The Ghost Of Hamlet's Father

Essay by lolita76 February 2004

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In William Shakespeare's Hamlet, the ghost of Hamlet's father appears very briefly. However, he provides the basis for the development and eventual downfall of Hamlet's character. The play begins with a dismal Hamlet mourning his father's death Recognizing this gloom, Queen Gertrude urges Hamlet to "cast thy nighted color off, and let thine eye look like a friend on Denmark" (I, ii, 68-69). Soon after, the ghost appears, insisting, "If thou didst ever thy father love, revenge his foul and most unnatural murder" (I, v, 24-25). As Hamlet decides to scourge the past and present evils in Denmark, the ghost unleashes death and malice onto the stage. The first and most obvious change which the ghost instills into Hamlet is a vengeful spirit. Not only must Hamlet destroy Claudius, but he must also stop Fortinbras from invading Denmark. Although less obvious, the second task can be inferred from the fact that the ghost appears wearing "the very armor he had on when he the ambitious Norway combated" (I, i, 60-61).

Hamlet spends the entire play trying to carry out these orders, eventually causing the downfall of his spirit. Partly because he feels reserve and guilt for his task, Hamlet delays taking action throughout the play. However, this paradoxical delay only makes Hamlet feel more guilty. He questions his self-worth and even considers suicide, pondering, "To die -- to sleep -- no more; and by a sleep to say we end the heartache and the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to" (III, i, 60-63). He cannot accept the goodness of life or destroy its evils. Because of the ghost's words, Hamlet also becomes increasingly concerned with his mother's sexual relations with his uncle. In his first appearance to Hamlet, the ghost insults his brother saying, "Ay, that incestuous, that...