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Supernatural Element

Supernatural Element

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Published by: api-3726586 on Oct 15, 2008
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super natural element
universal belief in the supernatural.belief in magic and supernatural appearances, in

ghosts and fairies actively interfering in human affairs and controlling the destinies of men
was almost universal in the age of shakespeare. it was shared alike by the learned and
ignorant. we are told that king james himself was much interested in demonology. some
critics suppose that in the person of the royal magician, prospero, shakespeare pictures king
james. the extent of this belief prevailing in shakespeare's age may be inferred from the
treatment of the subject by marlowe in dr.fausius, by green in friar bacon and friar bungay
and reginald scot's discoveries of witchcraft. it is not definitely known whether
shakespeare himself believed in ghost and fairies, but it may be safely asserted that he had
a profound belief in the mysterious. hence with so general a belief around him, he seized
upon it to introduce the supernatural element in many of his plays, especially for the
purpose of adding a note of mystery and a deep moral significance to his pictures of human
life. the supernatural machinery thus plays an important part in a midsummer night's dream,
julius caesar, hamlet, macbeth and in the tempest.

it is needless and out of place here to enter into discussion on the origin of this belief in
ghosts and fairies. it is a relic of the pre-christian ideas of the people and was common
among the ancient celts. teutons and graeco-romans.christianity could not destroy the
belief and reconciled the ghosts and fairies to its system in an ingenious manner. in the
middle ages it prevailed strongly and influenced the romances of the time. thus the belief
has always existed; ghosts and fairies were always supposed to be a reality. though they no
longer appeared.

inspired my medival traditions. shakespeare's conception of the spirit world follows the

popular medival tradition. as dr.johnson points out, the system seems to have been founded
on the opinion that the fallen spirits have different degrees of guilt' had different
habitation allotted to them at their expulsion, some being condemned to hell, some as
hooker, who delivers the opinion of the poet's age, expresses it,' dispersed in air, some on
earth, some in water, others in caves, dens and minerals under the earth. of these some
were more malignant and mischievous than others. the earthly spirits seem to have been
thought most depraved, and the aerial the least vitiated. the order of spirits and elves
represented in the tempest exactly follows the hierarchy. ariel is the spirit of air, and
after his task is done in the play prospero bids him 'to the elements be free'. he is a spirit
too delicate and good to 'act abhorr'd commands, but who answered his best pleasure.'
through this agency of ariel, prospero uses his power upon the inferior spirits of the fire,
water and earth. ariel too partakes of the spirit of fire, for he makes the vessel of alonso"
all a fire" with him. there are also other fiery spirits who in the form of a will-o-the wisp
lead caliban, like a firebrand in the dark, out of his way(act ii,ii). the spirits of water
comprise the sea nymphs and elves of brooks and standing lakes, the meaner spirits who
perform the masque of juno, 'a vanity of mine art' as prospero says. the spirits of the earth
are employed by prospero as instruments of punishment and torture. caliban knows them too
well. as he says to stephano-

but they'll nor pinch

fright me with urchin-shows, pitch me in the mire.
later they appear 'in the shape of dogs and hounds' and hunt caliban and his fellow-plotters
about the island. these are the nature and functions of the fairy beings. all the strange
sounds and sweet airs of the island are the works of spirits. ariel himself is the master-
singer, whose songs add a rich lyrical element to the play.

prospero the honored magician. prospero the master magician, has c command over the

spirit world. he is no vulgar necromancer, who performs tricks like dr.faustus.he is a
magician, a nab with giant's power which he uses like a god. he operates upon the elements
through instrumentality of ariel, the familiar spirit. with his spirits he raises storms allays
them, apparently wrecks the ship and saves it, exposes and defeats the criminals, drives the
sinners home to contrition and lastly, brings about reconciliation and re-union. he is a sort of
man-providence controlling and dominating the spirits. in this respect the theme of the
tempest is a reversal of that of a midsummer night's dream. in the earlier part of the play
man is the sport of the fairies. but in this mature play man is the master and not the slave
of fairies and spirits. the source of this prenatural power of prospero resides in his books,
which he prized above his dukedom. caliban is aware of this, and while laying out the
conspiracy against the life his master he tells stephano that ere they attempted to destroy
him they must first of all "possess his books, for without them he is but a sot, nor hath one
spirit to command(act iii, ii,102). next to his books in importance stands his wand, with which
he disarms ferdinand and makes his weapon drop(act i,ii). his magic robe, too, is another
source of his power and with this he becomes invisible to mortal sight, and when he appears
in his own person he "lays down his mantle"

bridging the real and unreal: psychological treatment of the supernatural. with what a
psychological truth and delicacy has shakespeare handled the supernatural in the play! as
prof.moulton has observed:

