An Analysis of the Ghost of King Hamlet in William Shakespeare’s Tragedy Hamlet

Last Updated: 31 Jan 2023
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In the play, "Hamlet" by William Shakespeare, many aspects contribute to the tale of tragedy, but of these there is one thing that is purely essential to this famous story: the ghost of King Hamlet. The ghost of King Hamlet is so important to "Hamlet" on so many levels, accounting for most issues, directly or indirectly, that are involved in the drama.

The intrigue of the pale specter creates many things such as Hamlet's procrastination, it also projects the image of Hamlet's madness, and most importantly, it provides the plot of the story: Hamlet seeking revenge for King Hamlet's murder. The mystery that was set at the beginning of the play, with the appearance of the king's ghost, was resolved when his son Hamlet went to the battlements after a quick game of follow the leader. This is where King Hamlet's visage speaks to Hamlet, saying not the most famous words of the play, but the words with the most meaning.

At this time King Hamlet tells his son the truth of his death. Here it is revealed that King Hamlet did not die of a tragic accident, but of a treacherous betrayal by his own dear brother. With this event revealed the story is set in motion with Hamlet seeking to avenge his father's untimely demise and with Hamlet also seeking the death of Claudius. With Hamlet's new found knowledge about the murderous Claudius, another aspect of Hamlet is shed light upon.

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Hamlet's so called "procrastination" is brought forth with the apparition's information. Because the prince was unknowing of his father's true identity, whether he was truly his father, King Hamlet, or a devious imposter sent by the devil himself to make Hamlet commit a deed of unrepentable evil. To make sure the accusations of the spirit were true, Hamlet set out on a quest to test the validity of the statements made. So, through half the play, Hamlet goes forth looking for clues, finding no hard evidence but plenty of suspicion. It wasn't until the actors came that he pondered on an idea that would test the truth of the words that were circulating in his mind. Here Hamlet decided "the play is the thing, to catch the conscience of the King".

That he did, proving that Claudius was indeed responsible for killing his father, therefore proving the identity of the ghost being actually his father. In most of Shakespeare's plays, madness plays a major role and Hamlet is no exception. In Romeo & Juliet mad love played an important part in the tragedy. In even closer ties, Macbeth's run in with the ghost of Banquo also proved to be an important additive. The appearance of Banquo to only the eyes of Macbeth displayed to his guests a visage of madness. This case is also true in Hamlet, but in a slightly different manner.

In Hamlet, the coming of the apparition did not totally create the image of Hamlet being mad. To begin with he was not the first and only person to see this ghost of King Hamlet. Only with the testimony of Horatio, Marcellus, and Barnardo did Hamlet even know that this apparition existed. The impression of Hamlet being crazy was not present in his first encounter with the ghost, but in another. After the first meeting with the specter, Hamlet made his three accomplices swear not to tell anyone about what they saw. So instead of sweeping through Denmark that the King was present in a less substantial manner, no body knew of the ghost's existence. So comes the ghost's second encounter with Hamlet.

This time it occurs in the "closet" of Queen Gertrude while Hamlet is pleading with his mother to lay off of Claudius because of Claudius's dark deed. Right before Hamlet was to totally sell his speech to Gertrude, his ranting got out of hand and his father's form appeared again, warning Hamlet not to harm his mother for a second time.

While Hamlet was conversing with his father, the Queen stood in dismay not knowing who Hamlet was talking to because of her lack of ability to see her ex-husband. This convinced Queen Gertrude that Hamlet was truly mad and she totally dismissed the ideas that were recently programmed in her mind. With out the mad appearance of Hamlet and his noted procrastination, "Hamlet" would not be as popular as it is today. Certainly without its detailed plot the story would have little meaning and little effect. Therefore, where would the play be without King Hamlet's insubstantial visit.

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An Analysis of the Ghost of King Hamlet in William Shakespeare’s Tragedy Hamlet. (2023, Jan 22). Retrieved from

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