Hamlet And Ghost


Hamlet And Ghost Essay, Research Paper

Using all of his seemingly infinite faculties to compose Hamlet, Shakespeare

gives each significant character in the play all the depth and emotion of a

living human being. Because of this, the characters, as well as the plot, become

extremely intricate and difficult to define. Simply assigning a

"label" to each character does not do justice to their complexity

because no one character acts according to any easily discernible guidelines. By

this reasoning, it is difficult to determine for certain whether the ghost of

Hamlet’s father is either a "Spirit of Health" or a "Goblin

Damn’d." In order to do this, it is necessary to look, not at the ghost’s

intentions, but at the effect of its message on Hamlet’s life. If an assessment

of the ghost had to be made, it would probably be considered a "Goblin

Damn’d" rather than a "Spirit of Health," based on the disastrous

effects its words had on the course of Hamlet’s life. When the Ghost utters the

fateful words "Revenge his [the Ghost's] foul and most unnatural

murder," Hamlet’s life is forever changed for the worse. Not only does

Hamlet’s quest for revenge divide his family and friends, but it also divides

Hamlet himself. Seems, madam? Nay, it is. I know not "seems." In the

exchange that follows this line between the Queen and Hamlet, Hamlet’s distaste

over his mother and uncle’s brief period of mourning becomes evident. It also

demonstrates some of Hamlet’s suspicion concerning the circumstances surrounding

his father’s death. This exchange, however, occurs before the Ghost reveals

itself to Hamlet. Before his encounter with the Ghost, Hamlet is only suspicious

of the new king and his mother, but after the Ghost reveals the circumstances of

its death, Hamlet is enraged. At this point, Hamlet is left with two choices: he

must either disgrace his father by taking no action, or, as dictated by custom,

he must avenge his father’s murder with the death of Claudius — the murderer.

Hamlet, being of the nobler sort, chooses the latter of the two, and so begins

his quest for revenge: Remember thee? Yea, from the table of my memory I’ll wipe

away all trivial fond records,… And thy commandment all alone shall live

Within the book and volume of my brain, Unmixed with baser matter. This quest

nurtures a bitter hatred in Hamlet not only toward Claudius, but toward his

mother, the Queen, as well. Also, during the course of the play, Hamlet

mistakenly murders Polonius, thus making an enemy of Polonius’ son, Laertes, and

driving his daughter, Ophelia, insane. All of these characters are eventually

lost as a direct result of the all consuming nature of vengeance. Claudius,

fearing Hamlet’s wrath, constructs a trap in which he hopes to kill Hamlet by

Laertes’ hand, thus securing his throne and allowing Laertes to have his

revenge. When this trap is sprung, however, the casualties include Hamlet, as

well as Laertes, Claudius, and Hamlet’s mother, Gertrude. Previously, Ophelia,

having lost her wits over her father’s murder, fell into a river and drowned.

When Hamlet discovers this news while in the graveyard, it causes him great

pain: I loved Ophelia. Forty thousand brothers Could not with all their quantity

of love Make up my sum. Hamlet’s continuous pursuit of revenge to satisfy the

demands of the Ghost, eventually leads him to his death and the death of those

around him. The Ghost’s demand for revenge also leads to a conflict within

Hamlet himself. This internal conflict is the result of the struggle between

what Hamlet feels is his duty, and his inability to perform that duty.

Throughout the play, Hamlet has to justify his desire for vengeance to others as

well as to himself. However, the justification always seems to be for Hamlet’s

benefit; a kind of reassurance or, possibly, a motivator: I do not know Why yet

I live to say, "This thing’s to do," Sith I have cause, and will, and

strength, and means To do’t. Examples gross as the earth exhort me. …O, from

this time forth, My thoughts be bloody, or be nothing worth! This segment of

Hamlet’s soliloquy displays the conflict raging inside of him. At first, he is

bewildered because, although he has ample reason to exact his revenge upon

Claudius, he still has not attempted it. Earlier in the soliloquy, Hamlet is

angry with himself because he feels that he is a mere beast, since he takes no

action against Claudius. Hamlet’s soliloquy ends with his firm resolve that all

of his thoughts and actions will be directed toward the task of revenge. This is

a pattern found in many of Hamlet’s arguments that try to justify his quest for

revenge. The madness that Hamlet feigns early in the play is not due to his

troubles with Ophelia, as many of those who are around him think, but to his

melancholy over the task that lays before him. While Hamlet feigns madness, he

is left alone and he is allowed time to mull over the problems that face him. As

he thinks them over, he becomes depressed and bitter toward those around him:

You should not have believed me, for virtue cannot so inoculate our old stock

but we shall relish of it. I loved you not. Here, Hamlet denies that he had any

feelings for Ophelia, even though he wrote her love letters, and later, when she

is dead, he claims to have loved her deeply. This contradiction may be the

result of Hamlet’s melancholy, caused by the struggle that goes on inside of

him. Was the Ghost a "Spirit of Health" or a "Goblin Damn’d?"

Hamlet’s encounter with the Ghost was a pivotal point in his life. However, from

that point on his life steadily became filled with grief and strife. Considering

all the casualties and losses in the name of vengeance, a vengeance first

sparked by the words of the Ghost, it must be determined that the Ghost is a

"Goblin Damn’d."

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