Deborah Harkness: A Discovery of Witches
In 1994, Deborah Harkness was doing research at Oxford University’s Bodleian Library when she stumbled across the Book of Soyga, a long-lost manuscript treatise on magic that once belonged to Elizabethan scientist and occult philosopher John Dee. About fourteen years later, she had an idea for a story: a historian—who turns out to be a witch—discovers a lost and much-coveted manuscript that thrusts her into a world of vampires, demons, and magic. Harkness’s idea became A Discovery of Witches, the first book of her All Souls Trilogy. The novel is now a television series starring Teresa Palmer and Matthew Goode. The show comes to AMC and BBC America on April 7. We asked Harkness to join us on Shakespeare Unlimited to talk about how her research influenced her fiction writing and to tell us about how witches, demons, and the supernatural were perceived in Shakespeare’s England. Dr. Deborah Harkness is a teaching professor of history at the University of Southern California. She is the author of John Dee’s Conversations with Angels and The Jewel House: Elizabethan London and the Scientific Revolution, as well as the All Souls Trilogy, originally published by Viking Press for Penguin Books. Harkness is interviewed by Barbara Bogaev. From the Shakespeare Unlimited podcast series. Published March 19, 2019. © Folger Shakespeare Library. All rights reserved. This podcast episode, “Excellent Witchcraft” was produced by Richard Paul. Garland Scott is the associate producer. It was edited by Gail Kern Paster. Ben Lauer is the web producer. We had technical help from Shawn Corey Campbell and Bianca Ramirez at KPCC Public Radio in Pasadena, California.