Supernaturalism in Tempest
Shakespeare’s thought-process about supernaturalism leaves the world mesmerized. Even his era is found to be wound with fascination for magic. The big old books, sharp wands, portions and pots, capes and robes—
When bringing all of these ingredients together, Shakespeare’s, ‘The Tempest’ stands as an epitome, in drama of the changing fashions of the time. We here dwell briefly about some of the elements of this great work that spark of supernaturalism and the fascination for the unknown.
A victim to treachery, the protagonist- Prospero harbours on a lone island with his three-year-old daughter, Miranda after being banished from his Kingdom of Milan by his brother Antonio and the King of Naples, Alonzo. His urge for liberal arts transforms him into a powerful wizard, by which he becomes the ruler of the island and also claims the supernatural creatures- Ariel and Caliban his servants.
Ariel was a light, airy yet powerful spirit and Caliban was a demonic and gross creature who had no magical powers. He was the son of the dead witch Sycorax who was powerful enough to control the moon and tides.
When Prospero comes to know that his enemies are close, he decides to make the best use of the opportunity and that’s when the magic show begins. Ariel, following his instructions sent a ‘Tempest’ over the vessel of his enemies, scaring them to death, destroying their ship and bringing everybody to his island unharmed.
Son of the Devil
For Caliban, Prospero had only the menial tasks to do, as he couldn’t be trusted and was all evil. He even plots to murder Prospero and become the ruler of the island, using the civilised language that Prospero taught him, to curse him back-
“ You taught me language; and my profit on’t
Is, I know how to curse. The red plague you
For learning me your language!”
Alonzo’s son, Ferdinand got separated from the rest of the party only to end up at Prospero’s place. He was a fine prince and was scared of nothing. Miranda also grew up to be a lovely and innocent girl and Prospero by his magic gave her the finest education and grooming more than the normal princesses or princes receive. Everybody mistook her to be a goddess given to her ethereal beauty, casting a spell of love over Ferdinand at first sight.
The obedient Ariel played sweet music all over the island, either to make the guests drown in sleep or frighten them or hypnotise them. Ariel’s song also led Alonzo’s son, Ferdinand to believe that his father drowned himself in the sea.
“Full fathom five thy father lies.
Of his bones are coral made.
Those are pearls that were his eyes.
Nothing of him that doth fade
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange.
Sea-nymphs hourly ring his knell. “
Trick not Treat
The island is riddled with mind boggling experiences for all the guests. A magnificent feast, arranged by the spirits, luring the guests into partying and then suddenly mysteriously disappearing. This is followed by a loud thunder and bright lightning , and a great mythological bird—the Harpy looms overhead, threatening the visitors that all the elements of this island and the sea are against them and that they would be punished for their sins unless they don’t repent for it.
A Grand Celebration
Another beautiful highlight of Prospero’s magical finesse is—‘The Masque’. It was a grand pageantry, where spirits in disguise of deities as Ceres, Iris and Juno appeared to bless the betrothal of Miranda and Ferdinand. Wonderful music and dance, all the spirits- nymphs, reapers and fairies joined to celebrate. A comic touch is added by Goddess Venus and her son Cupid as their plan to destroy the sacredness of the marriage fails:
Mars’s hot minion is returned again.
Her waspish-headed son has broke his arrows,
Swears he will shoot no more, but play with sparrows. “
This grand celebration serves as a precious jewel to the crown of Tempest and is also credited as being a celebration of the royal marriage of Queen Elizabeth!
The play ends on a positive note with Prospero’s enemies deeply realising their guilt; Ariel getting freed; Prospero gaining back his dukedom and all heading back to Naples in their magically, newly built ship where the marriage of Miranda and Ferdinand would eventually take place.
“This airy charm is for, I’ll break my staff,
Bury it certain fathoms in the earth,
And deeper than did ever plummet sound
I’ll drown my book.”
Prabhleen Kaur Malhotra
Editor for English | ISC, ICSE & CBSE Boards