Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 4, No. 758. Thursday, 11 November 1993.
Date: Wednesday, 10 Nov 1993 11:49:28 -0500 (EST)
Subject: The Ghost in *Hamlet*
The discussion of *Hamlet* makes me think of a suggestion one of my
undergraduate students made recently. He argued that the ghost is a
hallucination. His evidence is that only Hamlet hears it speak; that Gertrude
does not see it in the bedroom scene; and that it appears to others than Hamlet
only in the dark, when bushes are easily supposed bears, as Theseus points out.
I had not heard this suggestion before, and I was skeptical, but I couldn't
think of anything to refute it; in fact, I pointed out in response that Hamlet
exclaims "O my prophetic soul" when the ghost tells him about the murder,
suggesting that the ghost is, in fact, saying what Hamlet already suspects.
The fact that all the guards on the walls see the ghost can be explained as a
species of mass hysteria.
I wonder if his suggetion has been made by someone else. Is it a standard
interpretation of the ghost? I don't recall having read it anywhere, and I'm
not inclined to believe it, but I find the suggestion intriguing. Is there a
definitive way to refute it, or does it remain a tantalizing suggestion?