Supernatural elements in “The Tempest”
It was believed that The Tempest was thought to be one of the last dramatic plays by Shakespeare, but it has been lately said to be influenced by tragicomedies. Later it was described as a comedy with tragic aspects.
The play begins with a big tempest; Prospero, who is the rightful Duke of Milan conjures a storm to make the ship of his usurping brother sink, but the Prospero’s ship sinks and he, his daughter and other people have to stay in an island. Prospero as we all have imagined has some magician powers, and with the study of magic, and the help of his powers he will be able to get what he wants.
Prospero and his daughter in the island
The first supernatural element that appears in the play is a spirit called Ariel he was rescued from a tree by Prospero, and she helps him with his magic. Ariel is a spirit of the island, he is the source of Prospero magical powers and he becomes Ariel’s master.
Ariel, in the tree where she was found by Prospero.
The main factor in which Shakespeare makes up the atmosphere of the island is around the supernatural: the magic of Prospero is based in the tradition of the alchemy with which he controls all that occurs on the island, including the captivating music of Ariel, the references to Sycorax (the previous master of Ariel), etc. Magic is the only tool that Prospero uses to exercise his power. But finally Prospero will refuse his powers, because he gets the Duke of Naples for his daughter, so it won’t be necessary any more to practise that power. Shakespeare didn’t really explain why Prospero refused to his magic, but he gave Prospero a God-like status to return to the world.
In Shakespeare tragedies, most of his characters end up annihilated, but in this play not only Prospero triumph, but the other characters don’t get hurt. The play has a happy enough ending for all the characters, and that’s why the play was classified as a comedy.
The island had been thought to be based in other island which even today is believed to be supernatural, the Bermuda islands. It is probable because in the seventeenth century a ship sank in the Bermuda waters, making the survivors live in that isles. So this event influenced Shakespeare to write about this island and the shipwreck.
Although Ariel is the main and most important supernatural character, other apparitions in this play are Iris, Ceres and Juno, who make the characters of spirits and goddesses. These goddesses appear in the compromise of Miranda, Prospero’s daughter, and Ferdinand. They are goddesses of the Roman myth. Iris is goddess of the rainbow, Ceres presides over agriculture and Juno is the queen of Gods. They don’t have more importance than being there to provide the future couple with all the necessary things in a marriage.
Miranda, Ferdinand and Prospero (near us) and the goddesses entering at the top of the picture while Prospero is pointing them.