The presence of the apparition in the opening scene of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet sets a macabre and eerie tone while emitting and foreshadowing a theme of death. In addition to the death theme the presence of the ghost illuminates on the mystery surrounding the death of Hamlet’s father, the King of Denmark. Often in literature the presence of a ghost indicates something left unresolved. In this case, the death of Hamlets father is the unresolved event as well the revenge necessary to give the tormented soul repose. The ghost created mystery for the audience, spawns the chain of death and treachery in Denmark, causes characters to question the death of their former king, and makes the metaphysics of the play dark. The ghost says nothing despite the valiant efforts on the parts of Horatio, Marcellus, and Bernardo. Suspense is created when the audience is ignorant as to the purpose of the ghost. Later in the play the ghost is utilized to allow Hamlet and the audience knowledge of the vile murder of the king by Claudius, the kings own brother. When the ghost finally speaks, he tells Hamlet, “Revenge his foul and most unnatural murder.
Murder most foul, as in the best it is,
But this most foul, strange, and unnatural.”(I.v.25-28) These quotes let Hamlet as well as the audience know that the fathers death was foul and unnatural contrary to popular belief. The spirit then reveals the murder to Hamlet by professing this:
“A serpent stung me. So the whole ear of Denmark
Is by a forged process of my death
Rankly abused. But know, thou noble youth,
The serpent that did sting thy father’s life
Now wears his crown.(I.v.35-39)
This statement not only reveals the culprit; it eludes to the manner in which the king was assassinated. Upon hearing this Hamlet and the audience realize who the murderer is and how the plot of vengeance will unfold. Without the apparition the...