Imatges de pÓgina

the highest regions of spiritual existence. Of this order is Ariel, the attendant minister of Prospero, and Shakspeare has somewhat overstrained the privilege which, as a superior spirit, he enjoyed, by releasing him from all restrictions upon the time of his appearance. The approach of day was the signal for the departure of all spirits, the most wicked disappearing first, and the least criminal lingering till dawn, and even day-light itself, appeared. Ariel was entitled to protract his stay to the latest possible period allowed; but all spirits were more or less guilty of the rebellion for which they were banished heaven; and, as a guilty thing, the performance of all his labours between two and six o'clock in the afternoon, to which they are specifically fixed", is inadmissible.

The purity and delicacy of Ariel's etherial nature rendered him an unfit minister to. « act the earthly and abhorr'd commands” of the

* Prosp. " What is the time o'the day? Ariel. Past the mid season.

Prosp. At least two glasses : The time 'twixt six and now Must by us both be spent most preciously." Act I. sc. 2.

Prosp. “How's the day?

Ariel. On the sixth hour, at which time, my lord, You said our work should cease.” Act V. sc. 1.

foul witch, Sycorax * ; but to the virtuous and benignant Prospero he is a faithful and diligent, though not invariably cheerful, attendant ; for his service is not voluntary, and he therefore often pleads for liberty, and his master holds out to him the prospect of release as the most welcome gift he could bestow. It is in reference to the belief that the duration of a spirit's servitude was stipulated by agreement, that Prospero demands of Ariel whether he looked for freedom “before the time be out,” and that Ariel reminds him of his promise, “to bate him a full year.”+

The ability of the magician to exact from his ministering spirits the utmost limit of their stipulated servitude, and to punish their neglect or disobedience, is made apparent in the cruel infliction of Sycorax on Arielt, and the threat of Prospero, in the event of his murmuring,

* Act I. sc. 2.
† Ibid.
I “Refusing her grand hests, she did confine thee

By help of her more potent ministers,
And in her most unmitigable rage,
Into a cloven pine; within which rift
Imprison'd, thou didst painfully remain
A dozen years."

Act I. sc. 2.

6 to rend an oak, ‘and peg him in his knotty entrails, till he had howl'd away twelve winters.” * Spirits, indeed, were deemed particularly sensible of pain, and peculiarly to dread the wound of a sword: conjurors, in consequence, often entered thus armed into their magic circles for the due enforcement of their authority. It was, however, the necromancer only who had power to injure spiritual beings; to other hands they were invulnerable, and of this privilege Ariel boasts, when Alonzo and Sebastian draw their swords for his destruction :

“ You fools! I and my fellows
Are ministers of fate; the elements
Of whom your swords are temper'd, may as well
Wound the loud winds, or with bemock'd-at stabs
Kill the still closing waters, as diminish
One dowle that's in my plume; my fellow ministers
.Are like invulnerable." +

Purely spiritual, they could appear corporeally only as apparitions, or under favour of the privilege of assuming various shapes at pleasure. The stage directions of the Tempest perpetually direct the entrance of Ariel “invisible;" he appears as a harpy, and a water-nymph, and

* Act I. sc. 2.

+ Act III. sc. 3.

“ fames amazement" among the distracted crew of the king's ship.

Ariel's gambols, as a meteor, are in exact conformity with the attributes of an aërial spirit. Many extraordinary stories are on record in the marvellous narratives of voyages performed in the sixteenth century, respecting the appearance of supernatural lights. upon masts, rigging, and other parts of vessels. Classical authority may be quoted in proof of the antiquity, if not as to the origin of the superstitions respecting them. Meteors were much observed by the Greeks, and, very naturally, with particular attention in naval affairs. When the storm was hushed which threatened the destruction of the Argonauts, it was observed that a flame had then appeared over the head of Castor and Pollux, and it was ever afterwards believed, that when two lights appeared together, they indicated favourable winds and prosperity ; but when one meteor only flamed, or if two lights had first been visible, and were succeeded by a single appearance which drove them away, nothing but storms and shipwrecks were portended. Ariel divided, “ and burnt in many places ; on the top-mast, the yards and bowsprit did he flame distinctly, then meet, and join."*

* Act I. sc. 2.

The power of different spiritual beings was confined to that portion of the elements in which their residence was fixed, and the magician was necessitated to use the agency of fiery, aërial, watery, or terrestrial spirits, according to the nature and situation of the bodies on which he wished to operate. Prospero exerts his art on all the supposed elements of nature, and, in strict propriety, he ought to have effected his wonders in each by the spirits peculiar to each. Such an arrangement, which would have been obviously inconvenient in a drama, by the introduction of a multiplicity of characters, Shakspeare has skilfully evaded, and finds more than an apology for his inaccuracy in the advantage obtained by it. The powers of Ariel are considerably extended, and, when not employed . as a principal himself, he is invariably made the agent for the conveyance of Prospero's commands to the other ministers of his will.

It was one of the serious charges against magic, as a power convertible to the worst of purposes, that the agency of spirits was frequently employed to inspire love. The instruments of evil are sanctified by the use to which the hands of Prospero apply them. He consigns to Ariel the charge of raising the flame of at

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