personal authority, the transformation of the higher nobility into military adventurers and subcontractors during the Hundred Years’ War, and the inability of the crown’s traditional sources of revenue to meet the financial needs of government. More immediately responsible, however, was the periodic insanity of King Henry VI, which made it impossible to establish firm royal control over the agencies of government and produced bitter rivalries among factions of the high nobility who had become financially dependent on their ability to control royal patronage and revenues. The ruling Lancastrian dynasty had usurped the throne by force in 1399, and the king’s illness motivated Richard, duke of York, to rebel aganst his own exclusion from the council of regency set up to run the government during the king’s incapacity. A further cause of civil war was recriminations over the defeat of the English in the final campaign of the Hundred Years’ War.

The internal struggle led to the death of Duke Richard of York in battle, the dethronement of Henry VI by Richard’s son Edward, duke of York, in 1461, a brief restoration of Henry VI by the Lancastrian faction in 1470, and a resurgence of Yorkist power with the aid of the duke of Burgundy in 1471. Once restored to power, the Yorkist king, Edward IV, managed to impose a measure of internal order, but his early death, leaving two minor sons in charge of his brother, Richard, duke of Gloucester, ended in the usurpation of the throne by Gloucester (who ruled as Richard III from 1483 to 1485), and he in turn was defeated and killed in battle by a distant relative of the Lancastrian kings, Henry Tudor, who took the throne as Henry VII. The new Tudor dynasty ruled England until the death of its last direct member, Elizabeth I, in 1603.

The term "Wars of the Roses" is something of a misnomer. According to tradition, the white rose had been the symbol of the house of York and the red rose, of the house of Lancaster, but the term was applied only later, no doubt as part of the successful propaganda of Henry VII, who married the daughter of the Yorkist king Edward IV, to present his victory as a permanent solution of the dynastic problems that had led to civil war. Traditional historiography associates the beginning of the English Renaissance with the new Tudor dynasty and records the Wars of the Roses as the last act in English medieval history, but this is largely a product of Tudor propaganda: the wars occurred during a period when Renaissance art and humanistic culture were reaching their peak in Italy and when influences from Italy were already beginning to attract educated persons in both England and France.


(ca. 1578-ca. 1625). English dramatist, best known as the author of two violent and melodramatic revenge tragedies, and the probable author of several others. He was the son of a prosperous London coachmaker and merchant tailor, was apprenticed to his father’s trade, and was admitted to the Merchant Taylors’ Company in 1603. But at least a year earlier, he seems to have been already involved in the theatrical world, perhaps as an actor and probably as a collaborator with other dramatists. Two of the three plays generally ascribed to him are now regarded as works of highest quality, The White Devil (1612) and The Duchess of Malfi (1614). A third play, the tragicomedy The Devil’s Law Case (ca. 1617-1619), is also highly regarded. The attribution of another tragedy, Appius and Virginia (ca. 1608), is debated; it may have been written in collaboration with John Heywood. Several comedies have also been ascribed either to Webster or to him and other collaborators, including Northward Ho and Westward Ho (ca. 1605-1606, both probably collaborations with Thomas Dekker), Any Thing for a Quiet Life (ca. 1621, perhaps with Thomas Middleton), and A Cure for a Cuckold (ca. 1624, ascribed to him and William Rowley).


Family of printers active in Paris, Frankfurt-am-Main, and Hanau, 1526-1627. Christian Wechel, born near Antwerp, became a Paris bookseller about 1518 and acquired a printing shop in 1526. In 1550 his will transferred the Paris firm to a nephew, Andreas Wechel, and other properties in Cologne to another nephew, Simeon Wechel. Andreas fled from Paris after the St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre of Huguenots in 1572 and re-established his business successfully at Frankfurt. When he died in 1581, two sons-in-law, Claude de Marne and Jean Aubry, also Protestant refugees, took charge of his press. At the same time, Johann Wechel, whose relation to the others is not clear, moved from Cologne and began printing in Frankfurt. Because Frankfurt was becoming strongly Lutheran and hostile to Calvinism, Jean Aubry moved his firm to Hanau, where Calvinism was predominant. In 1613 Clemens Schleich, Marne’s son-in-law, reunited the two German branches, but the business did not prosper during the

Thirty Years’ War, and by 1627 it had become a merely local operation. For most of its existence, the Wechel family was linked to Calvinistic Protestantism and also to Renaissance humanism. Chrétien printed Book Three of François Rabelais’ Pantagruel and many editions of Erasmus’ works. Andreas at Paris was the main printer used by the French Calvinist philosopher Peter Ramus. But once it settled in Germany, the firm was distinguished mainly by publication of neo-Latin literature, classical philology, and works by Ramus and his followers. In the 1590s the family also produced many editions of a Neoplatonic or Hermetic sort, including books by Giordano Bruno, John Dee, and Giambattista della Porta.


