Ghost that Appears to Hamlet

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What is the nature of the Ghost that Appears to Hamlet?

Prince Hamlet went back home to Denmark with the aim of attending his late father’s funeral. The ghost of his father appears to him and reveals to Hamlet that he was murdered when somebody poured poison inside his ear while he was asleep. He charged Hamlet to avenge his death for his soul to rest in peace. Hamlet is also discontented with the hasty marriage that had taken place between her mother Queen Gertrude and his uncle Claudius. Since he believes that their relationship is questionable, Hamlet pretends to be crazy so he could stay and spy on their motives. He does this by acting all delusional around Polonius to convince him that his grief had made him lose his mind (Brown 30).

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However, Hamlet is not sure of the actions he is taking with the motive to avenge his father’s death. He begins to doubt if the ghost was real or it was a demon that had the intentions of tricking him into killing someone. He is afraid of being compelled to live with his memories for all eternity and rounding up in hell when he is dead. As a result of fear, hamlet gets caught up in his thoughts and becomes a victim of his conscience which results to him being unable to avenge the death of his father. Since Hamlet does not want to kill his uncle then end up being the victim of evil spirit betrayal, he decides to get proof that Claudius did kill his father.

Hamlet decides to help a team of actors by instructing them to do a play that enacted his father’s death and alleged murder in front of his mother the queen and his uncle the king. When the play is done, Claudius is drowning in guilt and Hamlet can prove that his uncle is responsible for his father’s death just like the ghost had told him. He decides that he was going to kill his uncle to avenge what he did to his father, but then he begins to doubt the action he is about to take. Hamlet even confesses that conscience can make a coward out of anyone. He says this because he had a duty to seek vengeance for his father’s death and had gotten the proof he needed to clarify it was his uncle but he is still reluctant to kill him (Schimdt 27).

At the time when the play was written, it was perceived that the souls of dead people usually came back from purgatory but only with a very good reason like to give a message to their loved ones, to take care of unfinished or for revenge. In the case of Hamlet, the ghost of the late king came back to seek vengeance on his brother for betraying him. At that moment people were usually scared of dying without getting a chance to ask forgiveness for their sins and cleanse their souls. People knew all about the afterlife, and they were afraid of messing it up for themselves. They also feared the unseen and the unknown.

The ghost helps proof to the then audience of Shakespeare that there is an ever-present world where people live in when they live this world. In this case, the ghost character is unquestionably real to the characters and the audience even if today the audience may find the ghost unrealistic and vague due to a change in religious beliefs and practices. When Hamlet saw the ghost at first, he doubts his message and is reluctant to take any action against his uncle. He says that spirits can either be healthy or damned and can either bring fortune from heaven or misfortune from hell. Also spirits can either be wicked or charitable .He doubts the intention of the ghost and doubts if it was his father’s ghost but does not doubt its genuineness and acknowledges it as a spirit (Hawkes 41).
Hamlet is curious to hear what might have brought his father back from the grave and he quickly accepts the ghost as his father’s .He even offered to call him Hamlet, king, father, royal Dane .O, answer me. When the ghost tells him the story, he is not hesitant to believe it and uses it as evidence to satisfy his previous doubts about his uncle. He accepts the duty to avenge his death as soon as he hears the story.

He then begins to doubt if the ghost was good or evil but still commits himself to seek vengeance by pretending to be mad so that he could investigate the actions of Claudius and Gertrude. Nonetheless, Hamlet decides not to take action against his uncle immediately because he had seen him kneeling defenceless praying. He assumed that Claudius was praying to seek forgiveness from God and killing him would only send him to heaven. This way the vengeance would not be enough because Claudius would not pay for his sins by facing the wrath in hell.
Claudius deserved to be punished for what he did, and even he thinks so. He prays for forgiveness for his actions but thinks he doesn’t deserve it because he kept all the benefits he gained from his actions including the throne, his brother’s wealth and even his wife. Hamlet taking matters into his own hands as the ghost had instructed leads to the death of innocent people like Polonius and his daughter Ophelia. The entire play revolves around the results of the ghost appearing until the end of the book where Hamlet finally kills his uncle with a poisoned sword, and his mother accidentally drinks poisoned wine that was intended for Hamlet (Shakespeare 32).

