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Ariel’s alchemical songs
Natalie Roulon

This chapter explores the connection between music and alchemy in The Tempest by developing an alchemical interpretation of Ariel’s songs. Ariel–Mercurius is the alchemist Prospero’s attendant spirit, without whom the great work cannot take place. His role as chemical spirit recalls Ficino’s spiritus, whose nature is similar to that of musical sound: it is thanks to his Orphic music that most of the characters on the island are led on the path to spiritual purification. Four of Ariel’s five songs contain alchemical allusions: ‘Come unto these yellow sands’, ‘Full fathom five’, ‘Earth’s increase and foison plenty’ and ‘Where the bee sucks’. The settings of ‘Full fathom five’ and ‘Where the bee sucks’, attributed to Robert Johnson, are shown to enhance the chemical meaning of the lyrics. Even though musical magic is occasionally ironised, Ariel’s songs all partake of the idealising current of the play: they adumbrate the chemical wedding of Ferdinand and Miranda, Alonso’s regeneration and Ariel’s well-deserved freedom. They therefore strengthen the case for The Tempest as an alchemical palimpsest.

in Shakespeare and the supernatural
The afterlives of Ophelia in Japanese pop culture
Yukari Yoshihara

In her afterlives in Japan, Ophelia becomes a woman with supernatural power. In an early twentieth-century novel, Natsume’s Kusamakura (1906), the Ophelia figure resists a supernatural curse. In other mid-century novels, she is a ghost who raises an angry voice against an abusive Hamlet, such as in Kobayashi’s Ophelia’s Literary Remains (1931) and Ooka’s Hamlet’s Diary (1955). In post-modern Japanese pop culture, such as manga and anime, Ophelia is an avenging ghost (Nakata’s Ringue (1998) and The Ring 2 (2008)), a water dragon (Yagi’s Claymore (2007)), a protectress of the tree of life (Oizaki’s Romeo × Juliet (2007)), a sea goddess (Miyazaki’s Ponyo (2008)), a grim reaper (Toboso’s and Shinohara’s Black Butler (manga: 2006–present; anime: 2008-11), an adolescent ghost (Otsuka, Zero: 2014) and backstroke champion who has supernatural power to communicate with animals (Inoue, Ophelia, not yet: 2015).

This chapter argues that various transformations of Ophelia in Japan create a critical intervention in Ophelia’s fetishised image as a dedicated lover, beautiful corpse, innocent adolescent and passive victim.

in Shakespeare and the supernatural
A challenge to the Festival
Florence March

This chapter explores the interactions between text, performance and venue to develop a typology of the aesthetics of the supernatural in Shakespearean productions in the Honour Court of the Avignon Popes' Palace between 1947 and 2015. A locus of conflicts, whether it actualises the hero's inner turmoil or the opposition between characters – generally between the murderer and his victim(s) thirsting for revenge – the ghost also crystallises the challenging confrontation between performance and venue, theatrical event and spectacular monument, the transient and the permanent. As a metatheatrical motif, the ghost questions not only the theatrical medium but also the theatricality of the venue and their compatibility. Shakespearean ghosts thus challenge the Avignon Festival while paradoxically confirming its vocation as a platform for experimentation, a laboratory for the performing arts and a showcase of contemporary theatre.

in Shakespeare and the supernatural
Shakespeare’s challenges to performativity
Yan Brailowsky

This chapter questions early modern conceptions of the supernatural from a linguistic perspective: can language produce supernatural effects? How is the supernatural expressed through language? First, it considers the context of early modern theatre in which prophecies were problematic, as church and state tried to avoid the spread of seditious rumours. The evocative power of prophecy resisted these regulatory efforts, and monarchs recognised the close link between prophecies and poetry, attested since antiquity in the figure of the poet-prophet. Then the chapter discusses how the language of prophecy (in Julius Caesar, Macbeth, Richard II or Richard III) could trick audiences into believing in the supernatural power of prophecies, despite the fact that the language used turns out to be non-performative. Instead, prophecies make language ‘stutter’ (a concept borrowed from Gilles Deleuze), rather than advance the plot. Prophecies posit a number of hypothetical futures, questioning our interpretation of historical narratives and supernatural phenomena. By producing the supernatural through language, rather than through characters or special effects, prophecies challenge our interpretations of Shakespeare’s plays.

in Shakespeare and the supernatural
Laurie Johnson

This chapter examines how the supernatural elements in A Midsummer Night’s Dream are constructed from mythical and folkloric sources but reconfigured as contemporary topical allusions. The play thus seems to be a locus for potentially competing influences: borrowing from the past while also writing to the present moment, most likely to excite the interest of his audiences and their yen for gossip or scandal. Shakespeare’s invention of the name ‘Puck’ for the puckle figure of folklore creates opportunities for every member of an audience to see the figure as consonant with their own local knowledge of such a sprite, but also enables the playwright to develop an allusion to George Buck and his competition with John Lyly for the reversion of the Master of Revels. The play thus also positions the censor as its first audience, with the allusion and Puck’s epilogue addressed directly to the Master of Revels at the time, Edmund Tylney, making amends for recent offences by Shakespeare’s company. The forest outside Athens becomes the site for a clash between modes of signification – sources and topicality – anchoring supernatural elements to far more worldly contemporary issues.