(ca. 1490-1562). Flemish composer. He was trained by Jean Mouton in Paris but spent most of his career in Italy. By 1515 he was in the service of Cardinal Hippolito d’Este at Rome and travelled to Ferrara in the cardinal’s household. After the cardinal’s death in 1520, he entered the service of Duke Alfonso I d’Este at Ferrara, and in 1527 he became maestro di cappella at St. Mark’s in Venice, one of the principal musical appointments in Italy. Willaert made visits home to Flanders in 1542 and 1556-1557 but spent the rest of his career at St. Mark’s. He trained many leading musicians of the next generation, including Cipriano de Rore, Andrea Gabrieli, and Gioseffe Zarlino. Most of his work was in the form of motets for church use, though he also was an early composer of madrigals, a secular genre in which he followed the tradition of the Venetian humanist Pietro Bembo, who in turn was responsible for the revival of Petrarchan influence in Italian poetry. More than most Franco-Flemish composers of his time, Willaert was strongly influenced by humanism and by native Italian musical practices. He paid great attention to the stress of Latin pronunciation, took care never to permit a rest to interrupt a word or thought, and insisted that printers of music place each syllable of a word directly under the matching musical note. His major publication was a collection of motets and madrigals, Musica nova (1559).


(ca. 1525-1581). English humanist and royal official. Born in rural Lincolnshire, he studied as a King’s Scholar at Eton College (1537-1542), where he was a pupil of Nicholas Udall, and then moved to King’s College, Cambridge (B.A. 1547, M.A. 1549). At Cambridge he was associated with the group of humanists known as "Athenians" for their support of the Erasmian method of pronouncing Greek, an issue that gave rise to sharp controversy with the traditionalist chancellor of the university, Bishop Stephen Gardiner. While teaching at Cambridge after completion of his degrees, Wilson was tutor to two sons of the Duchess of Suffolk, who was a patron of the regius professor of divinity, the noted German Protestant theologian Martin Bucer. With the death of King Edward VI and the accession of Queen Mary I, who was determined to restore Catholicism in England, Wilson decided to leave the country, not only for fear of persecution but also because several of his patrons had been executed for attempting to prevent Mary’s succession to the throne. He went to Padua, where he joined his fellow exile John Cheke in perfecting his Greek and also began the study of civil law; he took a doctorate in law at Ferrara in 1560. While working as a legal advocate in Rome, he was arrested by the Roman Inquisition on charges that his books on logic and rhetoric contained heretical doctrine. He survived only because in 1559 a Roman mob stormed the inquisitorial prison and set all prisoners free.

Since the Protestant Elizabeth I was now ruling England, Wilson returned home in 1560. Having found the career of humanist scholar insecure and financially unrewarding, he now pursued a career at court. He began with a number of administrative and judicial appointments and because of his legal training and his residence abroad was also sent on embassies to Portugal and the Netherlands. Beginning in 1563, he was elected to every Parliament that sat during the rest of his life. About 1577 he shared with Sir Francis Walsingham appointment as principal secretary of the Privy Council. Despite his explicit renunciation of a scholarly career after his return from Italy, he continued to write and study the classics. During his time at Cambridge, his closest associates had become convinced of the need for learned books in the English language, and most of Wilson’s published books contributed to that cause. His Rule of Reason (1552) is an early example of a logic textbook written in English. His best known and most influential work, The Art of Rhetoric (1553), shows little originality but presents a useful introduction to rhetoric based on ancient authors such as Aristotle, Cicero, and Quintilian. His later publications include a Discourse upon Usury (1572), which condemned charging of interest as a form of extortion and repeated sentiments he had expressed as a member of Parliament. Wilson also continued his interest in Greek literature and published the first English translation of Demosthenes’ Olynthiacs and Philippics (1570).


(1450-1528). German humanist and clergyman, known as an influential but generally conservative figure among the reform-minded humanists of the early 16th century. Born at Selestat in Alsace and educated in the excellent local Latin school and then at Freiburg-im-Breisgau (B.A. 1466), Erfurt, and Heidelberg (M.A. 1479, licentiate in theology 1496), he was ordained as a priest and served churches near Heidelberg during his theological studies. He also taught in the faculty of arts. In 1484 he became cathedral preacher at Speyer but returned to the Heidelberg faculty in 1498. Although Wimpheling’s candidacy for appointment as a cathedral canon at Strasbourg in 1501 was unsuccessful, he remained in that city from 1501 to 1515, supporting himself by income from other church offices, tutoring children, and editing and authorship of more than 40 books for local printers. In 1515 he moved back to Selestat and spent the rest of his life there.

