The ghost in the play Hamlet has great dramatic significance . The play opens and Hamlet , the prince of Denmark is shown in mourning. He is wearing black clothes and the sad look on his face bears an evidence of grief he is feeling at the death of his father. His uncle Cladius succeeded his father. Soon after, Hamlet’s mother (Queen Gertrude) married Claudius. Hamlet hated Claudius because he (Claudius) had married his (Hamlet) mother while he (Hamlet)_ was still in mourning.
A dark suspicion has filled Hamlet’s mind on this account. As a result , Hamlet changed from a happy and bright youth to a quite and brooding man.
Francisco is at his post a platform before the castle at Elsinore. Barnardo comes to relieve him of guard duty midnight . Horatio and Marcellus arrive just then, the ghost reappears. The ghost looks offended when Horatio speaks to it. Horatio remarks that the ghost has appeared in the same armour which the late King used to wear while he had fought the King of Norway.
Marcellus tells him that it the ghost’s third visit. Horatio remarks that the appearance of the ghost bodes some strange eruption to our state. Denmark might face a threat of war from young Fortinbras of Norway, who has demanded the return of the lands which his father had lost to Denmark.
Barnardo also expresses a similar opinion and thinks that the Ghost’s appearance is important of the war that seems to be impending. Horatio recalls that Julius Caesar’s assassination was also preceded by numerous supernatural occurrences. The matter of the Ghost’s appearance at the rampart is reported to Hamlet . Hamlet reaches the spot to meet the ghost if it reappears. In a brief soliloquy, Hamlet expresses his apprehension that, if his father’s Ghost appeared in a war like garb, all is not well.
The Ghost appears at the spot around midnight when Horatio , Marcellus and Hamlet were busy talking about the King’s making merry in the company of counters. Hamlet desires to know from the Ghost what it’s appearance signifies. The Ghost makes a gesture and Hamlet follows it. The Ghost reveals to Hamlet that his death was ‘murder most foul, strange and unnatural.’ It is a false report that I had died of the serpent’s sting. The truth is that my brother Claudius, who now wears the crown and has weeded your mother has killed me by pouring poison into my ear as I slept in the orchard. The Ghost speak in terms of Claudius wickedness and his wife’s foul conduct. Then it calls upon Hamlet to avenge his murder of the incentuous and adulterate beast. He must not harm the Queen though she is a party to the murder and leave her to be punished by her conscience which is sure to torment her for her infidelity.
Thus, the Ghost introduces an element of mystery and fear contributes to the general tragic atmosphere of the play. (The Ghost revelation suggest that Claudius might kill Hamlet also because he is sly, voluptuous and power-hungry.) The Ghost motivates the entire action of the play by imposing a task upon Hamlet. (if ever you loved me you will avenge my death. Don’t allow Claudius to rule over the state of Denmark. As for your mother, do not harm her even though she was party to my murder. Her own conscience and God’s retribution will be punishment enough for her!’) The Ghost also shows up the characters and drives home a certain moral effect. In this way, the Ghost suffer threefold dramatic purposes.
The Ghost represents the supernatural elements in this play and introduces an element of mystery and fear and Marcellus’s question . ‘what has this thing (Ghost) appeared again tonight?’ Produces the atmosphere of mystery . Horatio is skeptical fellow. He believes only what he sees. He sees the Ghost appear and says , ‘it harrows me with fear and wonder. ‘The more talk about Ghost creats tension and fear but its actual appearance before the eyes would ‘harrow’ the audience too with ‘fight and amazement’. The very introduction of the scene with a Ghost in a play suffices to shudder the readers. The Ghost appears to be offended when Horatio intends to talk to it and then stalks away. This scene deepens the mystery. It leaves Horatio looking pale with fear.
Horatio’s selfconfidence and incredulity instantly changes into amazement and horror. Horatio’s reference to the strange things witnessed in rome prior to Julius Caesar’s assassination heighten the supernatural element. He think that the late King’s apparition is like a foreshadowing of some impending disaster for Denmark. Through the talk about the Ghost and it’s actual appearance, Shakespeare has introduced an atmosphere of uncertainty, suspense,fear and mystery in scene 1,act 1. It has affected Horatio ,a great deal.
Barnardo also accepts the Ghost’s appearance as an omen foreshadowing a coming event. This belief was prevalent in Shakespearean age that disturbances in nature foretell and accompany disturbances in human affairs. Marcellus does not agree with this view . He ask Horatio why the manufacture of weapons of war is going on at the feverish speed in the kingdom. Horatio informs him of the threat of war of Denmark from young Fortinbras. Thus, the Ghost’s appearance leaves the readers and audience with haunting scene inexplicable evil troubling both the deal and the living.
