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 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. When Hamlet sees the ghost and hears its revelations, he voices this thought by saying, "Oh my prophetic soul!" (I. v. 40.) And the fact that it first appears to the friends of Hamlet suggests that they shared his suspicions and perhaps even anticipated them, though no word had been spoken. The inquiry of Marcellus about the cause of the warlike activity and his later remark about the rotten condition of Denmark seem to imply a suspicion that he is endeavouring to verify or to disprove. The scepticism initially displayed by all concerning the ghost indicates their reluctance to put faith in their suspicions. They do not willingly think evil of the king, and they all want some indubitable proof, not only of the fact of the ghost's appearance, but of the truth of his words. Horatio hesitates to believe Bernardo and Francisco, and is convinced only by the actual sight of the ghost. Hamlet, apparently the least suspicious of all, for he is the last to see the ghost, seems reluctant to believe that Horatio and the others have seen it. To convince him, Horatio assures him with an oath of the truth of his report, saying, "As I do live, my honor'd lord, 'tis true." (I. ii. 221.)
The clouds of doubt Hamlet has concerning the ghost however are not finally cleared until the fourth scene when he sees the ghost for himself. At last, the evidence overcomes his moral reluctance to believe...
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