Initially, Wimpheling was sympathetic to Martin Luther’s criticism of indulgences and corruption among the German clergy and at the papal curia. But as he realized that Luther’s theology was contrary to traditional doctrine and that the unity of the church was in danger, he broke with Luther and worked to prevent Lutheran preachers from functioning in Selestat. His last years were spent in isolation, since Catholic leaders had not forgiven him for his denunciations of ecclesiastical corruption while those humanists who had become Lutheran regarded his opposition to the Reformation as a betrayal.

During his literary career, in which he published more than a hundred books, Wimpheling produced Latin poems, a Latin school drama modelled on Terence, Stylpho (1484), and a number of pedagogical works that endorsed study of classical authors but also warned repeatedly against the moral corruption that lurked in pagan poets. These books included Elegantiarum medulla / Kernel of Elegances (1493), Isidoneus germanicus/A Guide for Germans (1497), and especially the influential Adolescentia / Youth (1500). Teachers, he recommended, should use classical texts in order to develop good Latin style in their pupils but should be very careful in selecting which authors to teach, avoiding sensual authors and concentrating on those who inculcated sound moral principles.

Wimpheling’s conservatism became clear in a controversy between him and a more radical humanist, Jakob Locher, of the University of Ingolstadt, who attacked scholastic education in ways that Wimpheling, despite his own earlier criticisms of the scholastics, could not endorse; his Defensio theologiae scholasticae et neoterico-rum / Defense of Scholastic Theology and the Moderns (1510) upheld scholastic theology. He also wrote a manual for the education of princes (Agatharchia, 1498) and a number of works that show that even a quite conservative humanist could engage in bitter denunciation of clerical immorality, especially among the monks and friars, and could denounce the corrupt patronage system that neglected dedicated and well-educated priests (like himself) and conferred the best appointments on well-connected but unqualified persons. Wim-pheling also edited the writings of others, especially while working for the flourishing printing industry in Strasbourg. He edited works of Sebastian Brant, Giovanni Pico della Mirandola, and Erasmus, but also medieval theologians such as Jean Gerson, Heinrich von Langenstein, Bernard of Clairvaux, and Ludolph of Saxony. Despite his conservatism and his diminished influence during the Reformation crisis of his last years, Wimpheling was one of the most influential reformist humanists of the early 16 th century and insisted that education must combine cautious study of classical literature with inculcation of Christian piety.


In the law of every European nation in the later Middle Ages and the Renaissance, witchcraft was a crime punishable by severe penalties, including death, and at certain specific times and places, a "witch craze" developed in which a significant number of individuals were accused, convicted, and executed. The idea of witchcraft involved two elements. First, the witch was a maleficus, an evildoer, who employed supernatural powers in order to inflict actual harm on one or more victims, causing death, bodily injury, illness, impotence, or some other observable misfortune that was attributed to the action of the witch. Study of judicial records suggests that in cases where charges of witchcraft were instituted by members of a local community, this was almost the only kind of accusation made, especially in countries like England, where witchcraft cases were tried in secular courts and torture was never applied in witchcraft prosecutions.

But since the 13th century, scholastic theologians had associated the kind of witchcraft that caused (or was believed to cause) specific harm with the second element in witchraft prosections, belief that the witch disavowed Christ and the Christian God and engaged in worship of the devil. This worship was believed to involve not only some formal act of repudiating God but also some inverted parody of Christian worship, directed not to God but to the devil. In most developed form of witchcraft lore (as in the Faust legend of the 16 th century), the new witch would sign a formal written contract, often written in blood, with the devil and would defile consecrated communion hosts stolen from a church or consume human flesh (often described as the flesh of innocent babies) or venerate excrement with the same observances used by orthodox believers during veneration of the sacrament. In return for worshipping the spirit of evil, the witch would receive the supernatural powers by which he or she caused harm to individuals. Witches would also acquire other supernatural powers, and they would gather periodically to worship their diabolical master, dancing naked, engaging in sexual intercourse with demons, and (according to some theorists) flying through the air to remote mountaintops where these orgies —the witches’ sabbath— took place.

