Role of the Ghost in Shakespeare's Hamlet

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In Shakespeare's Hamlet, the ghost plays a key role in influencing the destinies of the other characters. The ghost is important to the play as it symbolizes both fate and catalyses the plot. It also brings the play into the revenge tragedy. The late King Hamlet is forced to roam the earth as he was murdered before he could confess to his sins, having to remain in purgatory till his sins are washed from him and he is able to enter into heaven. Hamlet, the tragic hero of the play, and is influenced by the encounter with whom he believes to be his late father, the ghost. Hamlet was both horror-struck and mortified to hear of his father's betrayal. He immediately felt that he must avenge his father and this reveals the role of the ghost, who is able to affect the protagonist. The role of the ghost in Hamlet is twofold: firstly it is to create interest; secondly it is to further the narrative of the play. Shakespeare recognized that he needed to create interest in the audience from the very first scene of the play. The play opens with a conversation between Officers of the Watch who patrol the Battlements of Elsinore castle. Their talk is of a ghost who has appeared before twice previously: " What, has this thing appeared again tonight?" Immediately this arouses the audience's curiosity about the nature of ‘this thing’ that has appeared. Horatio, who has not seen the ghost, voices the scepticism that some of the audience may have been feeling: " Tush, Tush, 'twill not appear".

Suspense is therefore created in the minds of the audience about the appearance and existence of the ghost. When the ghost finally appears in line 40, cutting short Barnardo's line, it is a moment of high drama resulting from the tension that has been created. The appearance of the ghost has a huge impact on both the characters and audience. Horatio, sceptic, expresses his fear...
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