Uploaded by xsparklyvix (1188) on Sep 5, 2005
‘The ghost that I have seen may be a devil’,
Can we be sure about the ghost in Hamlet?
What are your conclusions on this matter.
William Shakespeare’s Hamlet is a drama, which has been renowned for its content and depiction of characters. Over the years, it has gone through many variations of interpretations and criticisms. One such criticism is the nature of the ghost who takes the form of Hamlet’s dead father. At first glance it may be sufficient to accept the ghost as the spirit of Hamlet’s dead father who returns to the land of the living in order to have his son avenge his murder. However, looking deeper into the text, several signs that cannot be ignored become visible which lead us to see that the ghost may be the devil in disguise. Shakespeare’s contemporaries believed in ghosts and closely linked apparitions with their religious fears of the devil’s power and hell’s dominion on Earth. Ghosts were believed to be agents of the afterlife but interestingly, they were not universally dreaded. Many counterparts believed they were a representation of the spirit of God. Ghosts could represent the angel or the devil to the Shakespearean sensibility. Hamlet begins the doubting of the ghost’s origins by questioning if the ghost ‘airs from heaven or blasts from hell’. Deeply grieved by his Father’s death he is in shock and is unsure whether to trust or believe in the ghost. The ghost appears to Hamlet at night ‘What hour now? / I think it lacks of twelve’ and appears to shun the light which in Shakespearean times, suggested the works of the devil, ‘For Satan himself is transformed away from the Angel of light’ (II Corinthians 11:12). Marcellus claims it is the Christmas season and that during this time of year ‘no spirit dare stir abroad’ because ‘so hallowed so gracious is that time’. This may explain the cautiousness of the ghost in only appearing at night...