In the time of William Shakespeare there was a strong belief in the existence of the supernatural. Thus, the supernatural is a recurring aspect in many of Shakespeareís plays. In three such plays, Hamlet, Macbeth, and A Midsummer Nightís Dream the supernatural is an integral part of the structure of the plot. It provides a catalyst for action, an insight into character, and augments the impact of many key scenes.
The supernatural appears to the audience in many varied forms. In Hamlet there appears perhaps the most notable of the supernatural forms, the ghost. However, in Macbeth, not only does a ghost appear but a floating dagger, witches, and prophetic apparitions make appearances. In A Midsummer Nightís Dream, several of the characters were immortal fairies. The role of the supernatural is very important in these plays.
A ghost, appearing in the form of Hamlet's father, makes several appearances in the play. It first appears to the watchmen, Marcellus and Bernardo, along with Horatio near the guardsmenís' post. The ghost says nothing to them and is perceived with fear and apprehension. It is not until the appearance of Hamlet that the ghost speaks, and only then after Horatio has expressed his fears about Hamlet following it, "What if it tempt you toward the flood, my lord, or to the dreadful summit of the cliff."(1.4, 69-70)
The conversation between the ghost and Hamlet serves as a catalyst for Hamletís later actions and provides insight into Hamletís character. The information the ghost reveals incites Hamlet into action against a situation he was already uncomfortable with, and now even more so. Hamlet is not quick to believe the ghost, and thus an aspect of Hamletís character is revealed. Hamlet, having no suspicion of the ghost after the production by the players, encounters the ghost next in his motherís room. Hamlet is now convinced of the ghost and he no longer harbors any suspicion.
In Hamlet, the supernatural is the guiding force behind Hamlet. The ghost asks Hamlet to seek revenge for the Kingís death and Hamlet is thus propelled to set into action a series of events that ends in Hamletís death.
The supernatural occurs four times during the course of Macbeth. It occurs in all the appearances of the witches, in the appearance of Banquoís ghost, in the apparitions with their prophesies, and in the "air-drawn" dagger that guides Macbeth towards his victim.
Of the supernatural phenomenon evident in Macbeth the witches are perhaps the most important. The witches represent Macbethís evil ambitions. They are the catalyst that unleash Macbethís evil aspirations. Macbeth believes the witches and wishes to know more about the future so after the banquet he seeks them out at their cave. He wants to know the answers to his questions regardless of whether the consequence be violent and destructive to nature. The witches promise to answer and at Macbethís choice they add further unnatural ingredients to the cauldron and call up their masters. This is where the prophetic apparitions appear. The first apparition is Macbethís own head (later to be cut off by Macduff) confirming his fears of Macduff. The second apparition tells Macbeth that he can not be harmed by anyone born of woman. This knowledge gives Macbeth a false sense of security because he believes that he cannot be harmed, yet Macduff was not of woman born, his mother was dead and a corpse when Macduff was born. This leads to Macbethís downfall. A child with a crown on his head, the third apparition, represents Malcolm, Duncanís son. This apparition also gives Macbeth a false sense of security because of the Birnam Wood prophesy.
The appearance of Banquoís ghost provides insight into Macbethís character. It shows the level that Macbethís mind has recessed to. When he sees the ghost he reacts with horror and upsets the guests.
The final form of the supernatural is the air-drawn dagger that leads Macbeth to his victim. When the dagger appears to him, Macbeth finally becomes victim to the delusions of his fevered brain. The dagger points to Duncanís room and appears to be covered in blood. The dagger buttresses the impact of this key scene in which Macbeth slays King Duncan.
In A Midsummer Nightís Dream, there is a quarrel between Oberon and Titania, king and queen of the