In William Shakespeare’s play The Tempest, Prospero is the exiled Duke of Milan who lives on a remote island with his daughter Miranda. Prospero possesses magical powers and uses them to cause a storm that shipwrecks his usurping brother Antonio and King Alonso of Naples onto the island.
While Prospero’s island initially appears uninhabited, he reveals that he lives in an enchanted cell in a cave, where he has books and magical implements. Shakespeare’s stage directions note that the play opens with Prospero and Miranda in a room in the cell, but the text does not provide extensive details about Prospero’s home beyond this. However, scholars have analyzed clues in the text to speculate about what Prospero’s magical cell and the other rooms in it may have looked like.
One question that arises is, what was the seventh room in Prospero’s castle decorated with? While Shakespeare does not explicitly state what is contained in each room, we can make some educated guesses based on details provided about Prospero’s study of magic and the contents of his cell. Examining what decor and furnishings might suit a mage’s seventh room can illuminate how Prospero practiced his occult arts.
What the Text Reveals About Prospero’s Dwelling
The Tempest indicates that Prospero’s magical cell is set up like chambers within a castle. When Prospero gives Miranda a condensed history of their lives in Act I, Scene ii, he describes how:
“Me and thy crying self [Miranda] I bore,
With cords of all my library with volumes that
I prized above my dukedom.”
This reveals that Prospero’s cell contains his library of magic books which he values more than his former domain of Milan. Prospero also refers to his home as a “cell” and “cave” at times, suggesting a natural cavern that he has moved into and partitioned into separate rooms to serve as his abode and magical laboratory.
When Prospero puts on a magic show for Miranda in Act V, Scene i, his description hints at some contents of his study:
“Lend thy hand
And pluck my magic garment from me….
Lie there, my art.”
This indicates Prospero has a magic garment along with other tools of his mystical arts stored in his study. After working his magic, Prospero requests that Miranda take his garment and lay it down gently, as he values his magical implements.
Decor for a Magician’s Seventh Room
While Prospero’s study is evidently full of books and magic garments, what might be contained in the seventh room of a mage’s abode? Here are some possibilities for what a 16th-century wizard may use to decorate and furnish room seven of his castle cell:
– Celestial maps and astrological charts – Charting the stars and planets was seen as important in occult practice. The seventh room could hold astronomical diagrams on walls and tables.
– Apothecary ingredients and supplies – Spells and incantations may require exotic herbs, minerals, gems, and other materials that would be kept in this back room.
– Specimens in jars – Mages like Prospero were also considered natural philosophers. Jars of snakes, eye of newt, and other preserved creatures could adorn shelves.
– Candles and braziers – Candles lit in patterns and geometric designs were part of magic ceremonies. Braziers holding incense also led to trance states.
– Statues and shrines – Idols and icons can focus magical energies and act as divine conduits. A seventh room may house a shrine to a wizard’s patron deity.
– Complex patterns and symbols – Mysterious sigils, pentacles, and glyphs have symbolic power. These can be carved into walls or drawn onto tapestries.
– Wands, staves, swords – Ceremonial weapons and tools embued with magical force would be stored safely in an inner sanctum.
– Mirrors and crystals – Reflective surfaces and gemstones bent light and energies to wellsprings. A seventh room may be ringed with mirrors and crystals.
– Circle and triangle diagrams – Circles that surround a magician and triangles that direct power may be permanent drawings on the floor.
– Robes, cloaks and regalia – Special vestments to alter perception and wield power would be accessed from hidden cabinets.
In summary, while Shakespeare does not specify the contents of each chamber, Prospero’s seventh room was likely decorated and filled with tools of the esoteric arts. As a Renaissance mage, Prospero would want sigils, diagrams, incantations, and ingredients close at hand. The seventh room removed from the entrance would be secure, yet accessible as Prospero practiced his magic while isolated on the island. The decor would reflect a wizard shaping his environment through occult forces. Studying Prospero’s home illuminates how magic was conceived 400 years ago, on the cusp of the Enlightenment. The striking imagery in The Tempest continues to inspire fantastical interpretations of Prospero’s haunted cell.