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The delineation of Prospero, the noblest conception of the Magic character which ever entered the mind of a poet, is founded upon a distinction which was supposed to exist between the several professors of this mysterious science. They were separated, in fact, into two great orders ; into those who commanded the service of superior intelligences, and into those who, by voluntary compact, entered into a league with, or submitted to be the instruments of these powers. Under the first were ranked Magicians, who were again classed into higher or inferior, according to the extent of the control which they exerted over the invisible world; the former possessing an authority over celestial, as well as infernal spirits. Under the second were included Necromancers and Wizards, who, for the enjoyment of temporary power, subjected themselves, like the Witch, to final perdition.
Of the highest class of the first order was Prospero, one of those Magicians or Conjurors who, as Reginald Scot observes, “ professed an art which some fond divines affirme to be more honest and lawfull than necromancie, which is called Theurgie; wherein they worke by good angels.” * Accordingly, we find Prospero operating upon inferior agents, upon elves, demons, and goblins, through the medium of Ariel, a spirit too delicate and good to “ act abhorr'd commands,” but who “ answered his best pleasure," and was subservient to his “ strong bidding."
Shakspeare has very properly given to the exterior of Prospero, several of the adjuncts and costume of the popular magician. Much virtue was inherent in his very garments; and Scot has, in many instances, particularised their fashion. A pyramidal cap, a robe furred with fox-skins, a girdle three inches in breadth, and inscribed with cabalistic characters, shoes of russet leather, and unscabbarded
Pointing to each his thunder, rain, and wind;
By oft predict that I in heaven find.
swords, formed the usual dress; but, on peculiar occasions, certain deviations were necessary ; thus, in one instance, we are told the Magician must be habited in “ clean white cloathes ;” that his girdle must be made of " a drie thong of a lion's or of a hart's skin;" that he must have a “ brest-plate of virgine parchment, sowed upon a piece of new linnen,” and inscribed with certain figures ; and likewise, “ a bright knife that was never occupied,” covered with characters on both sides, and with which he is to “ make the circle, called Saloman's circle.” *
Our poet has, therefore, laid much stress on these seeming minutiæ, and we find him, in the second scene of The Tempest, absolutely asserting, that the essence of the art existed in the robe of Prospero, who, addressing his daughter, says, –
" Lend thy hand,
(Lays down his mantle.
A similar importance is assigned to his staff or wand; for he tells Ferdinand,
“ I can here disarm thee with this stick, And make thy weapon drop :" +
and, when he abjures the practice of magic, one of the requisites is, to “ break his staff,” and to
“ Bury it certain fathoms in the earth.” I
But the more immediate instruments of power were Books, through whose assistance spells and adjurations were usually performed. Reginald Scot, speaking of the traffickers in Magic of his time, says, “ These conjurors carrie about at this daie, books intituled under the names of Adam, Abel, Tobie, and Enoch; which Enoch they repute the most divine fellow in such matters. They have also among them bookes that they saie Abraham, Aaron, and Salomon made. They have bookes of Zacharie, Paule, Honorius, Cyprian, Jerome, Jeremie, Albert, and Thomas : also of the angels, Riziel, Razael, and Raphael." *
* Discoverie of Witchcraft, p. 415. + Reed's Shakspeare, vol. iv. p. 53. Act i. sc. 2. | Ibid. p. 152. Act v. sc. 1.
Books are, consequently, represented as one of the chief sources of Prospero's influence over the spiritual world. He himself declares,
66 I'll to
and, on relinquishing his art, he says,
" deeper than did ever plummet sound, I'll drown my book ;"
whilst Caliban, conspiring against the life of his benefactor, tells Stephano, that, before he attempts to destroy him, he must
Though we perceive the effect of Prospero's spells, the mode by which they are wrought does not appear; we are only told that silence is necessary to their success :
“ Hush, and be mute,
* Discoverie of Witchcraft, p. 451.
Ibid. p. 152.
He afterwards assures us, that his “ charms crack not,” and that his “ spirits obey ;” and, in one instance, he commissions Ariel to “ untie the spell” in which he had bound Caliban and his companions. *
It is probable that any attempt to represent the forms of adjuration and enchantment would have been either too ludicrous or too profane for the purposes of the poet.
In the one instance, the mysterious solemnity of the scene would have been destroyed; and in the other, the serious feelings of the spectator might have been shocked ; at least, such are the results on the mind of the reader, in perusing the numerous specimens of adjuration in the fifteenth book of Scot's Discoverie of Witchcraft. One of these, as including an example of the then fashionable mode of conjuration, that of fixing the spirit in a beryl, glass, or stone, according to the practice of Dee and Kelly, shall be given ; omitting, however, all those invocations and addresses which, by a frequent use of names and phrases the most hallowed and sacred, must, on such occasions, prove alike indecorous and disgusting. The adjuration in question is termed by Scot, “an experiment of the dead,” or, “conjuring for a dead spirit :" it commences in the following manner, and terminates in obtaining the services of a good and beautiful spirit of the fairy tribe; and such we may suppose to have been the process through which Prospero procured the obedience and ministration of Ariel, for we are expressly told, that
graves” at his "command"
Have waked their sleepers; oped and let them forth.”
“ First fast and praie three daies, and absteine thee from all filthinesse ; go to one that is new buried, such a one as killed himselfe, or destroied himself wilfullie : or else get thee promise of one that shal be hanged, and let him sweare an oth to thee, after his bodie is dead, that his spirit shall come to thee, and doe thee true service, at thy
* Reed's Shakspeare, vol. iv. p. 148. 167.
commandements, in all daies, houres, and minutes. And let no persons see thy doings, but thy fellow. And about eleven o clocke in the night, go to the place where he was buried, and saie with a bold faith and hartie desire, to have the spirit come that thou dost call for, thy fellow having a candle in his left hand, and in his right hand a christall stone, and saie these words following, the maister having a hazell wand in his right hand, and these names—written thereupon, Tetragrammaton + Adonay + Craton. Then strike three strokes on the ground, and saie, Arise, Arise, Arise !
“ The maister standing at the head of the grave, his fellow having in his hands the candle and the stone, must begin the conjuration as followeth, and the spirit will appeare to you in the christall stone, in a faire forme of a child of twelve
And when he is in, feele the stone, and it will be hot; and feare nothing, for he or shee will shew manie delusions, to drive you from your worke. Feare God, but feare him not.”
Then follows a long conjuration to constrain the appearance of the spirit, which being effected, another is pronounced to compell him to fetch the “ fairie Sibylia.”
“ This done, go to a place fast by, and in a faire parlor or chamber, make a circle with chalke : and make another circle for the fairie Sibylia to appeare in, foure foote from the circle thou art in, and make no names therein, nor cast anie holie thing therein, but make a circle round with chalke ; and let the maister and his fellowe sit downe in the first circle, the maister having the booke in his hand, his fellow having the christall stone in his right hand, looking in the stone when the fairie dooth appeare.”
The fairie Sibylia is then seventimes cited to appear :—“I conjure thee Sibylia, O gentle virgine of fairies, by all the angels of 14 and their characters and vertues, and by all the spirits of 24 and and their characters and vertues, and by all the characters that be in the firmament, and by the king and queene of fairies, and their vertues, and by the faith and obedience which thou bearest unto them, — I conjure thee O blessed and beautifull virgine, by all the riall words