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The importance of magic in the Tempest

             The wind hailed and the sea roared as lightning and thunder crashed down on the colonists aboard the "Sea-Adventure" in 1609. As the sea was in upheaval so were the passengers and crew aboard the ship. This became apparent when the boatswain cried,.
             "What cares these roarers for the name of king" 1.1.16-17.
             when law and order was thrown overboard, along with the King's son, Ferdinand. This turbulent opening scene where everything appears to be natural is the start of Shakespear's play, The Tempest. In true Elizabethan form Shakespear incorporates "enchanted islands, magicians with beautiful daughters, deceptive banquets, swords which freeze in their bearers" grasp, or the task imposed upon the prince who would win the mysterious lady", to tell his tale, riddled with the supernatural. It is these aspects of the play that are important to the task of entertaining and are all bought about by the use of Prospero's power and magic. His power, gained though the knowledge stored in the books included in his library allowed Prospero to practice "white magic", symbolised by his cloak and staff. This led to the destruction of Sycorax, giving Prospero power and control over the island, Ariel, the spirit of the island, and Caliban, the savage native. Throughout the play he uses power and magic to control the island and the captives on it.
             The use of symbolism helps us give meaning to certain aspects of the play. For example in the story of "Adam and Eve" the serpent is used to symbolise temptation. In The Tempest Prospero's cloak and staff are used to symbolise magic as well as acting to highlight the importance of his magic in the outcome of the play. From the beginning tumultuous scene, Prospero's magic plays with the sea's power in order to capture the ship carrying the King of Naples and Prospero's brother, the usurping Duke of Milan.

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