Taking the Ghost's Word: Transcendence and the Rationale of Hamlet's Choices in William Shakespeare’s Hamlet HAMLET. Angels and ministers of grace defend us! Be thou a spirit of health or goblin damned, Bring with thee airs from heaven or blasts from hell, Be thy intents wicked or charitable, Thou com’st in such a questionable shape That I will speak to thee . . . (1.4.20-25). Although the ghost in William Shakespeare’s Hamlet purportedly appears “in the same figure like the King that’s dead,” any attempt at using words in the play appears woefully inadequate when the characters try to describe the phenomena to which they are witness (1.1.39). Worse yet, formulating decisions based upon acceptance of this eerily transcendent figure's unsubstantiated words leads Hamlet, the protagonist, inexorably to the plays tragic end for it is the insubstantial ghost which seemingly drives the concrete action of the play. As the audience, we see that Hamlet’s own misgivings and the misgivings of other characters reflect our own doubts, particularly when faced with the ghostly form of what we may assume to be the spirit of Hamlet’s dead father. Many critics like Harold R. Walley buy into the assumption that Hamlet was indeed “called upon for vengeance by the ghost of his murdered father” (784). M. D. Faber accepts the plays premise as well, taking for granted the identity of “the ghost” as “Hamlet’s father” while attempting to determine whether or not the ethereal figure is even a “‘real’ ghost” or, in fact, a creation of Hamlet’s tormented imagination (132). Yet for all that, the rationale behind Hamlet's choices derives from one unmistakable act of faith in the ghost's testimony, and by exploring the root of this faith in the play we may discover something about ourselves, as I shall explore below. This question as to the ghost's identity touches upon the very same issue of transcendence and knowledge that we sometimes face in our own lives as we struggle to give meaning to events which shatter our conception of the world. There exist questions in the minds of the characters and audience alike, uncertainties that are as haunting and familiar as the ghost itself. “Spectators,” writes Aaron Landau, “would have found the ghost in the play at least as ’questionable’ as the characters do” (222). We are little different from our Elizabethan counterparts in longing to comprehend the nature of this visitor from another place and time, for etymologically a ghost represents not a natural phenomena of the here-and-now, but rather a supernatural, spiritual one that is said to propel itself from the dark grave of yesterday into the current world of the living. Landau asserts quite skillfully “disagreement about ghosts, firmly embedded in contemporary religious debates, were pretty much the order of the day” during England’s Reformation (221-22). Thus, in “a world where the very fundamentals of religious knowledge were continuously contended . . . the ghost functions as the very emblem of such confusion” (220, 221). I could not be in more agreement with Landau’s acute assessment. I would add further that 400 years later, neither religion nor technology has brought us any closer to an understanding of that which is transcendent and metaphysical. Still, on many levels, humans often tend to put faith into metaphysical phenomena, sometimes to the point of sacrificing their own lives while carrying out the mission of a mysterious, ambiguous supernatural figure.
Linguistically, I would note how the application of reliable and original literary critique requires a certain subset of knowledge upon which to base one’s literary theories and assertions. One could argue from a post-structuralist view that…
One of the most questioning situations in the play is the delay of Hamlet in avenging Claudius' for his father's death. As a reader this situation captures me also, so after analyzing the story I found that Hamlet has various reasons for delaying taking action. Hamlet's moral dilemma, his constant need to either prove or disprove what the ghost tells him, and his concern about Claudius' afterlife.
Hamlet handles an extremely complicated moral dilemma, which is a fusion of feelings that does not…
Claudius' guilt concerning the murder of King Hamlet is confirmed; the prayer scene when Hamlet forgoes the opportunity to kill Claudius; and the closet scene where Hamlet first takes action, but kills Polonius inadvertently. In the players' scene, the ghost's story is proved to be true, allowing Hamlet to avenge his father's murder. In the prayer scene, Hamlet misses a perfect opportunity to kill Claudius, giving Claudius time to act against Hamlet. In the closet scene, Hamlet's actions give Claudius the…
prepares to leave for France. He claims that Hamlet’s passions will change and a prince must marry to preserve the ‘sanity and health’ of the state. Ophelia promises but tells Laertes to listen to his own advice. Polonius comes and scolds Laertes for taking so long, then gives him advice about how to act. Laertes leave. Polonius asks Ophelia what she was talking to Laertes about. She tells him it’s about Hamlet, explaining that Hamlet has expressed his love for her. Polonius tells her that Hamlet is…
who tells Lorry that his body has lain buried nearly 18 years. Lorry
informs his imaginary companion that he now has been “recalled to life” and asks him if he cares to
live. He also asks, cryptically, “Shall I show her to you? Will you come and see her?” The ghost’s
reaction to this question varies, as he sometimes claims that he would die were he to see this woman
too soon; at other times, he weeps and pleads to see her immediately.
Chapter 4: The Preparation: The next morning, Lorry descends from the coach at the Royal George…
the same scene when the ghost appears. Only Bernardo and Marcellus initially see the ghost and then alert Horatio of the problem, his response, through the words of Marcellus is, “Says ‘tis but our fantasy/And will not let belief take hold of him” (I. I. 23-24). When visually confronted with the ghost Horatio is still unconvinced of the ghost’s validity, calling it an “illusion” (1. 1. 127). Though the image of the ghost likens to that of King Hamlet. Horatio must ask himself the question of ‘who’s…
Module Code: eg ESH123/DRA456
Assignment number and element: eg
assignment 1. essay 1,500 words 30%
assignment 3. learning journal: 70%, etc
Assignment 3. Essay 2,500 words.
Your Seminar Tutor:
(exact word count, excluding bibliography, including footnotes, please note that over-length assignments will be penalised as described in the Student Handbook)
The date this…
ghost with tormenting fear and surprise, but does note that the ghost looks like the King Hamlet. Horatio speaks to the ghost with " What art thou that usurp'st this time of night," (1.1.54) and demands the ghost to respond to him.This usage of the word " thou" causes the ghost to exit. Marcellus comments that the ghost was offended, meaning that by Horatio speaking to the ghost of the King with such lack of respect and with demands the ghost left.
3. What does Horatio first assume the appearance…