• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

The Importance of Magic in The Tempest

Extracts from this document...


Discuss the role of magic in The Tempest By Jaidee Spear Magic was a controversial subject in the time of Shakespeare. In Italy in 1600, Giordano Bruno was burnt at the stake for his occult studies. Outside the Catholic world, in Protestant England, where Shakespeare wrote The Tempest, magic was also taboo; not all "magic", however, was considered evil. The magic in The Tempest was able to create many abnormal happenings as well as different feelings that are shown through the characters of Milan. The beneficial type of magic was created by studies that were done in secret and used to discover new forces, and to study the greater effects of physics. All the magic that took place results in many of the illusions that were created on the island. The Tempest is unlike many of Shakespeare's other plays in that it depends almost entirely on the use of supernatural powers. For example, in Macbeth, the witches may have an influence on the hero's behaviour, but he has free will and is capable of determining his own actions. ...read more.


The power of these words is enough to derail the seditious plot. In this scene, the audience also discovers that the source of Prospero's power is his books. Later, Ariel visits Alonso and Gonzalo as a Harpy. When they draw their swords to defend themselves, he says, "Your swords are now too massy for your strengths / And will not be uplifted." Shakespeare draws a distinction between good magic and bad magic, by using the characters Prospero and Sycorax. Sycorax is said to have worshipped the devil and been full of "earthly and abhorred commands". She was unable to control Ariel, who was "too delicate" for such dark tasks. Prospero's rational goodness enables him to control Ariel where Sycorax can only trap him in a tree. Sycorax's magic is frequently described as destructive and terrible, where Prospero's is said to be wondrous and beautiful. Prospero seeks to set things right in his world through his magic, and once that is done, he renounces it, setting Ariel free. Prospero is by far the most authoritative character in the play as he controls the fate of all other characters by using his magical powers, 'If thou more murmur'st, I will rend an oak and peg thee in its knotty entrails.' ...read more.


In this case, Prospero holds power over other characters onstage because of his mastery over language. Only Caliban dares to challenge Prospero's rule, but his lone voice of dissent is ineffective; as he confesses, the only benefit he has gained from learning language is that he "knows how to curse." In conclusion, magic is potentially the most significant and influential theme within The Tempest and the whole play centres around this idea. Without the power of magic Prospero would have been unable to create the tempest and the characters would not have even got to the island. The character of Ariel is a spirit which is essentially created by magic, and the ideas of good and evil, which is also a key theme, also centre around magical power. Without the power of magic Ariel would never have been freed from the tree, and Prospero would never have been able to bring the characters together, which consequently means that Miranda and Ferdinand would never have met and fallen in love. The Tempest is very different to Shakespeare's other plays and the theme of magic is the foundation on which the play is based. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our AS and A Level The Tempest section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related AS and A Level The Tempest essays

  1. How far do you agree that The Tempest is a play about the use ...

    Prospero is also honest in his appraisal to Gonzalo, "O good Gonzalo/ loyal sir" (68-70). Caliban, Stephano and Trinculo are brought into the scene "in their stolen apparel" it is ironic that they are carrying a symbol of power (Prospero's stolen clothes)

  2. The Tempest- The Significance of the love story between Ferdinand and Miranda in the ...

    turn, and it was fate that Ferdinand and Miranda fell hopelessly in love. Fate is another theme that isn't only in this play but in a lot of Shakespeare's plays, if not all. The Elizabethans believed very much in fate and astronomy and everything happening for a reason, (again this

  1. Character study of Prospero

    This is not good as he is not just misusing his powers, using them on people but he is almost taking his daughters freedom to live. He uses it to suit him and does not consider how it may hurt or affect others.

  2. Shakespeares 'The Tempest' as a Study of Colonialism.

    Governing the island is thus a natural extension of governing Milan (or Henry V's England or Octavius's empire), and the most obvious tool is public theatre. Thus, Shakespeare's farewell to the stage might be seen as an ironic deflation of or farewell to the role of theatre and its power

  1. Consider how the language used by Shakespeare explores the theme of service versus freedom ...

    Caliban's role in the Tempest of how he up sets the normal balance of power. The audience is able to see true depth of Caliban when he is faced with what he perceives as freedom. "Cacaliban Has a new master; get a new man!

  2. Discuss the role and importance of magic in the first 3 acts of "The ...

    "If by your art, my dearest father, you have Put the will waters in this roar, allay them." She describes the magic as an "art" although the word has several darker connotations. Miranda seems reluctant to understand her fathers need to practise magic, as she has seen the ship itself "Dashed all to pieces".

  1. Shakespeare's Theme of Power in Act 1- The Tempest

    consumed by the hate he feels for Antonio's betrayal, this is an obsession from him to discuss the betrayal in great detail to Miranda. Prospero describes how thirsty Antonio was for power: "So dry he was for sway."- his downfall of Dukedom aroused his brother's interest: "Hence his ambition growing."

  2. How as the 1950's Science Fiction Film 'The Forbidden Planet' been influenced by Shakespeare's ...

    pack Trinculo and Stefano, the beautiful daughter of Prospero, Miranda, and finally the man who wins her heart, Ferdinand. The producers of 'Forbidden Planet' did not directly duplicate the cast of 'The Tempest', however the makers cleverly adapted these characters, and integrated the cast to be suitable for a motion picture based in the 23rd century.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work