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Home :: Archive :: 2002 :: October ::
Re: Haunted by the Ghost in Hamlet
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.2083  Wednesday, 16 October 2002

[1]     From:   Matthew Baynham <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 15 Oct 2002 14:26:39 +0100
        Subj:   Hamlet's Ghost

[2]     From:   Claude Caspar <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 15 Oct 2002 09:59:57 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.2074 Re: Haunted by the Ghost in Hamlet

[3]     From:   Bill Arnold <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 15 Oct 2002 08:19:13 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.2074 Re: Haunted by the Ghost in Hamlet


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Matthew Baynham <
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Date:           Tuesday, 15 Oct 2002 14:26:39 +0100
Subject:        Hamlet's Ghost

I don't know much about Hamlet, but I have been wondering throughout
this thread how it might relate to Banquo's ghost. Stephen Roth's view
of Hamlet's ghost that...

'The ghost is evil, or would have been regarded as such by Elizabethans
(based on unequivocal religious teachings--both catholic and
protestant--, based on repeated statements in the text, and based on
revenge-tragedy theatrical conventions, which are themselves rooted in
morality-play conventions)...'

would be very difficult to sustain with regard to Banquo's ghost. So I
think Steve's view must be overstated here, if he means by it that the
audience would clearly have understood any theatrical ghost as evil,
because of religious teaching and theatrical conventions.

Matthew Baynham

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Claude Caspar <
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Date:           Tuesday, 15 Oct 2002 09:59:57 -0400
Subject: 13.2074 Re: Haunted by the Ghost in Hamlet
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.2074 Re: Haunted by the Ghost in Hamlet


>The ghost is evil, or would have been regarded as such by Elizabethans
>(based on unequivocal religious teachings--both catholic and
>protestant--, based on repeated statements in the text, and based on
>revenge-tragedy theatrical conventions, which are themselves rooted in
>morality-play conventions).

I find this a strange comment since it is as absolute as wrong.  All I
can do is point anyone interested to any one of a number of scholarly
texts, such as Jean-Claude Schmitt's (1998) "Ghosts in the Middle
Ages."  Of course, what the Age believed & what WS represented, let
alone what he believed, are strands that must be unraveled... Certainly
some ghosts were evil, however relative that term may be, but also were
simply messengers with unfinished business.  The issue that I previously
referred to is that Old Hamlet seems to be the only Catholic in the play
because he implies the reality of Purgatory.  I hope to have more to say
soon when I finish some reading. Schmitt has interesting pages on the
question of Angels, as well.
Is this ghostly?:

"It was angels who presented to a person's mind the "spiritual image" of
a dead person, in the appearance of the living body of that person."

Hamlet's dilemma is in deconstructing the appearance and figuring out
what kind of visitation this was, if any, from amongst the usual
suspects.

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Bill Arnold <
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Date:           Tuesday, 15 Oct 2002 08:19:13 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 13.2074 Re: Haunted by the Ghost in Hamlet
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.2074 Re: Haunted by the Ghost in Hamlet

David Bishop writes, "To say the ghost is evil leaves something out, I
think. The ghost is evil, if you wish to put it that way, from a
Christian point of view."

Gosh, and I thought I understood Christianity!  [I admit: we are in the
realm of Shakespearean Age Christianity!]

I agree with David Bishop's point that "To say the ghost is evil leaves
something out."

Can someone answer the significant question: why would an evil ghost try
to spur Good?

[Capitalizations throughout, intentionally]

I come back to my point made before: and that is that in the churches of
Shakespearean England, church leaders preached that there was a Spirit
world, where departed Souls went, and departed Souls that were good got
Good places to go to, i.e., Heaven, and departed Souls that were bad got
Bad places to go to, i.e., Hell.  Now, am I right in my attribution of
this as a premise of theological morality as preached in simplistic
terms in Shakespearean England?  If so, the ghost might be Good or Bad,
agreed?  Or, I guess, Good/Bad?  But I do not believe we can conclude
ALL ghosts were Evil as a premise.

A Good Soul such as the murdered King, in simplistic terms, would return
to the living as a Good ghost, to seek "in Christian terms" Good
reestablished over the Evil which was on the throne of Denmark as
exemplified by a usurping King, and witnessed by the youthful Prince
Hamlet.

I fail to see how the ghost is Evil in this context?

Bill Arnold
http://www.cwru.edu/affil/edis/scholars/arnold.htm

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