How much does Gertrude know about the Truth of her husband’s Death?

Gertrude’s knowledge about old Hamlet’s death is a situation in Shakespeare’s book Hamlet. There is no conclusive evidence from the book about Gertrude knowing about her husband’s death. There have been a lot of contrasting readings with some writers suggesting that she knew and others disagreeing. Shakespeare leaves the situation as suspense to the reader to keep them on their toes to think and create their mental dilemmas.

After her husband’s death, Gertrude marries her brother-in-law Claudius and she remained queen and Claudius becomes king. Claudius killed his brother by pouring poison inside his ear while he took a nap. This is reviled to Hamlet by his dead father’s ghost that appears to him. Queen Gertrude’s marriage to her husband’s brother who murdered him seems very suspicious. She does not even mourn her husband’s death like their son Hamlet did and instead she quickly got married to Hamlet’s uncle who took over the throne. The marriage could mean a lot of unclear things that Shakespeare does not speak about in the book (Shakespeare, Holdernes and Loughrey 73).

Gertrude marrying her husband’s brother may mean that she could not deal with her loss and sadness and she thought that Claudius was the closest thing to her husband that she could find comfort. In this case, she does not know about her husband’s murder and marrying a possible hair of the throne was the only way she could remain queen. Hamlet also never suspected anything of his mother before the ghost appeared and he was only pissed off by the hasty marriage between his mother and his uncle after the death of his father. The spirit also tells Hamlet to avenge his death on Claudius and did not speak of anything against Gertrude. There is also no evidence that Gertrude had a relationship with her husband’s brother before his death. Considering that Gertrude’s goal is to stay queen, her hasty marriage to Claudius is because he was the heir of the throne and so it was more of a political kind of marriage than a love marriage.

Marrying her husband’s brother may also mean that she had an affair with Claudius and they boy planned on killing Old Hamlet so that they could get married and Gertrude would remain queen of Denmark and Claudius would become king. Gertrude may be experiencing a state of denial and avoids thinking about the situation at all to avoid feeling guilty or talking about it. When Hamlet confronts her at the closet, and she discovers about her husband’s murder, she still goes back to Claudius. In the later scenes, she does not seem angry about Claudius not only being a murderer but also killing her husband (Shakespeare et al., 54).

Claudius defends himself by saying that he married his sometime sister for the good of Denmark. He says that he wanted to make sure that the overwhelming country of Denmark stayed out of chaos. Gertrude also asks her moaning son why he was upset which is an unclear statement. It may seem that she is not upset at all and she does not see sense in being upset because she knows about the murder or she may be comforting her son and making sure he is okay after losing his father. She may also be clinging too much to her choice of marrying Claudius to remain, queen, that she does not see sense in being sad about the past (Ackerman, 17).

On act five when Hamlet reveals his uncles guilt on the death of the late king, Gertrude drinks to it. The drink she took had been poisoned to kill Hamlet. This brings a lot of suspicions too since it is not clear if she knew about the poisoned drink and took it to commit suicide as a result of guilt or she knew nothing about the poison and was innocently taking a drink. However, her actions throughout the text portray a lot of uncertainty, and her death causes more uncertainty since we are not sure if it was an accident or she did it on purpose to commit suicide.

Works Cited

  1. Shakespeare, William, Laurence Olivier, and Jean Simmons. Hamlet. University Press, 1948.
  2. Shakespeare, William, Graham Holderness, and Bryan Loughrey. Hamlet-The First Quarto (Sos). Routledge, 2014.
  3. Shakespeare, William. The tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. 2018.
  4. Hawkes, Terence. Meaning by Shakespeare. Routledge, 2003.
  5. Schmidt, Jeremy. Melancholy and the care of the soul: Religion, moral philosophy, and madness in early modern England. Routledge, 2016.
  6. Brown, Sarah Annes. “Bibliography.” A familiar compound ghost. Manchester University Press, 2017.
  7. Ackerman, Alan Louis. Seeing things: from Shakespeare to Pixar. University of Toronto Press, 2011.
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Ghost that Appears to Hamlet. (2019, Apr 05). Retrieved January 29, 2023 , from

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