The Nature of Hamlet's Ghost

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The Nature of Hamlet’s Ghost

Throughout Hamlet, Prince Hamlet struggles to determine the type of the spirit that has appeared in Elisinore, using Lavater’s Of Ghosts and Spirits Walking by Night to help him conclude that his father’s spirit is good. Hamlet is by nature a passionate and loving person as demonstrated by his relationship with Ophelia and his love for his father. Hamlet becomes melancholic for two reasons, “his father’s death, and [Gertrude and Claudius’s] o’er hasty marriage.” (2. 2. 57) Melancholic people, according to Peter de la Primaudaye, “are sad, still hard to please, suspicious, conceited, obstinate, and some more and some less” (Primaudaye 109). Hamlet manifests all of these characteristics when he lashes out at Ophelia, Polonius and his mother. When Hamlet is visited by his father’s ghost and is told to “Revenge [King Hamlet’s] foul and most unnatural murder” (1.5.25), melancholy causes him to delay in taking any decisive action whatsoever. ……….What causes great turmoil within Hamlet’s soul is determining the Nature of his father’s spirit. Hamlet tries to decide whether his father’s ghost is from Heaven or Hell. “O all you host o heaven! O earth! What else? And shall I couple hell?” (1.5.91-92). Fig. 1. Thompkins, Hamlet, The Shakespeare Art Museum, Toledo, OH.

Hamlet seems very perplexed by the nature of his father’s ghost. His decision on the nature of the ghost’s intention is prolonged further by his melancholy. To help himself come to a conclusion Hamlet seems to turn to Lavater’s Of Ghosts and Spirits Walking by Night in which Lavater provides explanations on how to verify the intentions of a spirit. Whether the ghost’s purpose for visiting the realm of the living is evil or good is determined by a great number of things. “Good spirits do appear under the shape of a dove, a man, a lamb, or in the [light] of the sun” (Lavater 115). King Hamlet appears in the shape of a man, but does exhibit traits of an evil...
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