Sunday, 19 May 2013
Shakespeare was the archetypal Renaissance Man. He was a contemporary of Galileo and Francis Bacon, the pioneers of the scientific method, and also of John Dee – the most famous occultist in English history. As Shakespeare’s most famous character, Hamlet, said: “There are more things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy”. Horatio’s philosophy was Humanism – the precursor of modern Skepticism. Shakespeare himself was more open-minded.
A previous post (More things in Heaven and Earth) described the pivotal role played by the paranormal in Hamlet. This is one of the most highly-regarded works of English literature, and yet the whole action of the play is set in motion by an encounter with a ghost. The apparition is seen by multiple witnesses, and it imparts information that later turns out to be true – although it couldn’t have been obtained by non-paranormal means (for more on the ghost in Hamlet, see The Ghost of Lulworth Cove on the Dark Dorset blog).
Hamlet isn’t the only work by Shakespeare where paranormal phenomena play a central role. In Macbeth, the title character is set on his road to power (and his ultimate downfall) by the prophecies of the three witches. Everything the witches predict during the course of the play comes to pass... although not always in the way Macbeth expects. The witches in Macbeth aren’t the evil Satan-worshippers of mediaeval imagination, but wise and superhumanly powerful women in the pagan tradition.
And that’s just the start of it. There are ghostly encounters in Julius Caesar and Richard the Third. There’s magic and sorcery in The Tempest, and midnight necromancy in Henry VI Part 2. There’s astrology and demonology in King Lear. There are paranormal-inspired high jinks in The Merry Wives of Windsor and The Comedy of Errors. And much more.
You can read all about Paranormal Shakespeare in a short ebook by myself that’s just been published by Bretwalda Books. It’s available from various places, including Amazon.com, Amazon UK, iTunes, Barnes & Noble and W H Smith.