Theurgy In The Odyssey

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Theurgy: Internal and External Influences in Classic Literature

Within two classic pieces, The Odyssey and The Tempest, the presence of theurgy, which is to say the “operation or effect of a supernatural or divine agency in human affairs”(Meriam Webster Dictionary, 2015) presents itself in support of the central characters. While both protagonists are aided by means of divine or magical influence, this power results differently. In the case of Odysseus, he is aided to his throne by the hand of Athena and several other gods and goddesses. Divinity is used as an exclusively external force within The Odyssey. Conversely, Prospero uses the magic that surrounds him and his own learned abilities, but relinquishes this magic, surrendering to the
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Using his magic abilities, Ariel conjures and controls the colossal storm that occurs at the beginning of the text, which is responsible for the crash landing of Prospero’s brother Antonio, as well as the rest of the nobility on the ship. It is important to note that contrary to Athena, Ariel is a servant to Prospero. He is indebted to Prospero for saving him from “a torment [that] did make wolves howl and penetrate the breasts To lay upon the damned, which Sycorax Could not again undo”( 1. 2. 290-293). This changes the dynamic between the magical forces and the protagonist as he is commanding magic acts rather than having a disguised hand aid him along like in the case of Odysseus and Athena. Although Ariel is an indentured slave, he has a high amount of loyalty to Prospero and his daughter Miranda. In this quotation, Ariel reports on the biddings he has done for Prospero, displaying an element of pride in the work he does for him: “All hail, great master! grave sir, hail! I come To answer thy best pleasure; be't to fly, To swim, to dive into the fire, to ride On the curl'd clouds, to thy strong bidding task, Ariel and all his quality” (1.2.190-194). While this may be due to Ariel’s wanting to insure he will one day be let go, there is certainly a relationship of respect that is present throughout. The spirit uses his abilities to appear to the crew members and the royal party as a harpy, convincing…show more content…
Through intense training and study, Prospero has gained a substantial magic ability and utilizes this in the play, largely for means of control. He uses this magic to control other characters, like Miranda, Caliban, the King and his associates. It should be noted that Prospero was overthrown by Antonio, due to his occupation with magic. There is an element of distraction and self absorption present within Prospero that magic only furthers, as it allows him to have domain and power over the people who surround him. By the end of the play, Prospero realizes that to live a peaceful and joyous life, he must relinquish his magic. In the epilogue, Prospero pleads for “ Mercy itself and frees of all faults. As you from crimes would pardoned be, Let your indulgences set me free” (202. Epilogue: 17-20). Though it is interesting to note, a comparison can be drawn between the danger of magic ability and the character of Circe. While this sea witch temps Odysseus and turns his men to swine, eventually she helps them reach the underworld, a necessary step for Odysseus to get home. She may be seen as initially evil, but in her way she did aid the protagonist on his journey. Similarly, magic plays this role for Prospero. It was initially a distraction and became a negative ingredient in his ego, yet was a vital tool for survival and resolution within the story, regardless of wether it was used for good or
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