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The Tempest written in 1611 was one of William Shakespeares lastplays It has a combination of superb characters interesting settings anda good plot lineall held together by the running theme of magic andits ever-present importance A closer examination of the magic in The Tempestand the publics view of magic at the time will give insight as toShakespeares choice of magic as a theme and why it has made the playso successful and timelessMagic presented itself to Shakespeare as a controversial topic as it hadbeen the persecution of those believed to perform black magic witchesthat had been at the forefront of societal concerns since 1050 Howeverafter 500 years of witch-hunts a turning point occurred in 1584 at thepublication of Reginald Scots The Discouerie of Witchcrafte The Discoveryof Witchcraft This book was the first major book to denounce witch-huntsand their ringleaders and unquestionable the first book in English to actuallyhypothesize about the methods of these so-called witches It contained onechapter of approximately twenty pages describing what we might view asunsophisticated old-time magic tricksOne would assume that it was this text and texts succeeding this The Artof Juggling written by Samuel Ridd in 1610 also presented a few how-tosof magic were probably not only what suggested the idea of using magic asa them to Shakespeare but in addition provided methods as to how the magicin the play might be accomplishedDespite the fact that in retrospective analysis it is fairly clear that witcheswere nothing more that magicians with a slightly different presentationaudiences were not always aware of and those that were were rarelyconvinced bythe two aforementioned texts Witches were still persecutedand witch-hunts did not actually stop until the end of the seventeenth centuryTherefore Shakespeares use of magic was controversial compoundedby the fact that Prospero was presented in a largely good lighta moveprobably made as a political statement as it is known that Shakespearesplays were sometimes written to include political suggestions to King JamesHowever when Prospero relinquished his powers at
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