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Siginificance of ghost in Hamlet

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  • Pages: 5
  • Word count: 1238
  • Category: Hamlet

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Shakespearean Tragedies are typical of overwhelming grief and revengeful characters which Hamlet is a prime example of. The writer’s inclusion of the Ghost not only adds to the dramatic effect of the play but also the plot and outcome. The Ghost plays a critical role in defining the destinies of the other characters and lifting the structure of Hamlet. Shakespeare applied the Ghost at the opening of the play for a theatrical and foreboding introduction to Hamlet. The audience is immediately hit with a frightening scene of confusion and interest.

By exploring the language and structure of Hamlet we can begin to understand the importance of the Ghost in Act One. By generating the interest of the audience in the first scene of Hamlet the playwright can immediately immerse the audience in what the guards have witnessed. “What, has this thing appeared again tonight? “. Horatio questions the existence of the Ghost and says “Tush, tush, ’twill not appear”. This adds to the suspense the audience is experiencing as they wonder whether the Ghost will actually appear.

Shakespeare uses the connotations of the Ghost to create a threatening opening to the play. The audience establishes the setting of Scene One when Francisco says “‘Tis bitter cold” and Bernado exclaims “Tis now struck twelve”. At the time, the audience would have known these to be conventional features of a witching hour. This adds to the suspense of the first scene as the audience now realizes that something foreboding is about to occur. Tension is also added to Scene One through the short and interrogative sentences exchanged by Bernado, Marcellus and Francisco.

Although the initial Scene has a significant and dramatic impact on the viewers, not a lot is revealed. The Ghost does not speak to Horatio so Shakespeare can gradually release the tension when the Ghost finally does speak. The character of Horatio is used in Scene One to confirm the existence of the Ghost. He is presented as a skeptical and well educated man and one who does not believe in the Ghost: “Twill not appear”. Marcellus also enforces Horatio’s idea of the Ghost being imaginary when he states “Horatio says tis but our fantasy”.

Shakespeare uses Horatio to confront the audience’s perspective of skepticism of the emergence of the Ghost. “You tremble and look pale” demonstrates how someone as rational as Horatio has witnessed the spirit and therefore making it a reality and not a fantasy. The Ghost enters for the third time in Act One Scene Four Shocking Hamlet and the audience. Following into Scene Five the Ghost now becomes part of the narrative aspect of Act One instead of arousing interest in the audience and creating dramatic suspense.

The Ghosts speech makes it clear that Claudius has murdered King Hamlet and that his sin must be punished in order to restore justice in Denmark. The Ghost’s speech is manipulative and emotive which has an obvious effect on Hamlet and the audience. Within the first line of the Ghost’s second dialogue he demonstrates his anger and hatred towards his brother. “Ay, that incestuous, that adulterate beast” instantly shows his disgust towards Claudius and questions how his wife could marry someone as foul as his brother.

Upon a wretch whose natural gifts were poor” illustrates how he cannot believe that his wife who he truly loved would reject him for Claudius when their love was false. This has a great affect on Hamlet who now has his worst fears confirmed and gives his attention to the Ghost. The phantom continues by describing his actual murder. He makes himself seem innocent and vulnerable by saying, “sleeping within my orchard” and “upon my secure hour”. This conveys the idea to Hamlet that his Father was killed whilst he was unprotected and in his own garden which leads Hamlet to believe that Claudius is a coward and adds to his hatred.

The Ghost is preparing Hamlet for his task ahead by making him detest Claudius and feel sorry for his Father. This is followed up with disturbing imagery to shock Hamlet whilst leading him to revenge. “Swift as quicksilver” and “courses through the natural gates and alleys of the body” is referring to the poison moving through King Hamlet’s body and gradually killing him. Shakespeare could also have been relating to how Claudius was unnaturally quick to seize the thrown and intending “quicksilver” to be involving the symbolism of Claudius being the cold-blooded serpent.

The Ghost also wants to make Hamlet sympathize with him, “Pity me not, but lend thy serious hearing” shows that he really wants Hamlet to expirience his pain without him feeling forced to. Vocabulary including “Doomed”, “burnt” and “purged” convey to the audience and Hamlet of his pain and suffering as he is “confined to fast in fires”. The juxtaposition of “freeze” and “fires” could suggest how the Ghost was suddenly thrown into an unfamiliar environment of pain and suffering. By gaining Hamlets sympathy the Ghost can Begin to lay the task in front of him.

The Ghost also describes how has lost everything such as his wife and status towards the end of his speech. “Sleeping by a brother’s hand, of life, of crown, of queen once dispatched” shows how the old King’s life was destroyed in an unforeseen sin. Hamlet’s task is made clearer by the Ghost when he says, “Let not the royal bed of Denmark be a couch for Luxury and damned incest”. During Scene Five the word “remember” is often repeated. The Ghost ends his last line with “remember me” to emphasize Hamlet’s recently defined purpose which can be interpreted as ‘avenge me’.

The shape of Hamlet’s duty has been set and he eventually gives his word of promise: “I have sworn’t”. One of the most important reasons for Shakespeare to incorporate the Ghost in Act One is to have an effect on the plot of the play. The requirement of Hamlet to take revenge against Claudius is a pivotal aspect of Act One. It sets the play off in the direction of a revenge tragedy. Hamlet is not primarily an action-taken character and without the Ghost, Hamlet would never of had given himself the task of seeking revenge. The Ghost also introduces the theme of justice in the sense that a sin must be met with a punishment.

Not only is this an important aspect of Hamlet, but it also provides the basis for characters to take action. The Ghost is the foundation of Hamlets motivation throughout the play and the cause for action of several characters. I believe that the Ghosts presence in the opening and progression of Hamlet is significant. He is the backbone of the play as it is the appearance of the ghost which results in Hamlet taking action which actually develops the play further. Not only does the Ghost convey the evidence of his Father’s murder, but he gives him a purpose to fulfill.

Shakespeare’s use of the Ghost allows him to gradually reveal the plot through creating peaks of tension as the Ghost enters and exists during Act One of Hamlet. The conventional connotations of the spirit also add to the dramatic atmosphere surrounding the plot which lets Shakespeare explore and develop his characters along with the tragic elements of the play. Although the application of the Ghost can be seen as common in an Elizabethan drama it is obvious that the addition of the Ghost is much more complex and not merely a dramatic device.

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