"enchantment is a thing wholly outside our experience, it has no associations of
memory interweaved with it, nor has it ever appealed to our sympathies in real life. the
dramatist who dramatizes a super natural story is perpetually facing the practical
difficulty- how to bridge the gulf between the supernatural matter and the experiences of
his hearers and readers. there are three modes of treatment open to a dramatist, by which
he may meet such a difficulty. first he may derationalise or remove as far as possible from
common place experience, the general surroundings amidst which the supernatural is to
appear. secondly he may rationalize the supernatural element itself, that is, give it as many
as points of contact as possible with thought and experience. thirdly he may give further
support to the supernatural element by uniting with it as much as possible of what is
nearest akin to it in the world of reality.al three modes of treatment are combined in
shakespeare's handling of enchantment in the present play"
thus the scene of play has been completely insulated from the world of our common place
experience. it is a far-off island, where the atmosphere is electrical with enchanctment.the
inhabitants themselves are untouched by social influences and are the very products of
nature and magic. as the play progresses our sense of reality is suspended and we accept

the unnatural things as quite natural. when at last the persons of our ordinary work-a-day
world are introduced into the island, they too wholly fall under the mysterious influence and
their realism only emphasizes the supernatural. it is with a perfect art that shakespeare
blends the natural and supernatural. the transition from one to other is effected in a subtle
process. by means of music which is the" only gate through which we pass into the world of
enchantment." besides, some of the main situation of the drama, though eventually brought
about by the magic of prospero, are in their essence quite natural. the love between
ferdinand and miranda is an example in this point. they fall in love at first sight and are
ready to sacrifice their all for the sake of love. though prospero says that his charms works
on them, we know that boys and girls in love act in this manner and it requires no magic or
whisper of fairies to guide them.caliban retains his savage nature to the last and all
prospero's power to regenerate him fail. antonio the hardened villain is seized with no
contrition till the end, while alonso, the novice in crime, is driven to repentance by his loss
and sufferings. all this remains strictly within the confines of nature, though a supernatural
influence is brought to bear upon them by prospero's magic. hence we may rightly say that
the supernatural in the play blends and harmonizes with what is real and natural and
produces no jarring effect on us.

super natural versus natural magic. caliban's mother, though associated with reports of

devil-worship and witchcraft in the new world, belongs to the old. she is a powerful witch,
deliberately endowed with many of the qualities of classical witches, but also possessing a
clearly defined place in the contemporary demonological scheme. she is a practitioner of
"natural" magic, a goetist who exploited the universal sympathies, but whose power is
limited by the fact that she could command, as a rule, only devils and the lowest order of
spirits'. prospero, on the other hand, is a theurgist, his art is to achieve supremacy over the
natural world by holy magic. the neo-platonic mage studies the harmonic relationship of the
elementary, celestial, and intellectual worlds, and conceives it, "no way irrational that it
should be possible for us to ascend by the same degrees through each world to the same
very original world itself. the maker of all things, and first cause, from whence all things
are, and proceed\u2026". his art is super natural; the spirits he commands are the daemons of
neo-platonism, the criterion of whose goodness is not the christian one of adherence to, or
defection from, god, but of immateriality or submersion in matter. he deals with spirits high
in the scale of goodness, and if lesser spirits ("weak masters") are required, the superior
daemon controls them on his behalf.

his art, being the art of supernatural virtue which belongs to the redeemed world of civility
and learning, is the antithesis of the black magic of sycorax. caliban's deformity is the
result of evil natural magic, and it stands as a natural criterion by which we measure the
world of art, represented by prospero's divine magic and the supernaturally sanctioned
beauty of miranda and ferdinand.

the dramatic purpose of the supernaturalthe supernatural is this play is not without a

certain dramatic purpose. while the controlling influence of supernatural machinery greatly reduces the element of suspense in the play, it does not entirely rob the human characters of their wills and their individualities. for instance, ferdinand and miranda do not fall in love with each other under the influences of prospero's magic. prospero's magic only brings

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