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The Relationship of Hamlet and the Ghost in Shakespeare's Hamlet Sample Essays - buy on Amazon

The Relationship of
Hamlet and the Ghost

Book #5 in the Hamlet Essay Kit series  

The Denmark-surrendering Hamlet grants to his dead father’s angry Ghost the forgiveness his suffering soul needed more than the revenge he demanded: “Rest, rest, perturbed spirit!”

Three 1,500-word model essays on the relationship of Prince Hamlet and the Ghost in Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

1

Introduction

“The King’s to blame”—is the Ghost “like the King that’s dead” ultimately responsible for the play’s multiple deaths?

2

“Questionable shape”

Is the “illusion” a spirit from a Catholic purgatory? A demon from a Protestant hell? Or a mere hallucination?

3

Claudius: “A brother’s murder”

Hamlet does not promise to avenge the Ghost, only never to forget him: “Remember me. I have sworn’t.”

4

Gertrude: “Leave her to heaven”

Hamlet seeks to separate her from Claudius: to protect his inheritance from a rival heir—and to rescue her soul.

5

Madness: “Taint not thy mind”

The Ghost’s appearance is followed by Hamlet’s feigned insanity and Ophelia’s very real madness.

6

Conclusion: “Rest, rest, perturbed spirit!”

Prince Hamlet atones for old King Hamlet’s sins and ends his afterlife torment in the “prison house … fires.”

Introduction

1

The Relationship of Hamlet and the Ghost in Shakespeare's Hamlet Sample Essays - buy on Amazon

24 pages
4,600 words
3 sample essays

$4.99

The Relationship of Claudius and Hamlet in Shakespeare's Hamlet - Buy on Amazon Kindle.

‘Kill your uncle, ignore your mother, avoid losing your sanity, and don’t worry about my suffering in the afterlife’—in simple terms, these are the Ghost’s four instructions in 1.5 to the title character of Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

The Ghost tinges his demands with emotional blackmail: “If thou didst ever thy dear father love …” But offers the prince no practical guidance: “However thou should accomplish this act …”

By the play’s end, Hamlet has broken every one of the directions issued by the “apparition” (1.1) who appears in the “questionable shape” (1.4) like “the King that’s dead” (1.1).

But, after many “purposes mistook” (5.2) and mirroring Laertes’ journey from revenge to forgiveness, the prince finds another way to keep the promise he made to his late father’s memory: “Rest, rest, perturbed spirit!” (1.5).

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Key Essay Topics Covered

  • Like Ophelia’s offering of rosemary (“for remembrance”, 4.5), the Ghost represents the preservation of memory.
  • The Ghost is seen only by those who remember old King Hamlet, and is invisible to others, like Claudius and Gertrude, who would rather he be forgotten.
  • Two related themes of Hamlet are the duty of remembrance in life and the fear of being forgotten after death.
  • Even before he sees the Ghost, Hamlet is preoccupied with his father’s memory.
  • In his first soliloquy, the prince remembers “so excellent a king” who was “so loving to my mother” (1.2). Later, he reveals to his loyal confidant: “My father—methinks I see my father … In my mind’s eye, Horatio” (1.4).

Key Supporting Quotes

21
quotations from the play to support your statements.

The apparition:
“In such a questionable shape”

2

The Relationship of Hamlet and the Ghost in Shakespeare's Hamlet Sample Essays - buy on Amazon

24 pages
4,600 words
3 sample essays

$4.99

The Relationship of Hamlet and the Ghost in Shakespeare's Hamlet Sample Essays - buy on Amazon

In 1.1, the skeptical “scholar” Horatio dismisses as a “fantasy” claims by the castle guards Marcellus and Barnardo of witnessing “this dreaded sight.” But the evidence of his eyes convinces him “this thing” is real and resembles the “form” of “our last King.”

The Ghost presents himself as a soul returned from a Catholic purgatory, where he is suffering “for a certain term … in fires” until his sins are “purged away” (1.5).

