The supernatural forces are at once alike and distinct in Shakespeare’s The Tempest and in Marlowe’s The Tragical History of D. Faustus. The supernatural is kind to Prospero and his daughter Miranda in The Tempest, while the devils in Dr Faustus eagerly wait for the day that Faustus would join them in Hell. In both plays, the supernatural provides recurrent waves of sounds and feelings, lending special atmospheric qualities to The Tempest and Dr Faustus. The supernatural serves as a reminder of the hierarchies that exist in both plays, and it also illuminates the human heart, revealing the characters’ thoughts and wishes. Often appearing visible to all, the supernatural forces in The Tempest and Dr Faustus sustain the plays by providing a distinct atmospheric backbone, by reminding the characters of the existing hierarchies, and by revealing the characters’ inner hearts.
Soaked in the supernatural, Shakespeare’s The Tempest possesses an impenetrable veil of eeriness. It opens with the tempestuous roaring of thunder and lightning, setting the stage for panic and confusion amongst the mariners. The mariners scatter and hide, while Ferdinand’s hair stands on end. This wild and surreal atmosphere prepares the characters and the audience for future encounters with supernatural beings. When the spirit Ariel wakes Gonzalo and the others, Gonzalo says, “’Tis best we stand upon our guard, or that we quit this place. Let’s draw our weapons” (II.i.317-318). The mortals are on guard against the supernatural, and this suspenseful atmosphere often returns when Ariel and the other spirits approach these unknowing men. When Prospero remembers ...
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...ory of D. Faustus are about the relationship of the two worlds. By creating an eerie and sometimes humourous atmosphere, the supernatural gives the plays points of interest. The existing hierarchies between mortal and immortal are not to be destroyed, and the supernatural beings in these two plays reinforce the rules. By revealing the characters’ hearts and minds, the supernatural drive the plot as well as the actions of the individual characters, so that without these beings, these two plays would grind to a standstill.
Marlowe, Christopher. The Tragical History of D. Faustus. In Renaissance Drama: An Anthology of Plays and Entertainments. Edited by A.F. Kinney. Massachusetts: Blackwell Publishers Ltd., 2002.
Shakespeare, William. The Tempest. The Norton Shakespeare. Ed. Greenblatt, Stephen. New York: W.W. Norton & Co. Inc., 1997. 3055-3107.
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