The first concept of witchcraft—limited to malevolent infliction of specific harm on specific individuals—was no novelty in the Renaissance period; indeed, belief that some individuals possessed supernatural powers and used them to inflict harm goes back to the earliest human societies. But the association of this primitive conception of witchcraft with the accusation of formal devil-worship and blasphemous rejection of God and defilement of Christian symbols was essentially a product of the late Middle Ages, based on the theories of highly educated theologians. In the 13 th century, scholastic theologians debated whether the blasphemous and obscene actions performed at the witches’ sabbath were physically real or existed only in the deluded minds of witches. Even so judicious a thinker as Thomas Aquinas (usually acknowledged as the greatest of the scholastic thinkers) concluded that the actions of the witches’ sabbath were physically real. This development of an intellectual doctrine of witchcraft seems to have resulted from an association of the harmful acts of witches with belief that any form of heresy involved a renunciation of God and hence involved worship of the devil, the inverse of God. The campaign of Dominican, Franciscan, and other mendicant inquisitors to destroy adherents of medieval heretical groups like the Albigensians and the Waldensians often led to accusations that such heretics engaged in immoral acts (especially sexual ones) and met secretly to worship the devil.

The emergence of this learned pseudoscience of witchcraft among clerical intellectuals culminated in the writing of a number of treatises defining witchcraft, indicating methods for identifying witches, and justifying punitive action. The most famous of these tracts, the Malleus maleficarum / The Witches’ Hammer, was published by two German Dominican inquisitors, Heinrich Krämer and Jakob Sprenger, in 1487. Three years earlier, these beliefs had been given official status by Pope Innocent VIII in the papal bull Summis desiderantibus. The papal bull and the tract by Krämer and Sprenger together mark the emergence of a highly developed theological and legal justification for the pursuit and punishment of witches. The clerical witchcraft treatises laid more emphasis on the apostasy and devil-worship of the witch than on specific harmful acts, and the baneful effects of the theologians’ beliefs are illustrated by the trial records: wherever ecclesiastical courts, dominated by these theories, tried cases of heresy (in most Continental countries and in Scotland), witches were persecuted more relentlessly and more clearly for worshipping the devil than for harming individuals, whereas in England and other countries where witches were tried in secular courts and laymen not indoctrinated by study of the witchcraft manuals conducted the trials, prosecution of witches (though by no means uncommon) was less severe and involved accusations of specific harmful acts against individual victims.

The inquisitorial procedure adopted in ecclesiastical courts in some ways made trials more rational because formal judicial action replaced the "swimming" (dunking) of witches or other primitive ordeals. But the inquisitorial procedure also allowed secret testimony by unidentified accusers. Theoretically, since testimony of two eyewitnesses to the defendant’s criminal actions was required for conviction, proof of charges might seem difficult. But since an alternative basis for conviction was confession by the accused, and since inquisitorial procedure permitted the application of torture to elicit confessions, an accused witch might have very little chance of acquittal. In some jurisdictions, as at Rome and in the Parlement of Paris, torture was used sparingly, but in other regions, judges were less cautious. In England, where secular courts conducted the trials, torture was never used and conviction depended on testimony that could convince juries composed of laymen.

Trials involving both kinds of accusations—harmful actions and formal worship of the devil—seem to have occurred first in western Switzerland, Savoy, and Dauphine during the early 15th century. Significantly, perhaps, these were regions where medieval heretical groups still survived, so that the association between fear of heresy and the hunt for witches is clear. Witchcraft trials of the inquisitorial sort occurred in various continental countries during the 15th century— least commonly in Italy and Spain—but then seem to have declined gradually until the middle of the 16 th century, when by far the greatest wave of mass prosecution of witches took place, concentrated mainly in regions destabilized by religious conflict and foreign or civil war, such as western Germany (especially the ecclesiastical principalities of the south and west), eastern France, parts of Switzerland, and Scotland.

The total number of individuals accused, convicted, and executed as witches can be only roughly estimated, but recent estimates suggest that altogether during the 15th, 16th, and 17th centuries, about 100,000 people were brought to trial, with about half of these being found guilty and executed. In regions where hysteria took control, the effects were severe. According to contemporary reports, in the year 1586 in the diocese of Trier in western Germany, there were two villages in which only two women were left alive at the end of a wave of prosecutions. At Quedlinburg in Saxony in 1589, a town of about 12,000 people, 133 convicted witches were burned on a single day. In England, where the prohibition of torture restrained but did not prevent convictions and executions, trials of witches flourished during the disorderly period of the Civil Wars. Between 1645 and 1648 nearly 300 witches were tried and most of them sentenced to death, compared to only 125 trials and only 47 executions during the long reign of Elizabeth I. After the end of the Civil Wars restored social stability, prosecution of witches became increasingly rare in England. The infamous witch-craze of colonial Massachusetts in 1692 is closely linked to a period of great tension caused by Indian raids on frontier settlements.