Prince Hamlet leans towards the Protestant view of ghosts: they may be truth-revealing spirits (“airs from heaven”) or manipulative demons (“blasts from hell”, 1.5). He first believes the former (“It is an honest ghost”, 1.5), but later fears what he has seen “may be a devil” who “Abuses me to damn me” (2.2).

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Old King #Hamlet's Ghost: from a Catholic purgatory, a Protestant hell - or his son's imagination?

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Key Essay Topics Covered

  • Horatio is asked by the guards to confirm the Ghost’s reality (“He may approve our eyes”, 1.1), just as he is later recruited by Hamlet to test the spirit’s truthfulness by observing Claudius’ reaction to The Murder of Gonzago (“Observe mine uncle”, 3.2).
  • That the guards reveal the Ghost’s visitations to Horatio and Hamlet (“As ... fitting our duty”, 1.1) suggests their loyalty is to the prince rather than to Denmark’s new king.
  • Horatio’s question about “extorted treasure in the womb of earth” causes the Ghost to scurry away, “like a guilty thing / Upon a fearful summons” (1.1).
  • Later, old King Hamlet’s brother will flee from the prince’s truth-revealing The Murder of Gonzago, exclaiming “Give me some light, away!” (3.2).

Key Supporting Quotes

33
quotations from the play to support your statements.

King Claudius:
“A brother’s murder”

3

The Relationship of Hamlet and the Ghost in Shakespeare's Hamlet Sample Essays - buy on Amazon

24 pages
4,600 words
3 sample essays

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The Relationship of Hamlet and the Ghost in Shakespeare's Hamlet Sample Essays - buy on Amazon

A single murder, two suffering souls. Old King Hamlet died with his sins unconfessed (“all my imperfections on my head”, 1.5) and must so endure a limited period of punishment in purgatory. An entire eternity of hellfire awaits his brother, Claudius; it is the price he knows he must pay for his stolen crown and queen: “O, heavy burden” (3.1).

In the play’s final scene, a conscience-stricken Laertes declares “The King’s to blame” (5.2). But which king? So many lives would have been spared had “the King that’s dead” (1.1) asked not for revenge but for prayers to end the suffering of two souls: his in the “sulfurous and tormenting flames” (1.5) of purgatory, and his brother’s on Denmark’s throne, “limed” and “struggling to be free” (3.3).

Caught in the middle between two brothers at war, Prince Hamlet laments: “O cursed spite, / That ever I was born to set it right!” (1.5).

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Key Essay Topics Covered

  • The Ghost’s unchristian demand for revenge, and Hamlet’s description of him as the “fellow in the cellarege” (1.5), suggest he is indeed a “goblin damned” (1.4).
  • The Ghost’s account of old King Hamlet’s poisoning is told from a spectator’s perspective. How could a “sleeping within my orchard” (1.5) victim know by whom and how he has murdered?
  • Hamlet does not promise to avenge the Ghost, only never to forget him: “Now to my word. / It is ’Adieu, adieu. Remember me.’ / I have sworn’t” (1.5).
  • “What would you undertake / To show yourself in deed your father’s son / More than in words?” (4.7). Claudius’ later questioning of a grieving Laertes mirrors old King Hamlet’s manipulation of his son: “duller shouldst thou be … Wouldst thou not stir in this” (1.5).

Key Supporting Quotes

21
quotations from the play to support your statements.

Queen Gertrude:
“Leave her to heaven”

4

The Relationship of Hamlet and the Ghost in Shakespeare's Hamlet Sample Essays - buy on Amazon

24 pages
4,600 words
3 sample essays

$4.99

The Relationship of Hamlet and the Ghost in Shakespeare's Hamlet Sample Essays - buy on Amazon

To the Ghost in 1.5, Gertrude is both a “radiant angel” and a “seeming-virtuous queen.” For what he sees as her sins (“those thorns”), he wishes her to be punished in the next life (“Leave her to heaven”) after being tormented by them in this one (“To prick and sting her”).

