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

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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) . 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’’ . 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) .

Statements such as this, as well as being moral tokens for people of the time, haunt the character of Faustus just before his damnation, and merely summarise how people rejected necromancy and the supernatural, and how much of serious of an issue it was perceived to be.

From the offset of The Tempest, Shakespeare attempts to establish a foreboding setting. The fact that we are told ‘’a tempestuous noise and lightning heard” immediately insinuates that this is too powerful of a tempest to be natural. Along with this this form of pathetic fallacy, and due to the fact lightning and thunder were often linked to supernatural entities such as witchcraft and the devil during this period – we as readers already anticipate an unnatural setting. Theatre houses of the time would use fireworks and thunder-sheets, as well as canon-balls to replicate this effect in production. Marlowe follows suit in Faustus. We are exposed to a supernatural setting from the commencement of the play, ‘’Orion's drizzling look’’ foreshadows an absence of heaven and a presence of hell.

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The fact that Prospero causes the tempest through his manipulation of Ariel (threatening Ariel with ‘oak’ imprisonment) only to have Ferdinand fall for his daughter Miranda, is arousing in relation to the theme of the supernatural. They embody love at first sight, however nonetheless it remains difficult to ignore Prospero being there, overseeing their entire exchange; "the fringed curtains of thine eye advance...no, wench, it eats and sleeps and hath such sense as we have-such. This gallant thou seest...” from this, we can ponder just how naturalistic the love between Ferdinand and Miranda is - are they genuinely in love? ...

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