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Katherine Muoz
Professor Marcelo Gonzlez
LET1345 - Shakespeare
22 April 2015
The Uncertainty of the Nature of the Ghost and its Role in Hamlet by William
Shakespeare
The character of Hamlet faces several uncertainties throughout the course of the
play. When first reading it, readers can take for granted that a vengeance is waiting to
happen very soon, but Hamlet seems to lack of determination to do so. In Act II, scene
II, Hamlets soliloquy represents all his hesitation by some rhetorical questions that
show how he is gradually turning his personality from a man in grief and pain to a
driven man determined to revenge his fathers honor, such as Am I coward? / who calls
me villain?. Also, his constant comparison with certain type of people and characters
(whore, peasant slave) reveal his insecurities and some kind of inferiority complex,
where the main male figure to whom he unceasingly compares is his father, and he
actually wonders what King Hamlet would do in his place. Quotes exemplifying this
statement appears in the second paragraph of the soliloquy, such as That he should
weep for her? / What would he do / Had he the motive and the cue for passion / That I
have? One of the main mysteries of the play is about the reliability of the ghost that
Hamlet sees and confronts. Is it really his father, who is compelling him to seek
vengeance? Or is it some kind of demon trying to tempt Hamlet? And if this is the case,
what does he only speak to Hamlet? What for?
At the beginning, Hamlet hesitates about his impulses driven by vengeance and
his religious morality that is stopping him from committing a serious crime such as the
assassination of a King (Am I a villain?). Nevertheless, the image of the ghost creates

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a sense of empathy towards the complicated situation that Hamlet faces after his fathers
death, essentially regarding the remarriage of his mother Gertrude and King Claudius
(his fathers brother) only after a couple of months of King Hamlets death. The ghosts
possess rhetorical skills that convince the audience that vengeance is the obvious
solution if Hamlet wants to take back the honor of his father. Hamlet succumbs entirely
to the mandatory speech of the ghost, but he is warned by Horatio and the others about
the possibility that this ghost might possess an evil nature, such as in act I, scene IV:
What if it tempt you toward the flood my lord / or to the dreadful summit of the cliff /
That beetles or his base into the sea? But as the play continues, the tragic ending of the
play reveals that the ghost and its supernatural influences had little to do in how the
vengeances plan is developed. In this sense, the character of the ghost can be easily
replaced by some other entities, like an internal voice, an oracle or even a friend, and
might be considered also as a silent demon in which Hamlet projected his own personal
desires of vengeance that were probably too problematic to handle without an external
approval. Hamlet is a character full of curiosity, who is constantly questioning himself
about some of the darkest inquiries of human beings, such as his own death or the
possibility of suicide (and thus, the existence of his famous to be or not to be). Who
better than his own father, his most powerful male figure, to encourage and approve his
dark impulses? This self-defense mechanism can also explain the relationship that
Hamlet has with Ophelia, whom he had loved once. The passive-aggressive behavior
towards Ophelia and the rejection of the existence of romantic love could be just a
projection of his own feelings towards his main female figure, his mother. Gertrude
remarriage just a few months after his husbands death, and Hamlet interprets that as a
betrayal, and ends generalizing all the vile sentiments as feminine (Frailty / thy name
is woman). Is it important to know whether the ghost is actually the King, a demon, or

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a projection? Certainly not.

His character becomes complex and borderlines with

madness, as he starts an exhaustive search for the truth. He is encouraged by the ghost,
certainly, but the pessimistic nature of Hamlet compels him to look for his own answers
and true reasons to kill his uncle, as when he states that he will have grounds / more
relative than this (same soliloquy). Maybe the dialogues with the ghost just exists in
Hamlets mind as a way to confront his own feelings, and if that is the case, the ghost
may portray another side of Hamlet himself, the one that has been diminished by a
strong paternal figure that torments him even beyond death.