Despite the Ghost’s command, Hamlet cannot ignore his mother. To the Ghost’s revenge mission, the prince adds a second, more poignant quest of his own: to reunite in the afterlife his fractured-by-Claudius family of mother and father. Hence Hamlet’s desire to first rescue his mother’s soul (“Repent what’s past. Avoid what is to come”, 3.4) before he condemns his uncle’s (“as damned and black / As hell, whereto it goes”, 3.3).

That the Ghost in Gertrude’s closet is visible to the prince but unseen by his mother (“To whom do you speak this?”, 3.4) reveals the gulf between the haunted-by-the-past Hamlet and the live-in-the-moment queen.

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Key Essay Topics Covered

  • In the Player’s Hecuba speech of 2.2, Hamlet sees the heartbreak his mother would experience should he make her a widow a second time by killing Claudius.
  • Hamlet intends The Murder of Gonzago to remind his mother of the “thorns that in her bosom lodge” (1.5) in the hope that the theatrical shaming of her in front of the court will “prick and sting her” (1.5) to repentance.
  • The Ghost’s first appearance prompted Hamlet to pretend to be insane; his second, in Gertrude’s closet, convinces Gertrude her son actually is (“Alas, he’s mad”, 3.4).
  • That the Ghost is invisible to Gertrude (“To whom do you speak this?”, 3.4) undermines her son’s credibility and his efforts to persuade her to shun Claudius (“Let the bloat king tempt you again to bed”, 3.4).

Key Supporting Quotes

29
quotations from the play to support your statements.

Madness: “Taint not thy mind”

5

The Relationship of Hamlet and the Ghost in Shakespeare's Hamlet Sample Essays - buy on Amazon

24 pages
4,600 words
3 sample essays

$4.99

The Relationship of Hamlet and the Ghost in Shakespeare's Hamlet Sample Essays - buy on Amazon

After being instructed by the Ghost to “Taint not thy mind” (1.5), the prince immediately and without explanation decides to feign madness. Hamlet appears to be setting in place a defense of temporary insanity should he kill Claudius and face a trial for the crime of regicide.

But the prince’s exploitation of “fair Ophelia” (3.1) to spread word of his “antic disposition” leads him to the edge of insanity (“It hath made me mad”, 3.1) and sends her to actual madness and “self-slaughter” (1.2).

Ophelia and Hamlet each leave behind a “wounded name” (5.2): she, a “document in madness” (4.5) who was “incapable of her own distress” (4.7); the prince, “he that is mad” after “losing his wits” (5.1).

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"How came he mad?" - #Hamlet asks about himself to the grave-digger.

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Key Essay Topics Covered

  • Trapped between feelings of inadequacy in this world (“Am I a coward”, 2.2) and fear of damnation in the next, the tormented Hamlet is “from himself be ta’en away” (5.2).
  • Horatio questions Hamlet’s rashness: firstly, his desire to speak with the Ghost, and later to enter the fencing duel. But his trusted friend never doubts the prince’s sanity.
  • Hamlet’s antic behavior never impairs his ability to see through the falsity in others. All attempts to “board” (2.2) the prince are quickly and scornfully repelled.
  • In 5.2, Hamlet is “indifferent honest” (3.1) with Laertes when he uses his earlier “madness” to excuse his murder of Polonius.

Key Supporting Quotes

26
quotations from the play to support your statements.

Conclusion:
“Rest, rest, perturbed spirit!”

6

The Relationship of Hamlet and the Ghost in Shakespeare's Hamlet Sample Essays - buy on Amazon

24 pages
4,600 words
3 sample essays

$4.99

The Relationship of Hamlet and the Ghost in Shakespeare's Hamlet Sample Essays - buy on Amazon

In the final 5.2 scene, Hamlet’s killing of Claudius is not long-delayed revenge. It is his immediate and spontaneous response to Claudius’ guilt for the death of Gertrude, Laertes and the prince himself: “In thee there is not half an hour of life.”

The Ghost who appears at the beginning and in the middle of the play goes unmentioned at the end. But Hamlet has not forgotten his vow, made in 1.5: “‘Remember me.’ I have sworn’t.”

