Shakespeare's brilliant portrayal of Prospero's use of magic and power continues to draw both readers and audiences with The Tempest's many meanings and interpretations. As a main character, Prospero, is a person that many people can identify themselves with, with his want to achieve his desires and gain power over others through the use of magic. It is this identification that exceeds Shakespearean works, with The Tempest both emulating and presenting themes from other works in the Elizabethan period. Such as Christopher Marlowe's “Doctor Faustus”, a play written twenty years prior to The Tempest, containing the same themes of magic and power. Also, Both Faustus and Prospero portray the idea that power, such as magic, originates from books: whether they are works on “secret studies” or “liberal arts” (Tempest 1.2.91-95). Magic and power are two forces, that can both be found in literary works inside the play, and it is through Marlowe and Shakespeare's works that the audience is brought into the power play. This essay will explore the idea of the Renaissance overreacher, and his relationship with books.
A magician uses knowledge of magic to control his own life and experiment with the world, which also allows him to influence both natural and supernatural powers. It is this knowledge of the supernatural, gained through books, that allows a magician to rise above other influences and act as a power. These books are written by curious and gifted scholars who hope that by merging and delving into various religious and philosophical dogmas, everything will combine and create an ultimate truth. Scholars make huge books, full of their knowledge of the universe. Often, these books lead the scholar to their destruction, by consuming their entire lives. Doctor Faustus is actually a fictional hypertext; a text with links to other texts. One of those links leads to The Tempest, which can be seen as an alternative ending to Faustus, where the magic book is finally destroyed.
Doctor Faustus is a quest into the underworld, where one is able to explore within reason, such as the “descent of Orpheus into the Underworld” (Woodman 68). Faustus decides to “settle [his] studies”, and search beyond the average books of the Renaissance curriculum, such as the “metaphysics of magicians/and necromantic books”, becoming an overreacher (Marlowe 1.1.1,1.1.50-52). The books Faustus reads do not have evil motives, and are not satanic, some of books used to be thought of as essential for the Renaissance curriculum; However, these books promote the ambition of intellect, and challenge the solidarity of social and religious doctrines, so they are excluded by the society because of prejudice. Faustus' reading of these books promise him riches and power: “his dominion that exceeds in this/Stretcheth as far as doth the mind of man./A sound magician is a demi-god” (1.1.61-63).
Here enters Mephistopheles, a demon, who comes with the blunt announcement that he “came hither of...