Shakespeare's Hamlet Hamlet And The Ghost

2594 words - 10 pages

Hamlet and the Ghost

 
    This essay will analyze a very important, non-human character in Shakespeare’s tragedy, Hamlet. This is, of course, a reference to the supernatural creature, or Ghost.

 

A.C. Bradley in Shakespearean Tragedy discusses the quandary into which the Ghost put the protagonist:

 

What, it may be asked, was hamlet to do when the Ghost had left him with its commission of vengeance? The King was surrounded not merely by courtiers but by a Swiss bodyguard: how was Hamlet to get at him? Was he then to accuse him publicly of the murder? If he did, what would happen? How would he prove the charge? All that he had to offer in proof was – a ghost story! Others, to be sure, had seen the Ghost, but no one else had heard its revelations. (97)

 

 

Frank Kermode in “Hamlet” fits the Ghost into the local and national scene:

 

But meanwhile the ghost – “this thing” – has appeared. (Horatio as skeptic raises questions as to its status which could have been avoided.) There has been speculation as to its purpose, but one thing seems sure: it has to do with the state of the nation – it  “bodes some strange eruption to our state” – and with the armaments drive now in progress under the threat from Norway. That it genuinely has to do with the state of the nation – its spiritual rather than its merely political state – we shall learn; and to give us a “musical’ sense that this is so, there is the unexpected speech about Christmas. (1138)

 

The Ghost means more than a commentary on the spiritual and political state of the nation. Gunnar Boklund’s  “Judgment in Hamlet” introduces the Ghost in terms of the dilemma of the protagonist:

 

 It is a commonplace to refer to Hamlet’s “dilemma” and a critical problem to explain in what this dilemma consists. A natural way to come to terms with the problem is obviously through the character that forces the dilemma upon Hamlet, that is to say, the Ghost. This is a particularly attractive approach, since it promises to bring the findings of modern research into Elizabethan demonology to bear directly upon the question of the nature of the Ghost and its message. It was apparently generally believed, among Catholics and Protestants alike, that a ghost could be dispatched into this world by either God or the devil, and consequently it became the duty of the receiver of its command to test it conscientiously before acting upon it. This is what we see Hamlet do when, in spite of his immediate conviction that it is an honest ghost he has seen, he arranges a trial of its veracity in the form of the play within the play. (117)

 

Thus is explained the rationale of the “play within a play” which is seen as necessary for the climax of the drama. To begin consideration of the Ghost, let it be said that the Ghost makes his appearance even before the play has opened. Marchette Chute in “The Story Told in Hamlet” describes the ghost’s activity prior to the...

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