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The Supernatural Elements in Shakespeares Plays

The supernatural elements that are apparent in most of Shakespeares plays, significantly in Hamlet and Macbeth, which we are going to elaborate further, have their roots in the Elizabethan era and their beliefs in supernatural creatures, such as witches, ghosts and fairies. The Elizabethan era was poured into beliefs of the existence of these supernatural creatures and phenomena or as they mostly treated them as the unseen creatures. Their beliefs on the unseen beings dated back from the medieval times and spread their existence boughs through the Elizabethan era all the way to the 20th century. Shakespeare, the master playwright of all the times, the supernatural wordsmith, used the supernatural themes and elements into his plays in order to express the concerns of the Elizabethan society on the supernaturalism and their attitude towards them. He also used them to make his plays more tragic and also to reach the catharsis of his masterful plays on the scene. As we mentioned earlier, we have selected two of Shakespeares tragedies; Hamlet and Macbeth in order to elaborate and compare the utilization of the supernaturalism and the supernatural elements in his plays. In both of these tragedy plays we encounter the usage of the supernatural elements; the ghost of King Hamlet in Hamlet, and the ghost of Banqou, the vision of the bloody dagger and the three witches in Macbeth. One might wonder as to why Shakespeare used these supernatural beings and phenomenon into both of these tragedies as well as others. The response is that he wanted to input some of the supernaturalism of the time into his plays, to make them be treated as the plays of the time for the people of the time, as we know that his idea was always treated as such and to treat the concerns of his society into his plays though make them more easily accessible. Another important reason regarding this was that he used the supernatural creatures, in this particular case the ghosts, in order to reveal the truth behind the characters actions without having to revenge against a particular person for revealing that truth, therefore be able to enclose the play in a tragic way and make his spectators more attentive and enthusiastic. In Hamlet, Claudius has inherited the throne of Denmark after having killed his own brother, King Hamlet, by pouring the poison into his ears, and thereafter marrying his brothers widow Queen Gertrude. Fortunately King Hamlet had a son named after his own name, Prince Hamlet, who, after the
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appearance of a ghost, apparently meant to be his fathers ghost, gets the news of this occurrence. For a period of time, Hamlet was not sure if the ghost was really his fathers ghost trying to reveal the truth or an evil spirit trying to put Hamlet into big troubles with his uncle, Claudius, who was the inheritor of the throne of Denmark. Due to this uncertainty, it took some time for Hamlet until one day a group of actors comes to Elsinore, and Hamlet orders them to perform a play resembling the way that Hamlet thinks Claudius poisoned his father, which resulted with Claudius signs of guilt. From this time on, Hamlet decides to avenge his fathers death, which he does at the end of the play, after having lost his love, Ophelia due to killing her father in taking as being Claudius, been attacked twice by the people that Claudius had ordered to kill him, and at the end loses his own life too. At the end of the play, a foolish courtier named Osric, on Claudius orders arranges a fencing match between Hamlet and Laertes which results with Gertrude, Laerte, Claudius, and Hamlets death by poisoned goblet and the poisoned swords that Claudius had planned to trick the death of Hamlet. This play ends tragically with the death of all the inheritors of the throne of Denmark. So, in Hamlet, King Hamlets ghost appears on a dark winter night and walks the ramparts of Elsinore Castle of Denmark. Upon the appearance of the ghost Shakespeare pointed two confusing allusions into Prince Hamlets mind: is this really his fathers ghost or an evil spirit trying to convince him to kill his uncle, Claudius. Even though the appearance of this supernatural element into this play eased the process of revealing the truth behind King Hamlets death, it also helps to cloud Prince Hamlet and the spectators minds. They shall be wondering about the end of the play. Prince Hamlet, due to his nature, appears to be acting really sluggish and as of lacking alertness, but the ghost helps him to instill the idea that Claudius murdered his father to inherit the throne. Prince Hamlet shows his alertness and sharpness of his mind by organizing the play by the traveling actors in order to gain more confidence on the belief of the ghost and the reality behind the ghosts story on his fathers death. In Macbeth, besides the appearance of the ghost, the appearance of the three witches is an element of the supernaturalism. The Scottish King Duncan is in charge of his country whereas; Macbeth and Banqou are the two military generals of great importance. These two generals are crucial for Scotland therefore highly praised by King Duncan. Upon defeating two enemy armies; that of Ireland and Norway, the two generals encounter the
