The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.0642  Tuesday, 5 March 2002

From:           Helen Vella-Bonavita <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Monday, 04 Mar 2002 16:35:04 +0000
Subject: 13.0612 Re: Shakespeare's The Tempest
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0612 Re: Shakespeare's The Tempest

Regarding the argument that Renaissance magic involved the summoning of
spirits, it might be worth recalling Glendower's dialogue with Hotspur
on the subject:

Glendower: Cousin, of many men
I do not bear these crossings. Give me leave
To tell you once again that at my birth
The front of heaven was full of fiery shapes,
The goats ran from the mountains, and the herds
Were strangely clamorous to the frighted fields.
These signs have mark'd me extraordinary;
And all the courses of my life do show
I am not in the roll of common men.
Where is he living, clipp'd in with the sea
That chides the banks of England, Scotland, Wales,
Which calls me pupil, or hath read to me?
And bring him out that is but woman's son
Can trace me in the tedious ways of art
And hold me pace in deep experiments.
Hotspur: I think there's no man speaks better Welsh.
I'll to dinner.
Mortimer: Peace, cousin Percy! you will make him mad.
Glendower: I can call spirits from the vasty deep.
Hotspur: Why, so can I, or so can any man;
But will they come when you do call for them?
Glendower: Why, I can teach thee, cousin, to command
The devil.
Hotspur: And I can teach thee, coz, to shame the devil
By telling truth: tell truth and shame the devil.
If thou have power to raise him,  bring him hither,
And I'll be sworn I have power to shame him hence.
O! while you live, tell truth and shame the devil!'
 (III.i.35 - 62)

Mortimer is trying to convince Hotspur that he does indeed have magical
powers, and the fact that it comes at the end of a long list of signs
and portents seems to indicate that he considers his ability to summon
and command spirits as the final, clinching argument in favour of his
supernatural ability.Hotspur's scoffiing response rejects Mortimer's
claim on precisely these grounds: Mortimer cannot summon spirits,
therefore he is not a magician. Prospero can, therefore he is.

Helen Vella Bonavita

>"Renaissance magicians were apparently still magicians even if their
>only personal power was the control of spirits who performed all the
>magic on their behalf."
>His response was to laugh at the use of the word still because, he said,
>controlling spirits was all that Renaissance magic entailed.
>Now, I'm the last person to say that you aren't entitled to your own
>interpretation of the play.  However, the idea that Ariel, or any
>spirit, would stay with a master out of the goodness of their hearts or
>from nostalgia or for a desire not to hurt their feelings by letting
>them know they have lost it, was absolutely absurd at the time it was
>written and still is to a knowledgeable student of magic.
>     Janet T. O'Keefe

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