In his one act as king, a dying Hamlet surrenders Denmark to the son of his father’s old rival. In so doing he grants his “dear father” (2.2) something more than vengeance: atonement for his land-grabbing, “Extorted treasure in the womb of earth” (1.1) sins committed “in his days of nature” (1.5)—and with it escape from his afterlife torment in the “prison house … fires” (1.5). “Alas, poor Ghost” (1.5), indeed.

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#Hamlet grants his father not the revenge he demanded but the atonement his suffering soul needed more.

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Key Essay Topics Covered

  • The offered exchange of forgiveness from Laertes (“Mine and my father’s death come not upon thee, / Nor thine on me”, 5.2) finally ends the cycle of vengeful violence that began with Claudius’ “a brother’s murder” (3.3) and continued with the Ghost’s “dread command” (3.4).
  • Prince Hamlet ends the play as old King Hamlet began it: as a ghost, neither dead nor alive, fearing his life will be forgotten and story untold: “Remember me” (1.5), asked the father; “Report me and my cause aright” (5.2), says the son.
  • The passage of Denmark’s crown to the son of Norway’s King Fortinbras is the play’s final irony. For the revenge sought by the Ghost of old King Hamlet on his brother in act one becomes in act five the revenge of old King Fortinbras on old King Hamlet.

Key Supporting Quotes

35
quotations from the play to support your statements.

You have the rest of your
life to appreciate Hamlet …

but only a few hours
to finish your essay

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Also in the Hamlet Essaykit series:

#1: The Character of Hamlet

Born a prince, parented by a jester, haunted by a ghost, destined to kill a king rather than become one, and remembered as both the tragic hero and victim of a story he did not want to be in.

#2: The Character of Claudius

His “ambition” for Denmark’s throne leads him to commit one murder only to find that he must plot a second to cover up the first. When this plan fails, his next scheme leads to the death of the woman he loves.

#3: The Character of Gertrude

“Have you eyes?”, Prince Hamlet demands of his mother. Gertrude‘s “o’erhasty marriage” dooms her life and the lives of everyone around her when her wished-for, happy-ever-after fairytale ends in a bloodbath.

#4: The Character of Ophelia

Ophelia’s sanity is overwhelmed by Elsinore’s maddening world of deception and betrayal. Her “self-slaughter” is her revenge against everyone who dismissed, silenced and humiliated her.

#6: Relationship of Hamlet and Claudius

Their begins with mutual suspicion and dislike, escalates into a psychological battle of wits and ends with defeat for both and victory for the rival kingdom of Norway.

#7: Relationship of Hamlet and Gertrude

Gertrude’s marriage to Claudius and her collusion with the prince’s confinement at Elsinore creates a barrier between mother and son who are as different from one another as is humanly possible.

#8: Relationship of Hamlet and Ophelia

Begins in uncertainty, descends into mutual deceit and rejection, and ends with their double surrender to death: she to the water, he to Claudius’ rigged fencing duel.

#9: Relationship of Hamlet and Horatio

A genuine friendship in an Elsinore poisoned by betrayal. But does Hamlet exploit his friend’s loyalty with his improbable tale of divinely-inspired rescue by pirates?

#10: Relationship of Claudius and Gertrude

A marriage of practical interest. Claudius wanted something (the kingship) he did not have; Gertrude had something (the role of queen) she wanted to hold onto.

#11: The Themes of Hamlet

Deception, revenge, madness, corruption, decay and death—all shaped by destiny. A prince is left with an impossible choice when his uncle chooses murder and his mother chooses self-delusion.

#12: The Theme of Revenge

Two young men journey from revenge, through madness and anger, to forgiveness. An opportunist claims an empty throne. And a restless Ghost is granted atonement for his sins by his kingdom-surrendering son.

#13: Deception and Appearance versus Reality

‘Seems’ and ‘is’ are as far apart as Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are similar in a play-long triple pun on the verb ‘to act’: to take action, to play a false role, and to perform in theater.

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