5 November 2012
The Importance of the Ghost
Things are definitely not as they seem in the House of Hamlet. This is abundantly clear from Act I, Scene I to Scene V. The ghost of King Hamlet plays a pivotal role in Act I. The ghost is the key to letting the audience know that there is something wrong. The mere fact that a ghost of the dead king is wondering around in the first scene is suspicious. The dead King, as a ghost, has not moved on and wonders around. The dead King says that he is “doomed for a certain term to walk the night,/ and for the day confined to fast in fires” (Shakespeare 1712-10-11). The ghost has unfinished business and, therefore, a purpose in the play. He cannot move on or at least find peace with his ghostly self until he accomplishes his goals.
Before Hamlet speaks to the ghost, Hamlet seems like a rebellious teenager who is mad at his mother for remarrying. Claudius, at first, seems like a reasonable king who is mourning his brother and trying to comfort his nephew (and new step-son). Claudius announces “Though yet of Hamlet our dear brother's death/ the memory be green, and that it us befitted/ to bear our hearts in grief and our whole kingdom/ to be contracted in one brow of woe” (1700-1701.1-4). Hamlet, before Scene V, does not have a credible honor. He is next in line for the throne and Polonius and Laertes do not even want Ophelia to spend time with him. In other plays, they would be pushing them to marry because of his royal status. Hamlet's apparent negative character outweighs the fact that Ophelia could become queen if they marry. Polonius says “In few, Ophelia,/ do not believe his vows, for they are brokers,/ not of the dye which their vestments show, but mere imploratators of unholy suits,/ breathing like sanctified and pious bawds/ the better to beguile” (1709.126-131). When Hamlet speaks to the ghost in Scene V, however, everything changes or at least, will be begin to change.
The ghost reveals that he is Hamlet's father and he was not bitten by a snake. King Hamlet tells Hamlet that Claudius poisoned him and then married the weak and lustful queen. In addition, the ghost is angry because he was not given his last religious ritual and he is stuck in purgatory as a result. The ghost wants revenge. This sets the stage for the plot. Hamlet, then vows to kill Claudius, and as a result, he will become King. Hamlet vows “So uncle, there you are. Now to my word:/ it is 'Adieu, remember me'./ I have sworn't” (1714.111-113). The ghost's purpose was to give Hamlet purpose. Hamlet, before, was an angry student. Now, he is a rebel against the current king. His goals have focused to killing the King to revenge his dear father and make everything right again.