Shakespeare's Hamlet - Hamlet and the Ghost Essay

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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
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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 opening scene of Shakespeare’s tragedy:

The story opens in the cold and dark of a winter night in Denmark, while the guard is being changed on the battlements of the royal castle of Elsinore. For two nights in succession, just as the bell strikes the hour of one, a ghost has appeared on the battlements, a figure dressed in complete armor and with a
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