Magic and Power in the Tempest

I think that The Tempest is a play that many people can relate to. It’s got a political aspect for all those smart politically-inclined individuals, presents a wonderful social-commentary for fans of satire, and is wonderfully humorous to the layman looking for a good laugh. For me, what interests me most about The Tempest is the element of the supernatural in the play.┬áIn other words – MAGIC!

Magic in The Tempest can be seen as a kind of power that places Prospero at the top of the food chain. Through the use of his magical possessions – his robe, his staff, his book, and of course, his control over Ariel and the spirits of the island – Prospero is able to manipulate, deceive, and affect the other characters in the play. From a behind-the-scenes position, he influences character’s decisions, catalyzes the formation of certain alliances, causes some to get lost on the island, and holds others as his slaves. It seems like Prospero can do whatever he wants and that he is basically bending the storyline to his will.

In this way, it makes sense to draw the similarities between him and Shakespeare. Like a playwright, Prospero has essentially created a problem on purpose – he has summoned his enemies to his island via a huge storm – in order to achieve some goal. Through dramatizing a problem, a playwright can often expose many things about society, life, or whatever they want, I suppose, or even come up with some kind of solution. Similarly, in The Tempest, Prospero has set up a situation that he hopes will result in his getting revenge on his enemies and establishing greater power through getting Ferdinand to marry Miranda.

Again, I still have swirling thoughts about this whole issue, but I guess that makes sense – after all, it is The Tempest.

1 Thought.

  1. I agree that this is one of the more intriguing aspects of the play–at least for me. One thing I’m really interested in is trying to do an interpretation of this magic, what it might represent, and then why he gives it up at the end of the play. I hope we get a chance to talk about this in seminar on Friday (didn’t have time on Wednesday); I wish you could be in seminar on Friday to talk about this with us! The point that it could be compared to a playwright’s art makes sense to me; one could then say that as Prospero is using his “art” to manipulate people to do what he wants, politically and otherwise, a playwright might be able to do the same. Perhaps on a lesser scale, though, for the audience of a play knows it is only a fiction all throughout; the ‘audience’ for Prospero doesn’t until the end, so he gets them to do what he wants before they know what is going on!

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