The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.1844 Thursday, 5 September 2002
Date: Thursday, 5 Sep 2002 12:24:38 +0100
Subject: The Supernatural and Modernity
I have been wrestling with one concept in Hamlet for sometime and that
is the Ghost. If the plays - certainly the serious tragedies - are
universal and could apply to all modern societies, then where would the
Ghost fit in exactly? With Macbeth's ghosts we can easily imagine that
a man has become haunted with his own crimes and shame - besides, he
alone sees them. Richard III's ghosts are similar personal hauntings.
But with Hamlet the Ghost is seen by others before Hamlet - the Ghost
drops in on the unsuspecting prince with vital information - but from
beyond the grave. The idea of contact with the spirit world is very
anti-Christian - which I'm sure Shakespeare was aware. "Midsummer
Night's Dream" we can accept because it is a declared fantasy piece.
Hamlet is a statement about the real world of politics, power and
morality. Imagine a modern re-write and imagine the Ghost. It just
wouldn't work. The rest of the play is completely "natural". A video
tape of the deceased father is not good enough because the Prince
converses with him - this is important to the plot - besides, the crime
that the father discovers is only known after the event of his death. I
find this perplexing and find it impossible to reconcile to modernity.
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