ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Supernatural elements in Shakespeare's plays

Updated on February 29, 2020

William Shakespeare is regarded to be the most influential and genius playwright in history. With his plays and sonnets incorporated in classroom curriculum worldwide, billions of copies of his works sold around the world, and movie after movie produced in adaptation of his work, the affect Shakespeare had on the literary world is simply unbeatable.

Additionally, his works have been instrumental in opening people’s perceptions of the world to new levels. His presentation of fantastic characters could be attributed to his obsession with all things mystical and mythical, but also to his business savvy. His plays took off and became incredibly popular because he understood the way people thought and stretched to the supernatural during his lifetime.

The Elizabethan period was one filled with magic and wonder, and sometimes terror. Witch trials were held during this period, and a good bit of the superstitions that carried through the Elizabethan period were based around assumptions that surrounded the trials. Pagan influence still shuddered through the “common” folk, and many of the superstitions outlasted the century and still exist today. Shakespeare wisely capitalized on these many superstitions, but also deviated from the demands of the people in that he created a full and diverse range of characters in worlds that the play-goer could envision and identify with.

Focusing on what may be considered his greatest works featuring supernatural forces, this article will explore the themes and influences in the following plays from two very opposite themes and moods:

  • Hamlet
  • A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Hamlet kills Claudius
Hamlet kills Claudius

Hamlet

Hamlet is a play by William Shakespeare telling the story of Prince Hamlet of Denmark, where the play is set.  Hamlet’s father is killed, and his father’s brother, Claudius, is the murderer.  Claudius then marries Gertrude, Hamlet’s mother.   The ghost of Hamlet’s father is haunting the area, and after numerous sightings, Hamlet finally learns that Claudius poured poison in his brother’s ear, killing him.  The ghost of his father demands revenge, to which Hamlet agrees.   While the only supernatural element in the play, the ghost plays a pivotal role in the underlying story, which leads Hamlet down an emotional road between unwavering belief in the spirit of his father, to doubt, and finally to resolve.

One could argue that the ghost was a metaphor for the memory of Hamlet’s father, and a sign of the effects of loss and depression on Hamlet.  One could also argue that the spirits of murder victims cling angrily and spitefully to this world, awaiting their vengeance as a method of releasing them to the afterlife.

Nick Bottom, with the head of an ass, fawned over by the Queen of the Fairies
Nick Bottom, with the head of an ass, fawned over by the Queen of the Fairies

A Midsummer Night's Dream

From beginning to end, A Midsummer Night's Dream is filled with supernatural themes. The primary plotline involves Hermia and Lysander, two lovers who have decided to elope to be married, though Hermia's father has chosen a husband for her already. Meanwhile, the King and Queen of the fairies, Oberon and Titania, are out in the forest, quarreling because Titania will not give over her favorite Indian boy.

As the play goes on, the fairies become involved in the love story, as well as creating their own mischief, going so far as to bespell a number of the characters in the play in humorous and endearing ways.

The play ends with all the enchantments being removed from the characters, with one exception - Demetrius, previously in love with Hermia, is still enchanted to be in love with Helena.  The two couples are married in a group wedding, and the fairies come to bless the house with prosperity and good luck.

Conclusion

As seen in the two plays above, Shakespeare included a range of supernatural influences in his plays. Some of them are light-hearted, like the love spells from fairies, and others are not so joyful, like the ghost of Hamlet's father.

A skillful wordsmith, Shakespeare played off of the superstitions of his time, weaving epic tales remembered and revered throughout his lifetime and continuing into modern day.  Even in modern times these plays are identified with, beloved and watched time and time again by millions of people.

Which of these plays was your favorite? What do you think of the use of supernatural elements in these plays?

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • profile image

      rosy 

      7 years ago

      not bad

    • The Lost Dutchman profile image

      Patrick Bernauw 

      7 years ago from Flanders (Belgium)

      I love this kind of articles! Well written!

    • profile image

      SEEMASHARMA_84@YAHOO.COM 

      8 years ago

      HAI, OF COURSE THAT'S A VERY INTERESTING PLAY.CHARACTERS ARE VERY POSSESSIVE,AGGRESSIVE.SPECIALLY THIS HAD BECOME A GREAT EPIC.....

    • profile image

      hama 

      8 years ago

      thank you very much I'll use this idea in my research!!!

    • profile image

      RAMYA 

      9 years ago

      ITS NICE

    • Danielle Farrow profile image

      Danielle Farrow 

      9 years ago from Scotland, UK

      Nice hub and interesting choice re. plays. Have been asked to write along a similar theme, so will be back (and mention you of course, when time comes!).

    • profile image

      Maddy 

      9 years ago

      Hey that pritty was good, I liked that you actually thought insted of just writing stuff out cha butt, i like that you cought his obsession thing, that was good, keep at it girl... and yah that one guy who was hitting on her defently does need to be pimp slapped cuz thats just lame. But nice hub and the pics were really nice.

    • profile image

      ayesha 

      9 years ago

      amazing i needed help with my homework and was sick and tired trying to find it and finally i jumped to your thing and....VOILA i got it thank u soooooooooooooooo much

    • goodmovies profile image

      Randy Ray 

      9 years ago from Texas

      Great idea for a hub. Could easily be expanded, since Shakespeare wrote 40 or so plays.

    • profile image

      artimis 

      9 years ago

      personally, i think the person who previously commented deserves a good thorough beating with a large, blunt object. you sir, need to stop hitting on people who write shakespearean hub pages.

      good day.

    • epigramman profile image

      epigramman 

      9 years ago

      ...you're the kind of girl that I'm game for - you're savvy, witty, astute, perceptive, brave, daring with plenty of verve and nerve and panache too!

      And supernatural elements and Shakespeare - as written by you - what a supremely unbeatable combination!

    • theirishobserver. profile image

      theirishobserver. 

      10 years ago from Ireland

      Great Hub - I worte and published my first play on hubpages this week - not Shakespearian but thought I would give it a shot....Irish

    • Jane Bovary profile image

      Jane Bovary 

      10 years ago from The Fatal Shore

      Hi gamergirl,

      I enjoyed this very much....both the images and the text. The Elizabethan period was so vibrant,...notwithstanding the witch trials, which carried on until a mere 300 years or so ago.

      Cheers

    • betherann profile image

      Beth Morey 

      10 years ago from Montana

      Well written!

    • thevoice profile image

      thevoice 

      10 years ago from carthage ill

      great write hes artist thanks

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://maven.io/company/pages/privacy

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)