SCOT, Reginald

(c. 1538-1599)
Reginald Scot, a Kentish writer, produced one of the most exhaustive works criticizing the belief in witchcraft to be available in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Scot's ideas were scorned by King James I,* but the English world began to accept them by the mid-eighteenth century.
Scot spent his whole life in southeastern England. His father was a justice of the peace and a member of Parliament. In 1574 Scot published the first book to systematically explore the Kentish industry of hop growing. His practical guide made the cultivation of hops a skill available to a greater number of people.
In 1584 Scot produced his Discovery of Witchcraft, in which he aimed to expose the folly inherent in accusations of witchcraft against the innocent. His arguments, which pressed courts to rely on solid evidence and common sense, were ineffectual in his own time, but as the seventeenth century progressed, more and more people accepted his point of view. Scot felt that evidence against witches was based upon impossible circumstance. He believed that magicians were frauds and that belief in witchcraft was in itself a heresy. He related to the courts his rational belief that "no person of psychokinetic powers" and no "separated spirit has the least ordinary ability to work in the physical world."
By using common sense, Scot exposed weak trials whose evidence rested upon absurd assumptions and little or no investigation. Exploring the circum­stances around an accusation, Scot drew logical explanations. Pleading on behalf of innocent victims, Scot was convinced that mere superstition brought faithless accusers to force confessions from people. "When the punishment exceedeth the fault," Scot explained, "it is rather to be thought vengeance than correction."
Scot attacked Heinrich Kraemer and Johann Sprenger's widely read Malleus maleficarum. His humanitarian approach to the subject stands in stark contrast with Malleus's fiery, fear-inspiring diatribe on witches. Scot used the Bible to urge sympathy for the meek while avoiding bombastic phrasing and unnecessary enthusiasm. His writing was meant less to protect witches than to expose those whose actions were solely meant "to pursue the poore, to accuse the simple, and to kill the innocent."
Scot's book delivered opinions that were difficult for the Elizabethan and Jacobean populace to accept. King James I, renowned for his preoccupation with witchcraft, ordered The Discovery of Witchcraft to be burned. The king made reference to Scot s "damnable opinions," but, as Robert West points out, gave little sign of having examined the opinions himself. More than a century passed before England at length accepted Scot s ideas.
Bibliography
R. West, Reginald Scot and Renaissance Writings on Witchcraft, 1984.
Karolyn Kinane

Renaissance and Reformation 1500-1620: A Biographical Dictionary. . 2001.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Scot, Reginald — (ca. 1538–1599)    English writer who was one of the few outspoken critics of witch hunts. Reginald Scot was openly derisive of prevailing beliefs that witches were servants of the DEVIL and committed abominable acts in his name. He was skeptical …   Encyclopedia of Demons and Demonology

  • Scot, Reginald — (?1538 99)    Scot s The Discov erie of Witchcraft (1584) is the first English book devoted to this topic, and also has valuable sections on *fairies, brownies, demons, and other supernatural beings, and the use of * charms. In its ambiguous… …   A Dictionary of English folklore

  • SCOT, REGINALD —    author of a famous work, The Discoverie of Witchcraft (1584), remarkable as one of the earliest exposures of the absurdities of witchcraft and kindred superstitions, which provoked King James s foolish defence Dæmonology ; son of a Kentish… …   The Nuttall Encyclopaedia

  • Reginald Scott — Reginald Scot (* vor 1538; † 9. Oktober 1599; auch Reginald Scott oder Scotte) war ein englischer Schriftsteller, Arzt und Skeptiker von Zauberei und Hexerei. In seinem bekanntesten Werk The Discoverie of Witchcraft von 1584 beschreibt er die… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Reginald Scotte — Reginald Scot (* vor 1538; † 9. Oktober 1599; auch Reginald Scott oder Scotte) war ein englischer Schriftsteller, Arzt und Skeptiker von Zauberei und Hexerei. In seinem bekanntesten Werk The Discoverie of Witchcraft von 1584 beschreibt er die… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Reginald Scot — (* vor 1538; † 9. Oktober 1599; auch Reginald Scott oder Scotte) war ein englischer Schriftsteller, Arzt und Skeptiker von Zauberei und Hexerei. In seinem bekanntesten Werk The Discoverie of Witchcraft von 1584 beschreibt er die Zaubertricks der… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Reginald Scott — Reginald Scot Pour les articles homonymes, voir Scott. Reginald Scot (c. 1538 1599) est un écrivain anglais, auteur de The Discoverie of Witchcraft (Révélation sur la sorcellerie), publié en 1584. Cet essai fut écrit pour démontrer que les… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Reginald — ist ein vor allem im englischen Sprachraum verbreiteter männlicher Vorname. Inhaltsverzeichnis 1 Herkunft 2 Variationen des Namens 2.1 Bekannte Träger des Vornamens Reginald 2.2 Zwische …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Reginald Scot — (c. 1538 1599) was the English author of The Discoverie of Witchcraft , which was published in 1584. It was written to show that witches did not exist, by exposing how (apparently miraculous) feats of magic were done. The book is often deemed the …   Wikipedia

  • Reginald Scot — Pour les articles homonymes, voir Scott. Reginald Scot (c. 1538 1599) est un écrivain anglais, auteur d un ouvrage sur la culture du houblon (Perfect Platform of a Hop garden, and necessary instructions for the making and maintenance thereof,… …   Wikipédia en Français


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