One of the most striking features of the witchcraft delusions is the high percentage of women accused. In the early 15th century, when witchcraft was closely linked with heresy, a large proportion of the accused were men. But over the whole period when prosecution of witches was common, about 80 percent of the accused were female. In part this was because women were most closely involved in types of activity that might seem exposed to the intervention of evil spirits. They were the most likely to be locally known (and sometimes admired rather than feared) as healers, dispensers of herbal and other remedies. In addition, almost all those most closely involved in the most awesome and mysterious (at least to men) of human experiences, childbirth, were female, and midwives who attended women at childbirth and other women who cared for very young infants and might be suspected of causing their deaths or ailments were often subject to charges of witchcraft.

Modern social historians have noted that in many places, most of the accused were elderly, perhaps somewhat demented women who lived alone, might well have sharp tongues and antisocial habits, and in particular might feel vengeful when poverty drove them to beg for aid from neighbors who turned them down. If some misfortune happened to a denying neighbor shortly after the refusal, the latent guilt felt by the neighbor might produce suspicions that the beggar had taken revenge through witchcraft. The prevailing misogyny of educated clerical inquisitors suggested that women by their very nature were morally weak and sexually insatiable, so that they might be easily seduced by a devil offering the sexual orgies of the witches’ sabbath as well as an ability to exercise power over potential victims.

There were always some who opposed the pursuit and execution of accused witches. Before the emergence of theological support for belief in the physical reality of the witches’ sabbath, the prevailing view was that while witchcraft was both illegal and sinful, the face-to-face pacts with the devil and the sabbath were not physically real but mere delusions induced by the power of Satan. This view had been part of church law since the 10th century but had been outweighed by scholastic witchcraft doctrine in the 13 th century. In the 16th century, the German physician Johann Weyer and the Englishman Reginald Scot argued that the contract with the devil was a delusion and that witches should be regarded as mentally ill rather than criminal. The excesses of the witch craze eventually undermined the credibility of the accusations. In particular, the use of torture, which was applied not just to secure confessions but also to force accused witches to name all the people they knew as fellow witches, created a moral swamp in which each confession produced a list of new defendants who were tortured until they provided the names of still more alleged witches. This procedure explains why when a wave of prosecutions began, it tended to grow exponentially until the list of accused became so large and so incredible that the whole process was discredited. Johann Weyer inveighed heatedly against the use of torture to force victims of the courts to produce false accusations.

By the late 17th century, while common folk in the countryside might still believe in (and fear) witches who inflicted specific kinds of harm, the educated classes became increasingly incredulous. In England, the last recorded execution of a woman for witchcraft occurred in 1684. In 1712 an English jury convicted an accused woman of being a witch but the judge, who had ridiculed the prosecution throughout the trial, secured a royal pardon so that the accused could be released. In 1736 the English and Scottish laws against witchcraft were repealed, and thereafter, witches could be charged with no legally recognized offense other than fraud. In Germany in 1679, the archbishop of Salzburg sentenced 97 witches to death. Germany executed its last witch in 1775; Switzerland, in 1782; Poland was apparently the last European nation to execute witches, burning two victims in 1793.


(ca. 1400-ca. 1446). German painter whose work reflects the spread of the influence of Flemish painters into other regions of northern Europe. His father was a painter who worked at the court of Philip the Bold, duke of Burgundy, and as a youth he accompanied his father to Burgundy and the Netherlands. He settled in Basel in 1434 and did most of his work there. Witz’s best-known painting, The Miraculous Draught of Fishes (1444), seems to reflect the influence of the Master of Flemalle, now usually identified as Robert Campin. Though Campin’s influence is reflected in the draperies of the human figures, the landscape background suggests the influence of the brothers Van Eyck. A few fragments of a fresco Dance of Death painted in the Dominican cloister at Basel survive. Other known works include two wings of the Heilspiegel Altarpiece (ca. 1435-1438); an Annunciation panel for an altarpiece for a Dominican convent at Basel; the St. Peter Altarpiece (central section is lost but the wings survive, including the Miraculous Draught and Liberation of St. Peter from Prison); Meeting at the Golden Gate; and SS. Catherine and Mary Magadalen in a Church. Less certainly attributed are Holy Family and Saints in a Church, a fragment of a Virgin and Child, Decision on the Redemption of Man, and a panel with a Nativity on the outside and a votive scene on the inside, parts of a dismantled altarpiece. Despite the high quality of his work and his contemporary reputation, Witz had little influence on later German art, since the success of Rogier van der Weyden brought about a change of taste that made Witz’s paintings seem old-fashioned.

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