Natural Supernaturalism in The Tempest

Essay by defy.gravityUniversity, Bachelor's April 2010

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Natural Supernaturalism in The Tempest and the Duality of Mankind

Of all Shakespeare's plays that deal with magic, The Tempest is the most forgiving. The magic and supernatural aspects of The Tempest are far different than the fairies of A Midsummer Night's Dream and the weird sisters of Macbeth. The magic of The Tempest is cleaner, less fanciful and not malicious. This magic is different; it's natural. Of the magic in The Tempest, every single bit follows the laws of nature. Prospero's white magic is confined by the nature of the island, as well as the nature of it's supernatural inhabitants. Through the use of his magic against the representations of the two sides of humanity, Prospero learns that magic is above humans, and that is where it should stay. He gives up his magic to restore order; the order of the duality that is mankind, working in tandem with two distinct parts. This duality is picked up by Philip Osment in his contemporary adaptation of The Tempest, This Island's Mine. The Tempest is not about dark magic, but about natural supernaturalism, explored through magic.

Most critics agree that Shakespeare was risking a lot with The Tempest: James I detested any and all forms of magic and witchcraft. Severe laws were put in place to punish anyone suspected of aligning themselves with the so called art. "Hatred of witchcraft became an obsession with James and those who mentioned magic in their writing treated it as unmitigated evil. The Tempest was the exception, for in it we see that there can be good as well as bad magic" (Evans, 115). John S. Mebane explains magic at the time a little differently than Evans. Mebane claims that magic was a symbol in...