Significance of the Ghost in Hamlet

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The Significance of the Ghost in Hamlet

Shakespeare fashionably utilizes the popular concept of the ghost in Hamlet which is of tremendous significance in the development of the play. The introduction of the ghost in Hamlet serves three main purposes of the dramatist. It introduces an element of fear and mystery and creates a tragic atmosphere in the play. It motivates the action of the play by imposing a task upon Hamlet. Finally it shows up the characters and produces a certain moral effect in them.

The ghost in Hamlet, much like the ghosts or witches that appeared to Macbeth spoke out only what was in his mind, and revealed his inner thoughts to the audience better than any words of his could do, performs an important dramatic function by rendering objective what is in the minds of the characters. The ghost in Hamlet discloses to the audience the suspicions already in the minds of Hamlet and his friends.

The motive for the revenge theme of the play is provided by the Ghost. The awful revelation of the Ghost forms the source of the tragedy and the spring of the action. Thus the supernatural is made the starting point of the play. The revelation of the Ghost intensifies the horror that Hamlet felt at the over hasty marriage of his mother with Claudius. The foul play that Hamlet suspected becomes a reality and he is charged by the spirit of his dead father to avenge his father’s murder of which he is incapable. The duty is thus imposed on Hamlet and his failure to carry it out in proper time form the substance of the tragedy.

With the Ghost’s description of Claudius and Gertrude, Hamlet as well as the spectators comes to know them in their true colours. Hence Hamlet condemns Claudius as ‘smiling damned villian’ and Gertrude as a ‘most pernicious woman’ in his soliloquy.

The Ghost succeeds in producing a moral effect upon Claudius and Gertrude. Because of Hamlet’s behaviour, Claudius suspects his nature and feels sorry for his own crime. Gertrude...
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