The Tempest: Use of Supernatural

 The Tempest : Use of Supernatural

   Question : Write a short composititon on  Shakespeare’s     use of the supernatural in “The Tempest”. 


     Question : Discuss Shakespeare’s treatment of the          supernatural in ‘The Tempest’.

   Answer : Prospero, the Magician-

             Prospero, the Duke of Milan, is a powerful magician in the play, ” The Tempest”. He studied a large number of books on philosophy and magic and gained a lot of Knowledge about magic. Then by his mental sharpness and knowledge, he gained control over  several supernatural spirits. The spirits works under his command and carry out his tasks successfully.

       A Large Number of Supernatural Situations

            The whole action of the play is governed by magic. Practically every important event in the play is a result of Prospero’s  magic power. The storm and the supposed shipwreck, the rescue of the passengers and their being scattered in groups on the island, the ship being safely brought ashore with the sailors sent to sleep in the ships hold, the coming together of Ferdinand and Miranda, the defeat of the conspiracy of Antonio and Sebastian, the foiling of Caliban’s intrigue, the strange banquet and its disappearance, the song and music of Ariel, the masque of Juno, the teasing and tormenting of Caliban by the spirits all these are the situations which are wholly related to supernatural.  

       Supernatural Beliefs of Shakespeare’s Time

       In Shakespeare’s time belief in magic and superstitions was wide spread. In those days ther were two kinds of magicians, supposed to exist – one who commanded the services of certain superior supernatural beings and second, those who were believed to have entered into contract with the devil. 

     Prospero belongs to the first category. He commands elves, demons and goblins through the medium of  Ariel, and he uses this power for beneficent purposes.

      Shakespeare has given due importance to Prospero’ s use of his books, his magic wand and his mantle. Prospero employs all four classes of spirits – spirits of fire, water, earth and air – but always through the medium of Ariel. Through Ariel Prospero uses his power of magic to manipulate the inferior spirits of the fire, water and earth.

        Ariel possess the spirit of fire for he puts the vessel of Alonso on fire with him. The spirits of water known as nymphs are also introduced in their play. There are meaner spirits in the play who performs the masque of Juno. There are spirits of the earth which Prospero employs  as instrument to punish and torment Caliban, who hatches a plot to kill Prospero. Later they are introduced in the shape of dogs and hounds to hunt Caliban and his drunken associates. All these spirits work under the command of Prospero, the powerful magician.

         Use of Magic

      The attributes of magic used by Prospero are the robe, the wand and his books on  the subject. He doesn’t make himself invisible but,he repeatedly changes his magic robe. His robe represents his dominance over mortals. He derives magic power from his books.

      Prospero has made use of his magic in materialistic performances and not in converting the human characters into mere puppets. For instance, production of banquet and its disappearance and also creating the line of glittering garments. But Ferdinand and Miranda do not fall in love with each other  under the influence of Prospero’s magic. Prospero’s magic only brings them together. Their falling in love is natural. Thus it can be observed that the human characters are not converted into mere puppets by the use of supernatural.

        No place of Supernatural in Real life

     Towards the end of the play Prospero puts an end to his magic by burying his magical wand and his books. He has no use of them in his coming life. In fact, he has seen the negative use of magic and other supernatural agencies.

      The study of magic cost him dearly in the first place. Had he not been possessed by the passion for learning Black Arts, he would not have left the management of state affairs to Antonio and would not have suffered isolation on a deserted island for twelve long years.

      Prospero finds that Ariel and Caliban are never happy under his magical control. So towards the end  he decides to say goodbye to the world of supernatural. Herein lies a message for humanity. The world of magic should not be allowed to mingle with the world of reality. Both have their own independent existences, laws and codes. 

Also see Use of Dramatic Irony

Meaning of true Freedom for Ariel 

Masque and the purpose of Masque

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