Structure, Legitimacy, and Magic in The Birth of Merlin
In The Birth of Merlin the playwright uses the legend and example of Merlin to legitimize the use of demonic magic by Christian kings. The playwright qualifies or tempers the potentially subversive nature of this argument by plotting a complicated strategy of comparison which deconstructs the dichotomy of good and bad, moral and immoral. To do this he creates a plot interweaving four representations of female sexual behavior, four kings, four sorcerers or magicians, and four magical contests. With this rich set of characters and opportunities, the playwright creates a variety of situations in which stereotypically virtuous choices (especially sexual and marital choices) are shown to have unexpectedly corrupt or disappointing consequences in order to suggest antithetically that stereotypically wicked choices may, similarly, have surprising, which is to say rewarding, results.
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