Rita Boucher's The Would-Be Witch



In Rita Boucher's The Would-be Witch, the heroine Miranda inspires unexpected lust in our hero, Adam. After their first significant embrace, he makes explicit the Tempest subtext: "Her mere presence was enough to cause him to out-Caliban Shakespeare's fictional barbarian" (122). The obstacle to her successful intergration into the marriage plot lies in the fact that she is NOT a witch even though her family and its permitted marriage partners are. Adam, a disbeliever who in fact has devoted his life to debunking the ploys of fakes seers and magiciams who prey on the ton, find her fascinating despite her belief that her family are witches. His fantasies constantly refer him back to Prospero's island, to the character outside the magical loop of Prospero's power: "The Caliban in him ran rampant, imagination transforming those brief moments into elaborate fantasy" (161).

His positioning of himself as the lustful outsider to the powerful family not only reveals his desire for Miranda but also his unwilling acceptance of the story she tells: "Once again, Adam tried to convince himself that what he felt was not more than a combination of compassion and Caliban's savage cravings" (170). His resistence to her family's claim to magic arises from his deceased parents' conviction that they will be able to communicate from beyond the grave because of their love. As a result of this belief, his father beggared himself to solicit his wife's words from charletons and his son, rejected and hostile, undertook to "rescue" similarly deluded folk after succeeding to the title. As it turns out, of course, love is all the magic Miranda and Adam can have and all that they need.

The last Shakespearean reference of the novel shifts from Caliban to Ariel and reveals the phrase the hero's dead mother was to convey via medium to his father: "a sea-change/ Into something rich and strange" (From Ariel's song in Act 1, scene 2). As Miranda's response after their first betrothed kiss, Shakespeare's words transmute from the sign of Adam's exclusion and destructive desire to the blessing of his dead parents and their ratification of love rather than lust as the magic at work.

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