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The Supernatural Elements in Shakespeare’s Plays

Author ChenQiuLing
Tutor LuoYiMin
School Southwestern University
Course English Language and Literature
Keywords Shakespeare plays supernatural elements
CLC
Type Master's thesis
Year 2008
Downloads 456
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William Shakespeare was the greatest playwright and poet in English Renaissance period. In the fifty-two years of his life, the great playwright wrote a number of excellent plays for the people and was highly praised by Ben Jonson as "soul of the age". Most stories in Shakespeare’s plays were borrowed from Greek legends and Roman history, from old plays and.chronicles. Therefore, there was frequent employment of supernatural elements in Shakespeare’s plays. Shakespeare’s supernatural elements roughly fall into three types: the witches, wizards and their supernatural power, the spirits such as ghosts and fairies, and the abnormal natural phenomena which are considered to be omens of evil. The supernatural world in Shakespeare’s plays is actually the reflection of the human world and the employment of these supernatural elements greatly strengthens the theme of humanism in Shakespeare’s plays.This thesis consists of three parts. Chapter one mainly probes into the witches and their supernatural power. This chapter analyses the image of the witches, especially the three witches in Macbeth, and points out that although the witches have supernatural power they are essentially human beings rather than goddesses or Fates. The witches in Macbeth are actually the malicious forces that make use of the weakness of human beings to induce them to evil. The prophecy of the witches is actually the embodiment of the inner desire in the human soul.Chapter Two makes an analysis of the ghosts, fairies, and the gods in Shakespeare’s plays. The ghosts in Shakespeare’s plays fall into three categories: the real ghosts from the Hades, imaginary ghosts and ghosts in dreams. The real ghosts expose the evil in the human world and exhibit the playwright’s longing for justice. The imaginary ghosts are actually the extemalization of the inner conflict of the protagonists and reflect Shakespeare’s exploration of human nature. While the ghosts in dreams reflect the playwright’s longing for justice and harmonious social order. The fairies in Shakespeare’s plays stand for Shakespeare’s humanistic ideal while the gods are the embodiment of divine justice. Chapter Three focus on the supernatural nature in Shakespeare’s plays. This chapter mainly analyzes the abnormal natural phenomena in Shakespeare’s plays, especially the omens of evil in Macbeth and Julius Caesar, and points out that the abnormal natural phenomena actually stand for the disasters resulted from the evil nature of the human being. This chapter also discusses the supernatural storm which is the embodiment of the human power.In conclusion, the supernatural elements in Shakespeare’s plays are not only artistic techniques but also integral components of the play. The employment of the supernatural elements greatly strengthens humanism in Shakespeare’s plays.

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