Archive for September, 2010

Sep 23 2010


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Hasina Islam

Professor Frederick Buell

English 399w

Honors Seminar

Second Assignment : outline

September 23, 2010

Magic as a moving force ,Technology

I. Magic in the play

a.. What is the role of magic in the play?

b.  does it have limitations

c. helps move the play along?

II. Magic as a possible theme?

Importance of spells/ potions/ books in the play

Prospero as a Magician?

Spirits ( Ariel  ) and their use of magic

III. Location/ Climate/ Temperature allowance of Magic?  

What’s considered an Illusion

What is realistic / reality of the island

Random thoughts

Like a magic show the play lasts only a few hours

Music in the background in a magic show , music is played in the play  sets the mood

Prospero is the magician , knows all the tricks

Magic is a thematic device?

Prospero’s magic spoken words? Never described in detail only Prospero talks of his magic

Spoken incantations powerful ?

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Sep 23 2010

Prospero’s use of the parapsychlogical as technology in Shakespeare’s The Tempest

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Hasina Islam

Professor Frederick Buell

English 399w

Honors Seminar

Second Assignment

September 23, 2010

Prospero’s use of the parapsychlogical as technology in Shakespeare’s The Tempest

Throughout The Tempest, many characters use magic to drive the plot forward. It is these spells and enchantments that become the representative of the power of language. According to the English oxford dictionary magic is the use of ritual activities or observances which are intended to influence the course of event or to manipulate the natural world If we take technology to mean the application of science in a commerce/ industry then can we not call magic some sort of science?. Prospero not only servers are the playwright but also the magician who keeps the audience awed by the tricks up his sleeve; Magic and Prospero go hand in hand.

Prospero learns the art of magic from his books and uses it for his own purposes. He wants to take revenge from his brother for stealing his dukedom but also mystifies everyone one the island by his use of magic. Prospero’s magic is never in detail rather he is the only one that talks about its affects after he has completed a spell. The first time we get a sense that magic is being performed is in Act 1 scene 2,  he puts on his magic cloak and says “ thou are inclined to sleep” and Mirada immediately falls asleep. He is able to alter the condition hi victim are in . Later he uses his magic to paralyze Ferdinand and “charms him from moving”.

When is comes to his slave Caliban, Prospero so uses a different technique. Instead of magically harming him, Prospero constantly threatens to make Caliban suffer by torturing him. Though we never get to see the tortures Proper promises to Caliban, we hear of them.  Prospero says

“ for this be sure , tonight thou shalt have cramps,

Side stitches that shall pen thy breath up, urchins

Shall forth at vast of night that they may work

All exercise on thee. Thou shat be pinched

As thick as honeycomb, each pinch more stinging

Than bees that made’em”  (I.II. lines 328-333)

It’s important to note the power Prospero has over his words and what he is able to accomplish with them, almost as if he has mastered the art of spoken language. Whenever there is another character involved Prospero is able to use words to get the to do as he chooses, such is the case with Miranda and Ferdinand. Caliban on the other hand is the only one who seems to outright defy Prospero. Even then his defiance is very minimal to Prospero. Caliban challenges Prospero’s superiority and says the only thing he has learnt from language is the art of cursing.

            Like Caliban, Ariel Prospero’s personal slave is subject to Prospero’s authority over him. But unlike Caliban who possess no magical abilities Ariel is quite the charmer. He is able to use magic language in his songs to create spells and enchantments. Ariel sings into Gonzalo’s ear and tells him  

“while you here do snoring lie,

Open-eyed conspiracy

His time doth take

If life you keep a care,

Shake off slumber and beware

Awake, awake!” (II.II.295-300)

With his proclamation of “now, good angels preserve the King! “(II.I.302). Gonzalo awakes and stops Sebastian and Antonio from killing Alonso. Ariel uses music and song to demonstrate his magical abilities as well as inform Gonzalo of the conspiracy that Sebastian and Antonio were planning. Again when Caliban I kneeling in front of Stephano Ariel mimics Trinculo’s voice and calls him a liar. This creates a disagreement between Stephano who believes it is Trinculo speaking, Caliban who is repeatedly called a liar and poor Trinculo who suffers a few blows even though h was mum. Ariel creates discords between Caliban and the nobles thus disrupting their plan to overthrow Prospero.

