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The Affect of King Hamlet's Ghost

Prompt: “In Hamlet a character who appears briefly, or does not appear at all. Is a significant presence. Write an essay in which you show how such a character functions in the work. You may wish to discuss how the character affects action, theme, or development of other characters. (select: King Hamlet’s ghost or Fortinbras)

“How does King Hamlet’s ghost affect the outcome in Hamlet?” This is a query numerous people inquire. There is a variety of different answers pertaining to this question, it just depends on the view the reader is supporting. This is a take on how King Hamlet’s ghost affects the play Hamlet, by William Shakespeare. Shakespeare did an excellent job on showing how a character, who one know little about, affects the outcome of this tragedy.

The first time the audience is introduced to King Hamlet’s ghost is while guards, Barnardo and Marcellus, are on patrol at one o’clock in the morning. The next night Barnardo, Hamlet, and Marcellus all witness the entity. This is where the problem is initiated. The ghost says, “A serpent stung me. So the whole ear of Denmark is by a forgèd process of my death rankly abused. But know, thou noble youth, the serpent that did sting thy father’s life now wears his crown” (Shakespeare 1.543-47). The phantom is telling Hamlet that the reason behind his death is because of Hamlet’s uncle, Claudius, poisoned him to obtain the crown.

The next time the apparition shows up is an extremely important part of the dramatic piece. “Do not forget. This visitation is but to whet thy almost blunted purpose. But look, amazement on thy mother sits. O, step between her and her fighting soul. Conceit in weakest bodies strongest works. Speak to her, Hamlet” ( 3.4126-131). Not only does the phantom say the Hamlet must get his revenge, and talk to his mother; there is the small detail, that Hamlet can see and hear the spirit, while his mother cannot. This is a sign that over the time span of the play Hamlet has truly gone insane. The fact Hamlet is not mentally stable may have also contributed to the outcome of the play.

Act 5 Scene 2 is arguably the most imperative scene of the whole drama. This is when everyone dies, including King Claudius. There is no appearance from the ghost in this scene. The setting begins with Hamlet preparing for a duel against Laertes. During the battle Hamlet and Laertes both get cut with a contaminated rapier. During an intermission Gertrude, Hamlet’s mother, drinks a poisoned drink in celebration to Hamlet winning the last round of combat. They continue to duel and Gertrude begins to feel the effects of the toxin. She realizes the refreshment is noxious, and tells Hamlet. Once Gertrude is dead Hamlet then makes his uncle drink the rest of the corrupted beverage, and being very thorough, he penetrates his uncle with his dagger. The next person to pass on is Laertes, and Hamlet goes next, but not before saying, “The potent poison quite o’ercrows my spirit. I cannot live to hear the news from England. But I do prophesy th’ election lights on Fortinbras: he has my dying voice. So tell him, with th’ occur rents, move and less, which have solicited- the rest is silence” ( 5.2390-395). Hamlet has fulfilled his quest for vengeance, and prayed to repent, putting his father’s spirit to rest.

King Hamlet’s ghost contributed a good portion to the conclusion of the play. His first appearance establishes the dilemma, and gives Hamlet time to think about his father’s request. The second manifestation the spirit pushes Hamlet to act on his retribution. When Claudius poisons the drink and Gertrude sips it is when Hamlet’s mental health gets pushed over the edge. He finally does as his father’s ghost has asked and kills Claudius. If the ghost had not shown up, then the whole bloodbath could have been avoided, but then Hamlet would have not been a tragedy, would it?



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