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King Hamlet's Ambiguous Ghost Essay

2480 words - 10 pages

In discussions pertaining to the nature of Hamlet’s ghost, there is much debate. On the one hand, authors such as W.W. Greg believe that Hamlet’s ghost was merely a hallucination, but on the other hand, Maurice Egan believes that Hamlet’s ghost was a real character who truly existed. Egan also contends that the ghost is sent from purgatory, however, authors such as Roy Battenhouse believe that the ghost is pagan and came from hell. Others such as Robert West maintain that the ghost is neither from heaven or hell, but was written to be purposefully confusing so that any audience member could think of the ghost in many different ways. I personally believe that the ghost was a real character who came from hell and appeared before Hamlet in order to have him exact his revenge on Claudius.
I personally disagree with the author W.W. Greg’s interpretation of Hamlet’s ghost, and believe that his assumption that Hamlet is simply hallucinating his father’s ghost is without merit. Many of W.W. Greg’s claims relate Hamlet to other plays that were written by Shakespeare, claiming that due to how Shakespeare portrayed ghosts in his previous works, it would follow that Hamlet also fits into the same mold as these past writings. W.W. Greg even states, “I should like to be told what Shakespeare's views were of ghosts in general ... I am forced to turn to Shakespeare's other plays for suggestions as to how he represented these phenomena” (Greg 395). W.W. Greg is simply claiming that trends in Shakespeare’s writings in the past logically must take the same form in the character of Hamlet’s ghost. This method of thinking simply does not hold up when examined critically, mainly due to the fact that there were multiple witnesses to the ghost, and thus, the claim that Hamlet’s ghost must be entirely in Hamlet’s own mind is shattered. Not only is Horatio noted to have seen the ghost, but the guards also saw the ghost of Hamlet’s father. Horatio states when seeing the ghost for the second time, “But soft, behold, lo where it comes again!” (Shakespeare 1.2 126). Due to the quote that states Horatio and the guards not only saw the ghost once, but twice, it provides sufficient evidence to disprove the claim that Hamlet is simply hallucinating. Furthermore, the very first time Hamlet is introduced to the ghost, he is with three other people, all of whom speak of the ghost’s appearance. While Shakespeare may have set quasi-precedence with his other works concerning ghosts, the claim that Hamlet is hallucinating his father’s ghost simply does not hold up against the evidence that has been given. The ghost’s request to be avenged is also aligned with what King Hamlet would have wished for, which further supports the fact that the ghost truly exists and is in fact searching for revenge.
Furthermore, I agree with the author Maurice Egan in his reasoning for believing that Hamlet’s ghost is a real character rather than just a thought inside of Hamlet’s mind. The...

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