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Significance Of The Ghost To William Shakespeare's Hamlet

1872 words - 7 pages

Significance of the Ghost to William Shakespeare's Hamlet

In Shakespeare's 'Hamlet', the ghost plays a key role in influencing
the destinies of the other characters. The ghost is important to the
play as it symbolizes both fate and catalyses the plot. It also brings
the play into the revenge tragedy genre, which allows foreshadowing to
occur and helps the audience, both Elizabethan and contemporary to
better understand the play and appreciate it. The late King Hamlet is
forced to roam the earth as he was murdered before he could confess to
his sins, having to remain in purgatory till his sins are washed from
him and he is able to enter into heaven. Hamlet, the tragic hero of
the play, and is influenced by the encounter with whom he believes to
be his late father, the ghost. Hamlet was both horror-struck and
mortified to hear of his father's betrayal. He immediately felt that
he must avenge his father and this reveals the role of the ghost, who
is able to affect the protagonist.

Hamlet is instructed to punish Claudius, the late King Hamlet's
brother and murderer. The ghost reveals that Claudius, by killing his
own brother, has committed a, "murder most foul," and deserves to die.

Written during the first part of the seventeenth century, the tragic
endings of revenge plays were pre-ordained by the church and state
expectations. Revenge was deemed acceptable only if the avenger died
at the end of the play. Only by dying could someone be forgiven for
the immoral and illegal act of revenge. Hamlet is placed in this
situation by the ghost, who orders him to act against his conscience,
and the diametrically opposed commands paralyze him," the thought of
love, may sweep me to revenge", this is also difficult for Hamlet to
accept as his father should not ask for his son to commit a crime for
which he would be damned for.

For the Elizabethan audience, the spirit could have been an illusion,
an angel, a devil or a soul ascended from Purgatory. They believed
that it was on death that the soul either went to Heaven or Hell, thus
eliminating the possibility of a human soul returning to Earth,"
heaven will direct it". This quote illustrates the strong religious
belief, giving rise to speculation of the ghost's origins, heaven or
hell ?

The presence of the ghost is only apparent to Hamlet, Horatio and the
guards. Hamlet is the only one who can hear him talking and this also
shows how close Hamlet was to his father. His own mother, in the
second appearance of the ghost, is completely unaware, which
highlights the void created between mother and son since the death of
the king. " Save me and hover o'ver me with your wings, you heavenly
guard", Hamlet puts faith in the ghost rather than his own mother. His
mother's reply, "Alas, he's mad". This can only demonstrate how
effective the...

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