Role of Supernatural in Literature

Posted on September 6, 2007

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Writers have from time to time experimented with different themes to weave an altogether new web in their literary works. The presence of a supernatural element has been one of the favourites with many authors.
When Shakespeare made the ghost of Hamlet’s father appear before him in his drama ‘Hamlet’, it was merely that he had used what the Elizabethans already believed. Some of them thought that the ghosts were hallucinations but there were others who believed that the spirit made its journey back to the Earth in order to accomplish some incomplete task. Then there were a section of people who believed that it was by the permission of God that the spirit came to Earth to give a message. But this was only one side – God’s divine spirit; it could be an evil spirit or an independent spirit with a motive to create chaos in society.
Hamlet too in the play doesn’t believe the ghost at first instance. He takes pains to prove what the ghost told him about his father’s murder. This illustrates the Elizabethan dilemma – whether a ghost is an agent of God or that of Lucifer.
Then there were the three witches of ‘Macbeth’. But in contrast to the supernatural in Hamlet (that wants to fulfill the incomplete task through his son), the witches in ‘Macbeth’ instigate Macbeth to commit the heinous crime of murdering King Duncan for becoming the King. Lady
Macbeth has been called the fourth witch because she too coaxes him for this.
When we talk of supernatural we should not forget to discuss the Romantic School of Poetry. While Wordsworth made the natural appear supernatural, Coleridge made the supernatural look natural. The use of ‘Albatross’ in his famous poem ‘The Rime of Ancient Mariner’ stands
witness to it.Literature is so vast that it cannot be summed up in one post, this was just a small part of it.
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Posted in: literature