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CLASSIC LITERATURE ANALYSIS

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 Supernatural in Shakespeare's Plays
        In the time of William Shakespeare there was a strong belief 
in the existence of the supernatural. Thus, the supernatural is a 
recurring aspect in many of Mr. Shakespeare�s plays. In two such 
plays, Hamlet and Macbeth, the supernatural  is an integral part of 
the structure of the plot. It provides a catalyst for action, an 
insight into character, and augments the impact of many key scenes.
The supernatural appears to the audience in many varied forms. In 
Hamlet there appears perhaps the most notable of the supernatural 
forms, the ghost. However, in Macbeth, not only does a ghost appear 
but a floating dagger, witches, and prophetic apparitions make 
appearances.  The role of the supernatural is very important in Hamlet 
and Macbeth.

        A ghost, appearing in the form of Hamlet�s father, makes 
several appearances in the play. It first appears to the watchmen, 
Marcellus and Bernardo, along with Horatio near the guardsmens' post. 
The ghost says nothing to them and is perceived with fear and 
apprehension, �It harrows me with fear and wonder�. It is not until 
the appearance of Hamlet that the ghost speaks, and only then after 
Horatio has expressed his fears about Hamlet following it, �What if it 
tempt you toward the flood, my lord, or to the dreadful summit of the 
cliff�. 

        The conversation between the ghost and Hamlet serves as a 
catalyst for Hamlet�s later actions and provides insight into Hamlet�s 
character. The information the ghost reveals incites Hamlet into 
action against a situation he was already uncomfortable with, and now 
even more so. Hamlet is not quick to believe the ghost, �The spirit 
that I have seen may be a devil... and perhaps out of my weakness and 
my melancholy..abuses me to damn me�, and thus an aspect of Hamlet�s 
character is revealed. Hamlet, having no suspicion of the ghost after 
the production by the players, encounters the ghost next in his 
mother�s room. In this scene the ghost makes an appearance to �whet� 
Hamlet�s �almost blunted purpose�. Hamlet is now convinced of the 
ghost and he no longer harbors any suspicion. He now listens to it, 
�Speak to her, Hamlet�.

        In Hamlet, the supernatural is the guiding force behind 
Hamlet. The ghost ask Hamlet to seek revenge for the King�s death and 
Hamlet is thus propelled to set into action a series of events that 
ends in Hamlet�s death.

         The supernatural occurs four times during the course of 
Macbeth. It occurs in all the appearances of the witches, in the 
appearance of Banquo�s ghost, in the apparitions with their 
prophesies, and in the �air-drawn� dagger that guides Macbeth towards 
his victim.

        Of the supernatural phenomenon evident in Macbeth the witches 
are perhaps the most important. The witches represent Macbeth�s evil 
ambitions. They are the catalyst which unleash Macbeth�s evil 
aspirations. Macbeth believes the witches and wishes to know more 
about the future so after the banquet he seeks them out at their cave. 
He wants to know the answers to his questions regardless of whether 
the consequence be violent and destructive to nature. The witches 
promise to answer and at Macbeth�s choice they add further unnatural 
ingredients to the cauldron and call up their masters. This is where 
the prophetic apparitions appear. The first apparition is Macbeth�s 
own head (later to be cut off by Macduff) confirming his fears of 
Macduff. The second apparition tells Macbeth that he can not be harmed 
by no one born of woman. This knowledge gives Macbeth a false sense of 
security because he believes that he cannot be harmed, yet Macduff was 
not of woman born, his mother was dead and a corpse when Macduff was 
born. This leads to Macbeth�s downfall. A child with a crown on his 
head, the third apparition,  represents Malcolm, Duncan�s son. This 
apparition also gives Macbeth a false sense of security because of the 
Birnam Wood prophesy.  

        The appearance of Banquo�s ghost provides insight into 
Macbeth�s character. It shows the level that Macbeth�s mind has 
recessed to. When he sees the ghost he reacts with horror and upsets 
the guests. Macbeth wonders why murder had taken place many times in 
the past before it was prevented by law -�statute purged the gentle 
weal�- and yet the dead are coming back. 

        The final form of the supernatural is the �air-drawn� dagger 
which leads Macbeth to his victim. When the dagger appears to him, 
Macbeth finally becomes victim to the delusions of his fevered brain. 
The dagger points to Duncan�s room and appears to be covered in blood. 
The dagger buttresses the impact  of this key scene in which Macbeth 
slays King Duncan.

        The supernatural is a recurring aspect in many of the plays by 
William Shakespeare. In Hamlet and Macbeth the supernatural is an 
integral part of the structure of the plot. In these plays the 
supernatural provides a catalyst for action by the characters. It 
supplies insight into the major players and it augments the impact of 
many key scenes. The supernatural appeals to the audience�s curiosity 
of the mysterious and thus strengthens their interest.





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