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Hamlet Essay, Research Paper

The presence of the apparition in the opening scene of William Shakespeare?s

Hamlet sets a macabre and eerie tone while emitting and foreshadowing a

theme of death. In addition to the death theme the presence of the ghost

illuminates on the mystery surrounding the death of Hamlet?s father, the King of Denmark. Often in literature the presence of a ghost indicates something left unresolved. In this case, the death of Hamlets father is the unresolved event as well the revenge necessary to give the tormented soul repose. The ghost created mystery for the audience, spawns the chain of death and treachery in Denmark, causes characters to question the death of their former king, and

makes the metaphysics of the play dark. The ghost says nothing despite the valiant efforts on the parts of Horatio, Marcellus, and Bernardo. Suspense is created when the audience is ignorant as to the purpose of the ghost. Later in the play the ghost is utilized to allow Hamlet and the audience knowledge of the vile murder of the king by Claudius, the kings own brother. When the ghost finally speaks, he tells Hamlet,

?Revenge his foul and most unnatural murder.

Murder most foul, as in the best it is,

But this most foul, strange, and unnatural.?(I.v.25-28)

These quotes let Hamlet as well as the audience know that the fathers death

was foul and unnatural contrary to popular belief. The spirit then reveals the

murder to Hamlet by professing this:

?A serpent stung me. So the whole ear of Denmark

Is by a forged process of my death

Rankly abused. But know, thou noble youth,

The serpent that did sting thy father?s life

Now wears his crown.(I.v.35-39)

This statement not only reveals the culprit; it eludes to the manner in which the king was assassinated. Upon hearing this Hamlet and the audience realize who the murderer is and how the plot of vengeance will unfold. Without the

apparition the beginning of the play would lack the supernatural and eerie aura

as well as the revelation of most wretched crime thus making the play bland and


Although the ghost is apparently Hamlet?s father those who saw him were

fearful. The reason behind this is that in the sixteenth century a ghost could be a demon trying to deceive Hamlet rather than the soul of his murdered father.

?The papists in former times have publicly both taught and written that

those spirits which men sometimes see and hear be either good or bad

angels, or else the souls of those which either live in everlasting bliss, or

in purgatory, or in the place of damned persons; and that divers of them

are those souls that crave aid and the deliverance of man (Lavater 2).

?for otherwise the divel may delude and deceive us, as he doth very often(Lavater 2).?

The three characters in the first scene are Marcellus, Horatio, and

Bernardo. They are on watch and see nothing until the ghost, which looks like

the former King of Denmark, appears. Horatio is filled with fear and wonder to

the point of turning pale. The ghost does not speak but disappears. Following

this, Marcellus and Horatio speak of King Hamlet and Fortinbras of Norway.

When the ghost appears for the second time Horatio states:

?If there be any good thing to be done,

That may to thee do ease, and grace to me,

Speak to me?(I.i.130-132)

In this quote Horatio is asking: Is there anything that I can do for you to help

resolve your situation? The former king does not answer. Following this, the

cock crows and the spirit disappears probably because it cannot be out in

daylight. Bernardo, Marcellus, and Horatio attempt to make the ghost stay by

striking him. They realize that an attempt at striking the ghost is futile. Horatio states:

?Unto young Hamlet, for upon my life

This spirit, dumb to us, will speak to him with it,

Do you consent we shall acquaint him with it

As needful in our loves, fitting our duty?(I.i.170-173)

The three decide that they must tell Hamlet of their findings and go to him in the morning. The dark and rainy atmosphere of Denmark is supplemented by

Shakespeare keeping the play very serious, just as a tragedy should be. In the

opening scene Francisco states:

? ?Tis bitter cold,

And I am sick at the heart?(I.i.8-9)

The bitter coldness is yet another illustration of the mood of the play. A second example of the bitter coldness occurs in conversation between Hamlet and


Hamlet ?The air bites shrewdly; it is very cold?(I.iv.1)

Horatio ?It is a nipping and eagar air?(I.iv.2)

Hamlet ?What hour now??(I.iv.3)

Horatio ?I think it lacks of twelve.?(I.iv.4)When the play begins it is night and the kings death is mentioned. His treacherous murder, death, and mystery surround the plot. The downfall of Denmark is foreshadowed by the death of various characters beginning with Hamlet. The weaknesses of Denmark causes the countries downfall. Even Hamlet states:

?Denmark?s a prison.?(II.ii.235)

?A goodly one, in which there are many confines, wards, and dungeons, Denmark being one o? th? worst.?(II.ii.238-239) At this point in the play even Hamlet a nobleman of Denmark is disgusted with his own country, an indicator that the country is weakened and headed for the worst. A king like Claudius so treacherous and deceiving could not be a worth leader of Denmark, for he is evil. Denmark drinks the night away and other countries mock Denmark for its lack of temperance.

The Ghost affects all aspects of the play and is the key point upon which

the plot is formed. The ghost gives mystery to the plot, wonder to the

characters, a certain eerieness which adds to the metaphysics, and sets the

tone for the entire play. The ghost, the spirit of the King of Denmark makes

Shakespeare?s play into the masterpiece that it is.

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