Supernatural Elements in Shakespeare
Because he was a product of his time, William Shakespeare used the supernatural in fairly significant ways throughout his writing. Two of his most famous works that used the supernatural were Hamlet and Macbeth, but evidence can be found in various others of his works, including other plays as well as poetry.
In Hamlet, the supernatural serves to guide the titular character through moments of crisis. While Hamlet is suffering due to his mother’s remarrying so quickly after the death of his father, the ghost of his father offers him solace and a plan to set things right. In pointing out the truth behind his own death, the ghost earns the trust and support of our young prince. In Macbeth, the role of the supernatural takes the titular character on a very different path. Whereas Hamlet was motivated by a cause of justice and righteousness, Macbeth is governed by self-motivation. The former wanted to remove an impostor – his uncle – from the throne and claim his rightful title. The latter would engage in incredible acts of violence – either directly or through orders to those serving him – to secure the throne for himself, based exclusively on the prophesies of three witches.
Others of Shakespeare’s works also incorporate the supernatural realm, though to varying degrees. In A Midsummer Night’s Dream, numerous supernatural themes can be identified. From the fact that the characters are, by and large, fairies, to the overarching plot line involving Hippolyta, daughter of Ares, Greek God of War, it is clear that this story goes far beyond the natural realm. The plays Julius Caesar and Antony and Cleopatra also see supernatural inclusions, particularly in the soothsayer and the predictions made. Similarly, The Tempest includes the supernatural element in some of its characters, most notably the sorcerer named Prospero.