Discussion of the use of magic in Shakespeare's 'The Tempest'.

Essay by EnglishLitStudentHigh School, 12th gradeA-, July 2005

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From the first scenes of Shakespeare's The Tempest, magic is used to captivate the audience and direct the characters through the play. The plot of The Tempest is almost entirely dependent on the use of supernatural powers. Prospero and Ariel both have magical powers at their disposal. This allows them, primarily Prospero, to orchestrate many of the other characters, manipulating them through their use of magic. Magic also provides the means by which the plot, power relationships, love affairs and themes of the play are created and affected. The most obvious effect of magic in The Tempest is the effect on the storyline, or plot.

Magic is the driving force behind plot development and movement within the play. The Tempest revolves around Prospero, the protagonist, and the ways in which goes about he restores order following the disruption caused by the tempest. The storm is the most obvious and important magical feat of the play.

This storm was created by Prospero, who orchestrated the shipwreck. He did so to prevent his "fortunes ... ever after droop[ing]". Although it was not magic that brought his enemies to him, Prospero used magic to draw the storm and cause the ship to "dash all to pieces". Magic, therefore, begins the play and is integral to the plot. Once Miranda, Prospero's daughter, is asleep, Prospero calls upon his magical agent, Ariel. Ariel is a spirit and embodies magical powers of his own. However, he is enslaved to Prospero as he is indebted to him for freeing him from Sycorax, another magical being, and therefore must abide by Prospero's orders. It was Ariel that went aboard the ship and set fire to the mast, as well as ensuring that the rest of the characters were on the island in the formation set out by Prospero.