The Ghost in Hamlet


A.C Bradley writes:

“The ghost affects imagination not simply as the apparition of a murdered King who desires the accomplishment of revenge, but also as the representative of a hidden ultimate power; the messenger of divine justice set upon to atone his offences for which it appeared impossible for man to avenge.” (Paraphrased)

The ghost of Hamlet’s father serves as an ominous reminder that although in Theory the perfect crime exists, with murder, it is much different when looked at from the perspective of Practice. Even if you carry out the perfect crime, your conscience lingers and often times consumes your soul. We see this theme in the paranoia of Macbeth and especially Lady Macbeth. There is an omnipotent power in the universe that leads our innately imperfect humanity to their demise. It is a mysterious and vexing force of the cosmos. Before young Hamlet finds out his father’s real cause of death, he admits he had an inkling to the truth: O my prophetic soul, my uncle.The Ghost is the apotheosis of Crime and Punishment and pervades the psyche of the play throughout. When the usurping King Claudius attempts to pray for repentance, he struggles profusely and concludes: my words fly up, my thoughts remain below, words without thoughts, never to heaven go. Claudius only fakes feeling guilty because he discovers his deed has been disclosed and he wants to continue living in his idea of Paradise; incestuous, lavish, lustful, luxury. He’s a virtuoso sociopath and psychopath, but there’s no out-foxing  Divine force. Claudius is stuck in a cycle of vexingly haunting guilt which he will have a hell of a time trying to escape from. As the Jester Stephano says: 

He that dies pays all debts;    The Tempest  3.2

or as Ernest Hemingway wrote: Isn’t it pretty to think so.


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