Ghost or supernatural plays an important role in the plays written during Renaissance or Elizabethan age. The presentation of ghost, witches, portents, omens, uncommon happenings, disturbances in nature was quite and common phenomenon on the Elizabethan stage. According to Moulton; “Supernatural agency has a place in the world of Shakespeare”.
In “HAMLET” the supernatural appears in the form of the ghost. In the first act, five hundred and fifty lines out of the eight hundred and fifty lines are concerned with the ghost. Therefore, it may be said that if remove it, the play falls to pieces. The ghost in “Hamlet” has at least a three fold dramatic significance.(1)It contributes to the general tragic atmosphere of the play;(2)it motives the entire action of the play; (3) it shows up the character and drives home a certain moral effect.
First, in this play, Shekespeare has introduced the supernatural element in order to create an atmosphere of mystery, horror and suspense .It diffuses an atmosphere of awe through which tragedy becomes more impressive. The appearance of the ghost in “Hamlet” chills our blood with horror, or to be more correct with terror.Horatio does not believe In ghost but the appearance “horror him with fear and wonder”. Hamlet himself comes to believe I some calamity or evil about to be face when he says:
“My father’s spirit in arm! All is not well,
I doubt some foul play”,
Secondly, the ghost motives the entire action of the play. Without the ghost’s initial revelation of truth to Hamlet, there would be no occasion for revenge; in other words no tragedy of “Hamlet”. The main theme of the play is revenge. The motive force of this revenge theme is provided by the ghost when it says: “Let me not the royal bed of Denmark be,
A couch for luxury and demond incest”.
Thirdly, the presence of ghost in “Hamlet” has a moral significance also. The play shows that we cannot conceal the truth for a long time.It must appear and “Murder speaks with most miraculous organ”. The ghost,we feel, is a representative of that hidden and ultimate power rules in the universe,it is a messenger of the divine justice. Hamlet says: “Foul deeds will rise
Though all earth o’er whelm them, to men’s eye”.
About the nature of the ghost, there exist a controversy; some critics are of the view that the ghost is a subjective phenomenon______ a hallucination springing from imagination. Other believe that it is an objective phenomenon.
In the beginning, Hamlet, Marcellus, Bernardo and Horatio see the ghost .They not only see it but also address it. In this sense, the ghost is objective and has a real existence. If it were a product of Hamlet’s fancy, other people could not have seen it and heard it simultaneously. But in closet scene, Hamlet sees the ghost and talks to it: the Queen is unconscious of the presence of the ghost and can not hear it speak. I n this scene, the ghost is subjective.
To reconcile this subjective, objective controversy; one explanation has been offered. Koble says that the first apparition was real and the second was imaginary: the first was Initiative and the second was inhibitive.
To sum up, the presentation of the ghost I n Hamlet is an artistic triumph. Without it these would have been no tragic suspense or curiosity, no suitable atmosphere and consequently no interest. This artistic treatment of the supernatural reveals Shakespeare’s universal dramatic gift.