            Ariel says it is through his books that Prospero finds out about Sebastian and Antonio’s scheme. The audience learns that Prospero’s magic lies in the books he uses. And again later Caliban mentions to Stephano and Trinculo

Remember ,

First to posses his books, for without them

He’s but a sot, as I am, nor hath not

One spirit to command. They do all hate him

As rootedly as I. Burn his books (III.II.86-90)

Prospero’s magic lies in his books. It is his devotion to studying that made him lose his focus and later his dukedom. While isolated Prospero has only himself and the technology/ magic he is studying/ acquired. Even with Miranda Prospero doesn’t quite let her in and therefore she is not well informed about her past and where she comes from. It is as if he is given a choice to pick between the world and his magic. At first it was his books and so his brother took advantage and seized the throne for himself. Later on the island he kept his distance from his daughter and spent time alone with his spirits. After awhile he tired of being isolated from the world because of his knowledge and so he vows to let it all go; He wants to be rid of his books and find his place in the world.

Throughout the play here have been many instances where Prospero either his minions were showing off their magical abilities by getting those around them to do as they wished. It I evident that Magic is a type of technology that Prospero is using to not only move the plot along but also to make use of the power of language. In the epilogue Prospero asks the audience to applaud him for giving up his books, he is setting his magical items aside. The enchantment is over and so is the play.

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Sep 04 2010

Iron Stairs

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There’s something about this poem that makes me want to randomly pick out words before I start reading it. I think it’s the way the poem looks on the page like one tall building.

Random word associations before reading the poem

Iron stairs – man made

Roof – man made , machine involved

Machines involved?

Cops – institutions that control and regulate

Suicide victim?

Bullet proof vests- machine made

Parapet ?


It’s hard not to notice all the technology mentioned in the poem. Sharon Olds uses vivid imagery to tell the tale of a possible suicide mission. From the moment the poem beings with the man/machine made iron stairs it is clear that the protagonist is trying to escape all that surrounds him. The area between the roof and the ground seems to be void of anything related to technology. It is free empty air and his means of escape. Even when he is on the brink of dying he is not given his last rite but rather forced to take his place in the world. It’s as if the institutions around the people of the city have gotten used people wanting to get away. When the cops arrive they aren’t even bothered by the situation at all. Even when he threatens to jump the cop continues to talk to him and everything around them is prepared to prevent him from dying.


Summer Solstice, New York City

By the end of the longest day of the year he could not stand it,
he went up the iron stairs through the roof of the building
and over the soft, tarry surface
to the edge, put one leg over the complex green tin cornice
and said if they came a step closer that was it.
Then the huge machinery of the earth began to work for his life,
the cops came in their suits blue-gray as the sky on a cloudy evening,
and one put on a bullet-proof vest, a
black shell around his own life,
life of his children’s father, in case
the man was armed, and one, slung with a
rope like the sign of his bounden duty,
came up out of a hole in the top of the neighboring building
like the gold hole they say is in the top of the head,
and began to lurk toward the man who wanted to die.
The tallest cop approached him directly,
softly, slowly, talking to him, talking, talking,
while the man’s leg hung over the lip of the next world
and the crowd gathered in the street, silent, and the
hairy net with its implacable grid was
unfolded near the curb and spread out and
stretched as the sheet is prepared to receive at birth.
then they all came a little closer
where he squatted next to his death, his shirt
glowing in a dish at night in the dark in a lab and then
everything stopped
as his body jerked and he
stepped down from the parapet and went toward them
and they closed on him, I thought they were going to
beat him up, as a mother whose child has been
lost will scream at the child when it’s found, they
took him by the arms and held him up and
leaned him against the wall of the chimney and the
tall cop lit a cigarette
in his own mouth, and gave it to him, and
then they all lit cigarettes, and the
red, glowing ends burned like the
tiny campfires we lit at night
back at the beginning of the world.

Sharon Olds
from The Gold Cell (Knopf, 1987)

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