Spirit Or Demon

May 30, 2011
Of the many plays that Shakespeare wrote throughout his playwriting career, Hamlet is certainly one of the most intriguing plays that he wrote. While the plot develops, several themes such as deceit, indecision, and revenge become prevalent in the characters’ motives. As expected, much speculation arises about the character motives when themes such as these are depicted. Many questions can be raised such as did Hamlet love Ophelia? Was Hamlet truly crazy? However, all of these questions come into play later in the story development. One of the most important questions comes early in the play and has an effect on Hamlet’s entire outlook on the events that happen: Was the ghost of Hamlet’s father really his good spirit, or a demon from hell? With a question as interesting as this, many points of view can be seen on this. One of the more prominent views is that Hamlet’s father was indeed an evil spirit from hell, sent to corrupt Hamlet and stain his soul with the blood of murder. Perhaps the ghost of Hamlet’s father may genuinely be his father, but many of the evil, murderous actions the ghost requests of Hamlet suggest otherwise, showing that he is a malicious demon from hell.

During the 16th, the time period that Hamlet was written, demonic intervention in the world and corruption by the devil were common beliefs amongst the people. Due to this belief, an appearance of a demonic spirit to Hamlet would not be anything out of the ordinary. There are several examples within the play itself that support the position that the apparition of Hamlet’s father does not have good intentions and is a servant of the devil. To begin, Hamlet states that his father was killed in full bloom of his sins, and was not given the opportunity to repent. Therefore, King Hamlet would have died with guilt in his heart, and according to the beliefs of that time period, would not be sent to heaven. Rather than going to heaven, perhaps he was sent to hell as punishment for all of his sins. This suggests that he appeared to Hamlet as a spirit from hell, not heaven, and has sinister intentions of corrupting the soul of his son. In addition, what King Hamlet asks of his son is very satanic and malicious. Rather than coming to his son and asking for forgiveness of his sins, he appears to his son and demands revenge and orders bloodshed. A ghost sent from heaven would not want to promote the slaughter of human beings, but a demon working with the Devil would encourage such violent acts. According to Dr. Raymond Nighan, author of Hamlet and the Daemons, “the destruction of virtue in youth is the inevitable result of the older generation’s misconduct as personified by the macrocosmic transcendence of the ghost’s evil intents.” This quote suggests that one of the most important travesties that the ghost inflicts upon Hamlet is that he fills his youth with corrupt feelings of revenge, hate, and contempt, while filling his mind with thoughts of death, murder, deceit, and betrayal. Dr. Nighan is saying that youth should be a time of virtue and innocence, where young people act noble and don’t embody destructive feelings. The ghost’s intentions are to inflict those feelings upon his son and create disturbance between the royal family of Denmark. No father who truly loves his son would want to add such turmoil and fear into his life, so the only logical conclusion as to the origin of the ghost is that he came from a place of hate, hell.

Another reason that the provides evidence to the assumption that King Hamlet’s ghost is from hell is that Hamlet himself began to question if the intentions of his father’s ghost are to just get revenge for himself, or if he just want s to corrupt Hamlet because he is demonic. Hamlet himself ponders the origin of the spirit, saying, “Be thou a spirit of health or a goblin damned?” This shows that even though Hamlet swore to avenge his father, he is having doubts about whether his actions are truly what his father would have wanted. According to Reina Green, Author of Poisoned Ears and Parental Advice in Hamlet, “Hamlet calls the ghost “father” and grants it filial obedience, but he has no proof that the ghost is his father; as he admits, it could be the devil.” The true nature of the ghost must be rather hard to decipher if Hamlet, the son of the ghost, cannot determine if his father’s wishes are genuine or not. It seems as though that if Hamlet must even question as to whether or not the actions the ghost requests of him are what his father would want, then they must be evil deeds that should not be committed.

Many people may argue against the fact that the ghost of Hamlet’s father is from hell, and that rather he is from Heaven, and has good-natured intentions of getting justice served. Some people argue that the ghost was sent from God to Hamlet to test the state of Hamlet’s character. However, these conclusions seem rather unlikely. Would the Christian God really lead Hamlet into a life of murder and deceit just to see what kind of character he is made of? Others say that it is Hamlet’s duty to the family to avenge his father, and that all his father asks for is that Hamlet fulfil his duty as a son. A simple response to such a proposition is that no father who truly loved his son would ask him to murder for him, and stain his immortal soul with blood. Perhaps a logical conclusion that can be drawn from that is that Hamlet had the urge to kill Claudius prior to being visited by the ghost, and psychologically created the ghost as a form of rationalization. Either way, the chances of a father returning from the dead on behalf of God to order the murder of his family members is rather unlikely.

The reasons for the Ghost’s return and the actions that he requests from Hamlet provide supporting evidence that he is really not a spirit sent from God, but rather a demon from hell. King Hamlet’s ghost is the instigator for all of the succeeding actions that lead to lying, deceiving, and killing. All of these actions are elements of life embodied by Satan, not by God. Therefore, the most logical conclusion as to the origin of the Ghost is that he was sent by the Devil to spread malice throughout the royal family of Denmark. The advice of any good father to his son would be advice on ways to live a quality, sin free life, not leading him to murder. Any spirit that tries to convince someone to kill cannot be sent from God. Overall, the malicious intent and deceptive requests that the Ghost imposes upon Hamlet suggest that he was sent from hell, not heaven.

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Jonesy said...
Apr. 7 at 10:50 am
The Ghost of Hamlet was definitely in Hell, no doubt as he stated in Act I Scene V when he said '...and for the day confined to fast in fires, Till the foul crimes done in my days of nature are burnt and purged away'. But is it possible that the death of his killer might speed up the sentence? I dont know what they would have believed about this in the 16th Century. Thoughts?
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