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Conquering Nature: Magic In The Tempest

1214 words - 5 pages

During England’s Elizabethan period, people were captivated by magic and the supernatural. During this period there was little distinction between science and magic. Educated people practiced medicine, astrology, alchemy, sorcery, and tried to control the elements. Some scholars conclude that controlling the elements of nature is an underlying basis for early science and some religions (Hopfe). One of the most famous Elizabethan scientists, and one who Queen Elizabeth herself kept on staff was Dr. John Dee (Woolley). John Dee was also known as a magus, a title given to someone who was considered a master magician or adept in astrology, alchemy, or sorcery (Melton). Evidence for this ...view middle of the document...

Antonio says, “We are merely cheated of our lives by drunkards (1.1.41).” Mariners aboard the ship exclaim, “All lost! To prayers, to prayers, all lost (1.1.37)!” Unknown to those aboard the ship, Prospero has invoked a magic spell to conjure a violent tempest that will ultimately leave all parties aboard stranded on the island that Prospero himself was exiled to by his brother, and passenger of the ship, Antonio. This is revealed to the men later in the play, however, if it was not for the use of magic, this could not have been possible. After Prospero’s daughter Miranda witnesses what has happened, we learn of how Prospero and Miranda came to live on the island. Prospero was obsessed with knowledge and magic while he was the active Duke of Milan. So much so that he allowed his brother, Antonio, take on some of his governing duties. Antonio, hungry for power, began to think of himself as the rightful Duke of Milan, took control from Prospero and sent he and Miranda into exile.
We see the use of magic as a way to control people in The Tempest. Prospero uses magic to intimidate and enslave Caliban. We are introduced to Caliban in Act I, Scene II of the play, and we see that he has grown irritated with Prospero’s persistent demands. Caliban grows ever more resistant and during an exchange of insults between the two, Prospero says to Caliban, “For this, be sure, tonight thou shalt have cramps, side-stitches that shall pen thy breath up. Urchins shall, forth at vast of night that they may work, all exercise on thee. Thou shalt be pinched as thick as honeycomb, each pinch more stinging than bees that made 'em (1.1.328-333).” Prospero’s threat to cast a spell that would cause Caliban gastrointestinal agony plays the role of a powerful motivator. In the play we learn that Caliban, an original inhabitant of the island, is helpful to Prospero and Miranda upon their arrival. In return, Prospero teaches Caliban about language and how to speak and about the nature of the moon and the sun. In a twisted attempt to repopulate the island, Caliban attempts to rape Miranda, but is prevented from doing so by Prospero. This is where Prospero’s animosity toward Caliban is born. Using his magic as muscle, Prospero becomes very intimidating to Caliban.
In Act I, Scene II of The Tempest, we see magic used as a persuasive tool. When we are introduced to Ferdinand, he is lured in the direction if Miranda and Prospero by a song...

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