The Tempest Through Coleridge's Poetic Faith

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 Poetic faith, also known as the suspension of disbelief, is a willingness to believe something by sacrificing logic and realism for the sake of enjoyment. In The Tempest, Shakespeare provides a compelling fairy story that stimulates the readers on the sense of the supernatural. While the piece of literature portrays ordinary things, it is also a dramatic representation of what is right to external and human nature, which allows easy comprehension of the audience.  In means that there is nothing that is portrayed in the story that is out of the ordinary of what humans can understand and relate. The outline of the story is, however, natural because its characters are operating in the physical world that involves everyday experiences. Supernatural is an act or thing that exceeds the laws and powers that are commonly observed in the real world. Approaching The Tempest through Coleridge’s poetic faith would have a negative impact on the comprehension of the contemporary message of the story. 

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            The Tempest is a romantic drama that does not rely on historical, natural events or fidelity, but develops through imagination and union of various elements as the author wishes. The drama does not have any allegiance to space or time, resulting in geographical and chronological errors. “The story setting despite describing   what might be in terms of geographical locations, there is no prove that these places exist.  Shakespeare says “Ye elves of hills, brooks, standing lakes, and groves, And ye that on the sands with printless foot” . This proves that the story addresses itself through the imaginative faculty and relies on illusions that are assisted by complex scenery and modern decorations. Therefore, the major excitement is within sympathetic imaginations. The Tempest begins with busy but admirable scenes that bring harmony. This opening helps to prepare and depict the emotion required by the readers. The real horrors in the drama are abstracted, making them poetic, though strictly natural. 

In the drama, Prospero and Miranda, his infant daughter, are set adrift in the sea in an old boat but provided with all the necessary supplies. Still, they luckily find an uninhabited Isle that they start inhabiting. “There they hoist us, To cry to th’ sea that roared to us, to sigh To th’ winds whose pity, sighing back again, Did us but loving wrong”.  Prospero’s enemies thought that he and his daughter perished in the sea, which dismissed any possibility of his return. However, their new home worked as a temporary refuge from the storm. Accompanying them was Ferdinand, the King’s son who enters the Island using a different route and thinks he was the only survivor. Ferdinand meets and adores Prospero’s beautiful daughter Miranda, and they fall in love. His love for Miranda intensified when he realized that she suffered because of the King, his father. They exchange their vows, and Prospero gets a chance to reconcile. To this end, there is nothing supernatural in the sense, but small circumstances show the possibility of an extraordinary occurrence. 

The Island becomes the center of the drama, and it does not represent anything supernatural, but the readers can choose to focus on the belief of a divine occurrence based on its features. Although strange creatures are living on the Island and strange things happen as proved by the Caliban, ‘The clouds, me thought, would open and show riches Ready to drop upon me, that, when I waked, I cried to dream again’ .  Caliban was trying to explain to Trinculo and Stephano about the mysterious music that they say they hear through magic.  He shows that he can use speech language in a more sensitive and better fashion. He says that “A solemn air and the best comforter, To an unsettled fancy cure thy brains, Now useless, boiled within thy skull”  to explain to them that it’s normal. It further indicates that the Island is natural, although it is deserted and inaccessible, making it uninhabitable. However, the Island has a conducive temperature and climate that allows plants to grow with eternal flowers and beauty. Nonetheless, Prospero has supernatural gifts exhibited in different ways, including his invisibility. However, Prospero gifts in The Tempest cannot be viewed through the poetic faith approach because they would destruct their meaning in the play.

          According to Shakespear Prospero says that “But this rough magic I here abjure, and when I have required Some heavenly music, which even now I do, To work mine end upon their senses that This airy charm is for, I’ll break my staff, Bury it certain fathoms in the earth,

And, deeper than did ever plummet sound, I’ll drown my book” . This explains why The Tempest is not a supernatural play both in its plot, settings, incidents, and dramatis personae. Further, Gonzalo explains about the island that “All torment, trouble, wonder, and amazement Inhabits here. Some heavenly power guides us Out of this fearful country!” . However, the characters in the play are aware of the supernatural; hence, using the poetic faith approach may not be necessary to understand this literature. All the incidents showing realism and charm in The Tempest help to reconcile the reader with the supernatural and expand his perception of the same. The paranormal aspect in the story could be scaring but serves as an essential factor for man’s scheme of things. Not all things that appear supernatural are proof unless they violate the laws of nature. 

Shakespeare utilizes the concept of supernatural as a way of enticing the reader to understand the natural occurrences at the time.  As Miranda says “If by your art, my dearest father, you have

Put the wild waters in this roar, allay them”. The main objective of Shakespeare is a happy ending; hence he creates the aspect of the supernatural to manipulate the outcome. For instance, by giving Prospero divine powers, the readers have the belief that he can survive after he is exiled by the King. Similarly, Prospero is able to control the love story between his daughter and Ferdinand due to his powers. The belief in an extraordinary occurrence, in this case, causes the reader to anticipate for a better ending since they know magic will assist the prosperity of their desired characters.

Miranda acknowledges that his father’s marvelous art as motivated by the scheme of things in ‘wonder! How many goodly creatures are there here! How beauteous mankind is! a brave new world, that has such people in it!’ . Additionally, the events in The Tempest are therefore not detached from human affairs. Although the Island reveals a new world and life, the islanders often go back to real life. Hence, the reader is asked by Prospero not to be left behind in the bare Island of superstition.

Unlike the supernatural occurrences in other pieces of Shakespeare’s literature, The Tempest focusses on the natural aspect of life. For instance, Prospero uses Ariel, Sycorax’s former servant to strategize on how to regain his old status and also assist his new friends. Shakespeare portrays Ariel as a sense of hope for Prospero by using the ability to summon spirits. In actual sense, Ariel could just be one of the associates who has the ability to help due to resources. However, the play adds magic to entice the reader to have hope. Caliban who is half fish monster “as a “freckled whelp hag-born–not honour’d with a human shape” , is unnatural but Prospero makes him look normal.  Shakespeare shows the safety of the inhabitants by using Caliban’s quote “the island fills with sweet airs, noises, and sounds that do not hurt but give delight”. Caliban confirms that Ariel cannot hurt the island’s inhabitants, hence the reader can focus on the other characters and their missions.

           As depicted from the play, despite the supernatural scenes, the audience is not supposed to entirely focus on poetic faith’s suspension of disbelief because the events must be understood as they happen. The main objective of focusing on the supernatural is to entice the reader and allow thoughts of a happy ending. Shakespeare wants the reader to connect divine occurrences with the natural. Therefore, suspension of disbelief would, therefore, impact on the meaning of the play. This effect is because the audience needs to experience the supernatural aspect to allow the play to have meaning. This factor means that Coleridge’s argument of poetic faith would not be applicable when trying to understand The Tempest. 

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