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Home :: Archive :: 2004 :: June ::
Hamlet's Ghost
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.1167  Tuesday, 1 June 2004

[1]     From:   Edmund Taft <
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        Date:   Monday, 31 May 2004 11:09:37 -0400
        Subj:   Hamlet's Ghost

[2]     From:   W.L. Godshalk <
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        Date:   Monday, 31 May 2004 14:47:16 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.1154 Hamlet's Ghost

[3]     From:   Larry Weiss <
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        Date:   Monday, 31 May 2004 15:20:50 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.1154 Hamlet's Ghost

[4]     From:   Martin Steward <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 1 Jun 2004 00:14:58 +0100
        Subj:   SHK 15.1154 Hamlet's Ghost

[5]     From:   Abigail Quart <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 1 Jun 2004 06:10:49 -0400
        Subj:   RE: SHK 15.1154 Hamlet's Ghost


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Edmund Taft <
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Date:           Monday, 31 May 2004 11:09:37 -0400
Subject:        Hamlet's Ghost

As Pamela Richards and Bill Arnold have indicated, the color of a ghost
was important. For example, if I remember right, a dark color meant that
the ghost either was in hell or at the very beginning of his purgatorial
punishment, still burdened with the full weight of its sins. Conversely,
a white ghost or a partly white ghost was a sign of spiritual health or
progress toward that end. In this respect, we might note that the ghost
in Hamlet first appears in dark colors - in armor, but later,  in
Gertrude's bedroom, the ghost appears in white - in a nightgown
(according to the F. stage directions).

Whether Shakespeare had this in mind is anybody's guess, but I suppose
he might have.

Ed Taft

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           W.L. Godshalk <
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Date:           Monday, 31 May 2004 14:47:16 -0400
Subject: 15.1154 Hamlet's Ghost
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.1154 Hamlet's Ghost

"From an audience point of view, most in the audience believed in
ghosts, but by no means all did," writes Ed Taft. And D. Bloom writes,
"Many peoples have ghost superstitions that are taken seriously by
nearly everyone (Shakespeare's audience among them)."

What percentage of the British population in 1600 believed in ghosts?
And what data have been used to determine this percentage?

Bill Godshalk

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Larry Weiss <
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Date:           Monday, 31 May 2004 15:20:50 -0400
Subject: 15.1154 Hamlet's Ghost
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.1154 Hamlet's Ghost

We know precisely three things with reasonable certainty about the
ur-Hamlet:  (1) It was performed at the Theatre; (2) it had a ghost as a
character; (3) the ghost shrieked "Hamlet revenge!"

Isn't it likely that WS inherited the ghost from his predecessor?
Besides, how else could he have dramatically portrayed the revelation of
his father's murder?  Saxo had the prince actually observe the events --
  "Amleth beheld all this" (Bullough, Narrative and Dramatic Sources of
Shakespeare, vol. VII, p.62) -- as I believe Belleforest did as well in
following Saxo (id. at 10).  That would have been extremely difficult to
depict on stage, if not impossible.  And Saxo does not explain how
Amleth could have beheld Feng "waylay his brother" (id. at 62), so the
statement that Amleth "beheld" it is nothing more than a convenient way
of saying that somehow he had intelligence about it without explaining
how.  So why not just follow the method in the model, which is pretty
damn dramatic?

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Martin Steward <
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Date:           Tuesday, 1 Jun 2004 00:14:58 +0100
Subject: Hamlet's Ghost
Comment:        SHK 15.1154 Hamlet's Ghost

Hamlet's Ghost & Murder of Gonzago seem to have melded together at some
point, and go over ground well-trodden in previous strands.

It puzzles me when I see critics trying to pin down the answer to the
question "What is Hamlet's Ghost?" or "Is Hamlet's Ghost a good or evil
spirit?" etc. etc.

Hamlet addresses a problem that is central to most of Shakespeare's
plays post 1600: How do we affect moral action in response to the
universe when an objective view of that universe is unavailable to us?
It's a typical dramatist's problem, this proto-existentialist perspectivism.

Isn't it?

So those questions seem like the wrong questions. The question to be
asking about the actions of the character of Hamlet (if you think that
this is an interesting or useful way to approach an early-modern
playtext in the first place) would be something like, "What is the
nature of Hamlet's subjective understanding of the objective phenomena
the play allows us to witness? And why is the medium of drama
particularly suited to framing these sorts of problems?"

m

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Abigail Quart <
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Date:           Tuesday, 1 Jun 2004 06:10:49 -0400
Subject: 15.1154 Hamlet's Ghost
Comment:        RE: SHK 15.1154 Hamlet's Ghost

PS: I don't think we ourselves are so free from ghost superstitions as
we may pretend.)

Particularly if we're in theatre. I don't know what they were doing in
the off hours around the stage in Will's time, but the best place I know
for ghost stories  is a theatre set. Those who claim to have seen a
theatre's ghosts accept them with a certain nonchalant pride, as if
their presence is a natural extension of the magic.

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