Comparing the Supernatural in William Shakespeare's Hamlet and Macbeth

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Comparing the Supernatural in William Shakespeare's Hamlet and Macbeth

In the time of William Shakespeare there was a strong belief in the existence of the supernatural. Therefore, the supernatural is a recurring theme in many of Shakespeare's plays. In two such plays, Hamlet and Macbeth, the supernatural is an integral part of the structure of the plot. It provides a catalyst for action, an insight into character, and an augmentation of the impact of many key scenes.

The supernatural appears to the audience in many varied forms. In Hamlet there appears perhaps the most notable of the supernatural forms, the ghost. However, in Macbeth, not only does a ghost appear, but also a floating dagger, witches, and prophetic
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Hamlet, having no suspicion of the ghost after the production by the players, encounters the ghost next in his mother's room. In this scene the ghost makes an appearance to "whet" Hamlet's "almost blunted purpose"(III.iv.126). Hamlet is now convinced of the ghost and he no longer harbors any suspicion. He now listens to it, "Speak to her, Hamlet"(III.iv.130). The supernatural is the guiding force behind Hamlet. The ghost asks Hamlet to seek revenge for the King's death and Hamlet is thus propelled to set into action a series of events that ends in his own death.

The supernatural occurs four times during the course of Macbeth. It occurs in all the appearances of the witches, in the appearance of Banquo's ghost, in the apparitions with their prophecies, and in the "air-drawn" dagger that guides Macbeth towards his victim. Of the supernatural phenomenon evident in Macbeth the witches are perhaps the most important. The witches represent Macbeth's evil ambitions. They are the catalysts that unleash Macbeth's evil aspirations. Macbeth believes the witches and wishes to know more about the future so after the banquet he seeks them out at their cave. He wants to know the answers to his questions regardless of whether the consequence is violent and destructive to nature. The witches promise to answer and, following Macbeth's wishes, they add further unnatural ingredients to the cauldron and call up their masters. This is
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