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Discuss the presentation of the supernatural in The Tempest and Dr. Faustus

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Introduction

Discuss the presentation of the supernatural in ?The Tempest? and ?Dr. Faustus? As per the dictionary definition, the term ?supernatural? is defined as something ?unable to be explained by science or the laws of nature; of, relating to, or seeming to come from magic, a god, etc.? (Merriem Webster Dictionary) [1]. Theatre goers were somewhat fearful in regards to the topic of the supernatural ? ??The Globe play-house shuddered at the appearance of Hamlet?s ghost, for it was true, that this might be either Denmark?s spirit or the very devil in a pleasing shape?? [2]. This idea of the supernatural was something that was embraced during the 16th century, especially for those who were educated. Though magic and the belief in the supernatural was forbidden by the clerical, Renaissance based society of the time, Black and White Magic were the predominant types of magic that were practised by many. During this time however, for anyone persecuted for practising magic, it was punishable by death, as society was quite God-conscious. As the biblical reference suggests: ?Let no one be found among you who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a spiritist or who consults the dead. Anyone who does these things is detestable to the Lord.? (Deuteronomy 18:9-12) [3]. Statements such as this, as well as being moral tokens for people of the time, haunt the character of Faustus just before his damnation, ...read more.

Middle

Here I am?). We as an audience question whether Prospero uses Black Magic ? in the same way the renaissance community accused John Dee of conjuring Black magic. Though Prospero uses his magic for what we essentially view as pure and positive means, the fact that he at one point, in essence ?awakens? Ariel ?from the dead;? ?Graves at my command have wak?d their sleepers?, is an intrinsic act of Black Magic. This makes Prospero?s dimensions of magic questionable. However as RS. Ellwood (2009) states, it can be counter-argued that ?Prospero?s magic is White magic, not Black. He summons up no evil spirits, makes no compact with the devil, and does not jeopardize his soul. The forces he commands are these of nature? [5]. Faustus? magic is quite simply Black Magic; he sells his soul to the devil. Where Shakespeare alleviates Prospero?s rise back to supremacy, Marlowe attempts to allude Faustus? downfall. As A.Papahagi (2009) states ?The spirits he traffics with cannot offer him more than a theatre of illusions, and fireworks? [4]. It is this ?theatre of illusions? that lead to his failure to repent, and ultimately, his downfall. He is blind to the fact that Mephastopheles has all the power. The personification of the ?seven deadly sins? presents an allegory for Faustus. During the medieval times, the audience could instantly identify each sin on stage as this was a long standing tradition almost ? a characters? attachment with the differing sins would instigate whether they were with God, or the devil. ...read more.

Conclusion

Black Magic alone poses an inextricable paradox to heaven. Both Prospero and Faustus are ?power hungry.? Prospero has lost all his power since his exile, but he exercises his newfound power on all the inhabitants of the island: ?The pine and cedar: graves at my command have waked their sleepers, oped, and let 'em forth by my so potent art.? Faustus has a yearning for a similar type of power also but exercises his yearn in what are arguably, pointless ways ? tormenting the pope?s friars whilst invisible for instance. Certainly Prospero and Faustus are both rapt by the concept of being all-powerful. Prospero is looked to as a superior figurehead by all the characters; ?Pardon, master; I will be correspondent to command and do my spiriting gently? (Ariel) and ?You taught me language; and my profit on't? (Caliban). Prospero?s political exile leads him to become his own conjurer whereas Faustus - exiled by magic, becomes a puppet for Lucifer. Both The Tempest and Dr.Faustus are morality plays that indeed bring to mind some moral lessons; Marlowe uses the supernatural to contemplate the idea of predestination ? Are we as readers really subject to our own free will, if we cannot learn from the demise of Faustus? Shakespeare on the other hand, uses the supernatural as a metaphorical tool for his own social commentary, even inferring ??let your indulgence set me free?? through Prospero. Shakespeare?s indulgence of the supernatural is for the sake of entertaining, whilst Marlowe?s depiction of it, is based on this thesis of religious philosophy. ...read more.

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