After reading Act 1 of The Tempest, we can already tell that magic plays a huge role in the story. Nowadays, magic has taken a dominant role in our pop culture. We see many uses of magic in movies, books, and when we watch David Copperfield.
However, back in Shakespeare’s time, magic was a controversial topic. In Italy during the 1600s, people were actually burned at stake when they practiced anything related to magic. It was not only just the Catholic rule that banished this occult, but also Protestant England. Thankfully however, not all magic was considered evil. Many thinkers tried to investigate the supernatural using more rational thoughts and tools.
Shakespeare is careful whereas he portrays Prospero as a rational thinker who plans out his actions when using magic. He does this by comparing him to Sycorax, the evil witch who cannot control Ariel. Only Prospero can because Ariel is too “delicate” for Sycorax’s dark magic. Prospero tries to use his magic to set things right and to get even with his treacherous brother.
Attached is a picture of Prospero summoning Ariel while Miranda is sleeping in the back. It’s a portrait by William Hamilton. As you can tell, Ariel happens to be a female in this picture and looks quite like an angel carrying a harp.