Writing on Women Writers

A site for college students to write about women writers.

Where There is Witch, There is a Way

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In early modern European history, the population was consumed with panic over witches being among them. This led to the witch hunt. The witch hunt was a mass hysteria that occurred between the 15th and 18th centuries. People who were involved with “witchcraft” were accused of worshiping the devil. During this time period people were often looking towards something or someone to place for the happenings that they did not understand.


In Caryl Churchill’s play, Vinegar Tom she mimics an English village during the 17th century. The play labels witches as outspoken women as showing another example of people during this time needing someone to blame. The play uses a contradictory tone that mirrors other events in history that deal with oppression.


Throughout Churchill’s play, Churchill uses songs or poems to develop a further analysis of the play while taking the audience out of the context of the story. Churchill did not give music notes to rhythms or any types of instruction when it came to these songs. Churchill instead only gave the lyrics. There is something special that was done here. Churchill is allowing each group who puts on the play, to have their own interpretation of how to sing, or stage directions that they choose feels right.


Here is one interpretation of “Something to Burn” done by Quinnipiac University Theater for Community.

“What can we do, there’s nothing to do,

About sickness and hunger and dying.

What can we do, there’s nothing to do,

Nothing but cursing and crying.

Find something to burn.

Let it go up in smoke.

Burn your troubles away.

Sometimes it’s witches or what will you choose?

Sometimes its lunatics, shut them away.

It’s blacks and it’s women and often it’s Jews.

We’d all be quite happy if they’d go away.

Find something to burn.

Let it go up in smoke.

Burn your troubles away.” (p. 1252).

This song shows the most significance to contradictory ways of people blaming others. The line even connects to Antisemitism as well as anti-feminists   Churchill take a role new approach to showing the injustice throughout history, well still making connections to what may even be occurring in the world today with women. Churchill started a movement for women that landed her a spot among the great by challenging everything around her. Using Vinegar Tom, Churchill is able to discuss sexual politics as well as oppression of women while still connecting to historical events.

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