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three witches while crossing the moors. The witches prophecy that one day Macbeth shall become the thane of Cawdor and eventually King of Scotland. The witches also prophecy that Banqou shall beget a line of Scottish kings. Duncans men come to thank the two generals and inform them that Macbeth had been rewarded as the thane of Cawdor. Upon hearing this, Macbeth realizes that half of the witches prophecies had been fulfilled but he was uncertain of the remainder, the becoming of King of Scotland, for which he started lusting. Before, Macbeth visits the King and they decide to dine together at Inverness, Macbeths castle, he calls his wife and tells everything what has happened including the witches prophecies. Lady Macbeth suffers none of her husbands uncertainty therefore she desires kingship for him and wants to murder Duncan in order to obtain it. She persuades her husband to kill the King. That night they both plan to get the two chamberlains drunk and kill King Duncan, therefore be able to blame it on them. While Duncan is asleep, Macbeth stabs him, despite the supernatural vision of the bloody dagger. The next morning everyone hears of the King Duncans murder, and his sons Malcolm and Donalbain flee to England and Ireland to avoid the death. No one is certain of the death of the King. From now on, Macbeth is lead by his will of ruling by terror and crime, therefore orders the killing of Banqou and his son Felance in order not to feel in risk of losing his current position earned in blood. They manage to ambush Banqou but Fleance escapes. At the feast night, the Banqous ghost visits Macbeth, which makes him escape fearfully, startling his guests, the Scottish nobility. Frightened of this occurrence Macbeth goes to visit the witches in their cavern. According to the witches, he must be aware of Macduff, A Scottish nobleman who opposed Macbeths accession to the throne, and that he is incapable of being killed by any man that was born of a woman. They also prophecy that Macbeth shall be safe until Birnam Wood comes to Dunsinane Castle. Macbeth feels more than secure due to the facts that all men are born of a woman and that forests cannot move. Upon hearing that Macduff has fled to England, Macbeth orders for his family to be murdered which happens as ordered by him. Upon hearing of this inhumane act, Macduff in grief and pain returns to Scotland. Macbeth has heard that Macduff and his army were coming to Dunsinane Castle and once he sees that his army was covered with the boughs of Birnam Wood, he understands that half of the witches prophecies have been fulfilled. On the battlefield Macbeth encounters the vengeful Macduff, who declares that he was born not of a woman but instead was untimely ripped from his mothers womb, considering the fact that he was born through cesarean section. Though Macbeth realizes that he is doomed, he continues to fight until Macduff kills
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and beheads him. At the end, Malcolm, Duncans son, becomes King of Scotland, therefore fulfilling the witches prophecies in total. In Macbeth we encounter three supernatural elements, the three witches and their prophecies, Banqous ghost, and Macbeths supernatural vision of the bloody dagger. All the three supernaturalisms are closely interrelated and complete the puzzle in this play. The three witches prophecies about Macbeths future turn out to happen in sequences. But the witches prophecies of Macbeth becoming the King instill the idea and lust for obtaining this power into Macbeth and Lady Macbeths minds. The Kingship that Macbeth gains as a result of stabbing King Duncan, is a grave-leading fate for Macbeth, lady Macbeth and others that get murdered later. By murdering his King who always praised and rewarded Macbeths heroism and hard work, opened the never-ending cycle of committing crimes and evaporating anyone from the world that Macbeth feared of losing power as a result of their being. Macbeths vision of the bloody dagger before stabbing King Duncan, was a supernatural element foreshadowing Macbeths future, giving Macbeth a hint that his life shall be ending by losing his own blood too. But Macbeth ignores this vision and following his lust for power continues with his murders. The appearance of Banqous ghost prompts to reveal the truth of Banqous death, even though Lady Macbeth tries to stabilize the situation when Macbeth sees the ghost in front of the guests and starts acting crazy. These supernatural elements in this play serve to give much more emphasis to the play and provide more facts throughout the play that tragic fate is what leads these peoples lives. All these supernatural elements that appeared into Shakespeares plays, especially in Hamlet and Macbeth serve as elements of foreshadowing the plays upcoming events and at the same time express the extent of concerns of the Elizabethan society towards the existence of these supernatural beings and their attitude towards them. These supernaturalisms were smartly and masterly input into these plays by the master of wordsmith, Shakespeare, in order to increase the idea of supernaturalism and the tragedy elements into his plays. All the supernatural elements mentioned in Hamlet and Macbeth are actually a sample of some other supernatural elements used in some of his plays. Starting from King Hamlets ghost, the three witches and their prophecies, Banqous ghost, and Macbeths vision of the bloody dagger in Macbeth have been inserted by Shakespeare into his plays in order to help reveal the truth of some of the murders into his plays, by which gives the spectators an idea
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that if murders shall not be revealed by people then the supernatural elements shall incur and assist in doing so. This served as a message to the Elizabethan society of the 16th and 17th century, whose beliefs into these supernatural beings were instilled into their minds and souls that the truth shall come into the surface. Through these elements, Shakespeare also gives the message to the society that blood shall be paid with blood. Through this analysis we see that the supernatural elements that Shakespeare used in his plays helped for his plays to become, remain, and lead the way as sample plays showing the way how a fearful and concerning element of the time could be used to polish the works of art with the sparks of success and fame.

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