in Shakespeare and the supernatural
Supernatural generation and the limits of power in Shakespeare’s Richard III
Chelsea Phillips

The importance of successful, legitimate birth and childrearing to the health of early modern society, from the monarch to the lowest orders, created a strong corollary between the processes of generation (procreation, birth, parenting) and social order. Supernatural influence on these processes, whether divine or malignant, raised cultural anxieties about the limits of supernatural power. From the extra-ordinary but still ‘natural’ process of maternal impression, via the specific malignancy of witchcraft or fairy-taking, to the calamitous monstrosity of personal sin or political upheaval, early modern generation was construed as a natural process intimately entwined with and susceptible to outside influence. This chapter explores how Shakespeare constructs the limits of supernatural power on generation in relation to social, legal, medical, and theological norms familiar to an early modern audience, using Richard III as a central example.

in Shakespeare and the supernatural

Shakespeare and the supernatural explores the supernatural in Shakespearean drama, taking account of historical contexts and meanings together with contemporary approaches to these aspects in performance on stage, screen and in popular culture. Supernatural elements constitute a significant dimension of Shakespeare’s plays, contributing to their dramatic power and intrigue: ghosts haunt political spaces and psyches; witches foresee the future; fairies meddle with love; natural portents foreshadow events; and a magus conjures a tempest. Although written and performed for early modern audiences, for whom the supernatural was still part of the fabric of everyday life, the plays’ supernatural elements continue to enthral us and maintain their ability to raise questions in contemporary contexts. The collection considers a range of issues through the lens of five key themes: the supernatural and embodiment; haunted spaces; supernatural utterance and haunted texts; magic, music and gender; and present-day transformations. The volume presents an introduction to the field, covering terminology and the porous boundaries between ideas of nature, the preternatural and the supernatural, followed by twelve chapters from an international range of contemporary Shakespeare scholars whose work interrogates the five themes. They provide new insights into the central issues of how Shakespeare constructs the supernatural through language and how supernatural dimensions raise challenges of representation and meaning for critics and creators. Shakespeare and the supernatural will appeal to scholars, dramatists, teachers and students, providing valuable resources for readers interested in Shakespeare or the supernatural in drama, whether from literary, historical, film or performing arts perspectives.

Victoria Bladen

In Shakespeare’s England, ghosts were problematic, associated with Catholic ideas about Purgatory. However, ghosts proved popular on the early modern stage, and in Shakespeare’s plays the throne is a particularly haunted space. In Hamlet, Julius Caesar, Richard III and Macbeth, political leaders encounter ghosts who had held power themselves or who were murdered as part of the brutal process of obtaining political power. Ghosts not only unsettle the boundary between life and death in these plays but also question monarchs’ positions, undermining assumptions of legitimacy. Pursuant to the theory of the king’s two bodies, the spirit of divine kingship passed seamlessly to the next legitimate ruler, but in cases of rupture, where power did not legitimately pass, the spirit of ‘authentic’ monarchy could be left disembodied, thus constituting a spectral presence displaced from the political body. Shakespeare was intensely interested in cases of rupture. This chapter explores the ghosts in these four plays, examining how they haunt political spaces, and resonate with the additional spectre, the second ghost, of the disembodied, legitimate ruler.

in Shakespeare and the supernatural
Transformations of witchcraft in Macbeth discourse
William C. Carroll

This chapter analyses how the Macbeth narrative first appeared (in terse accounts a few decades after the historical Macbeth’s death in 1057 CE) without any hint of witchcraft; accounts of Duncan’s death – in battle, not in a secret murder – emphasised his weakness as a king. The story gradually acquired witches and their prophecies through the imaginations of early Scottish chroniclers, especially in Hector Boece’s 1527 Historia Gentis Scotorum. After Shakespeare’s masterful representation of the ‘wayward sisters’ in Macbeth, the witches began to multiply in number, sing, and become semi-comic figures in Restoration adaptations (including a parody of them as early as 1674). Whatever their nature originally, the witches are now always connected to prophecy and dream.

in Shakespeare and the supernatural
Abstract only
Richard Hillman

This chapter brings three principal French intertexts (and some secondary ones) to bear on A Midsummer Night’s Dream. It first argues that Dream evokes a recent play comically adapting Italianate pastoral conventions, La Diane, by Nicolas de Montreux (1594). The next key intertext explored is Le proumenoir (1594), by Marie de Gournay, which offers a feminist slant on the histoire tragique as exemplified by her source, the Champs faëz of Claude de Taillemont. Gournay’s novel presents love as tragic, particularly for women as victims of male inconstancy, as in the legend of Theseus and Ariadne. Gournay introduces this exemplum through the Epithalamium of Catullus, where it counterpoints celebration of a mythical marriage – an effect matching the intrusion of sombre overtones on Shakespeare’s representation of marriage as comic fulfilment. Finally foregrounded is the relation between the burlesque ‘tragedy’ of Pyramus and Thisbe staged by Shakespeare’s Mechanicals and an anonymous Moralité, which illuminates the Mechanicals’ absurd approach to theatrical challenges. Also considered is a poetic reworking of Ovid’s narrative by Antoine de Baïf, which anticipates Shakespeare’s embellishment of this material with humanist trappings. These intertexts highlight the parodic potential Shakespeare exploited in insinuating the fragility of generic boundaries.

in The Shakespearean comic and tragicomic