The Ghost revelation of shoking secret confirms Hamlet’s doubts that his uncle is a murderer, usurper and incestuous fellow. It also binds him to avenge his father’s murder. The play Hamlet is concerned largely with the theme of revenge. The motive for revenge is provided by the supernatural appearance of the Ghost. By making secret revelations to Hamlet, the Ghost plays a vital role in the development of the plot. We may also deem that the Ghost plays a vital role in the development of the plot. We may also deem that the Ghost is the personification of the vague suspicion arising in Hamlet’s own mind.He did not believe that his father happened to die on account of snake sting and strongly suspected his uncle to have murdered him to get both the crown and the Queen. Some critics do not agree here.They are of the opinion that the Ghost was seen by many guards. Then how can it be the physical representation of mental doubts and suspicions of Hamlet’s alone.
Hamlet was the last man to see the Ghost . Even though, the Ghost speaks only to Hamlet while he is alone yet we cannot say for certain that the Ghost has only a subjective existence or is a figment of Hamlet’s imagination. Moreover, the introduction of the Ghost by Shakespeare was not something novel or far fetched because the Shakespearean stage Elizabethan audiences believed in the existence of Ghost’s as majority of the people still do.Shakespeare had also introduced to supernatural elements in his previous plays. The audiences still respond to supernatural themes and suggestions. Leaving apart , whether the Ghost is subjective or objective it has a great dramatic importance as it motivates the action of the play,a great deal. The idea of revenge has it’s source in the appearance of the Ghost which may be considered as a product of Hamlet’s own fancy because it spoke only to Hamlet.
It is not perceptible why Shakespeare employs this clumsy device wherein the Ghost repeatedly says to Hamlet from the underground ‘swear.’ The intervention of the Ghost during Hamlet’s subterranean speeches is both jarring and an excrescence. It is very strange that the Ghost was visible to Horatio , Barnardo, Marcellus and Hamlet at the rampart but the same Ghost was not visible to the Queen when it appeared in her private chamber while she was talking to Hamlet. The Ghost appeared and reminded Hamlet not to torture the Queen anymore but let her suffer on her own and abetted him not to falter his actions of killing Claudius, the real villain. Gertrude calls Hamlet ‘mad’ because she thought he was talking to the wall. This type of the Ghost’s role has no dramatic significance. It rather weakens the effect which was already produced.
The Ghost revelation agitates Hamlet and promotes him to avenge his father’s murder considering it to be his sacred duty . However, he finds the assigned task irksome . He expresses aversion for action as The time is out of joint;o cursed spite, That ever I was born to set it right! The appearance of the play makes another important development. It creates a doubt in Hamlet’s mind lest the ghost should be some evil spirit and it’s revelations may not be genuine . It makes him keen for confirmation of it’s reve;ations and urges him to put on an ‘antic disposition’. It later on incites Hamlet to stage a play with a view to catching the King’s conscience. In the Queen’s private chamber also it reminds him not to forgo the idea of killing Claudius who is really a villain but to let the Queen suffer from divine retribution.Here the Ghost is visible only to Hamlet. It seems that there was no ghost but Hamlet’s inner conscience was cursing him for his sluggishness and inaction and spurring him to take revenge.
If we interpret the ghost’s appearance as the occurance of ideas in Hamlet’s mind then the presence of the Ghost in the first act would also become a fake consideration. It would then create contradiction. The twoo prominent critics ‘Bradley and Coleridge’ accept that the ghost in the Queen’s chamber is neither a hallucination nor Hamlet’s fanciful conception. According to Bradley ghost is capable of confining it’s manifestation only to whomsoever it likes. It did not make itself visible to the Queen lest she should be afflicted with her visitation . It also has a moral suggestion , which means that a woman (person) of loose moral is unable to receive spiritual visions. Moreover, Hamlet is closely related to his late father. In soliloquy Hamlet had said,’I remember my father who was a great king and Claudius cannot be compared to him.’
He was an angel and Claudius was a devil. Therefore, the ghost of his father manifested itself to him. Then he had said, ‘ my mother , I remember how my mother would hang on to my father’s arm all the time and listen to every word of his , yet , within a month , she had married a mean, cunning and sly man.’How could such an incestuous and lewd woman receive spiritual visions . Moreover, her affinity with Hamlet was slackened by her action of remarriage. However, the appearance of the ghost and it’s words are dramatically significant because highlight Hamlet’s irresolution and his persistent neglect of assigned duty on account of his incapability in resorting to premeditated revengeful action against Claudius . It also brings to surface an important aspect of Hamlet character.