The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.0143  Tuesday, 22 January 2002

From:           Edmund Taft <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Tuesday, 22 Jan 2002 14:04:01 -0500
Subject:        Hamlet (Once More)

Don Bloom writes,

"On the other hand, the ghost tells Hamlet, 'I am thy father's spirit, /
Doom'd for a certain term to walk the night, / And for the day confin'd
to fast in fires' of Purgatory."

Don goes on to argue that the audience should be pretty sure after
Hamlet springs "The Mousetrap" that not only is Claudius guilty, but
also that the Ghost is a good ghost and represents God's will.

Well, yes and no. I think that Shakespeare plants several points in the
play where the audience may think that the nature of the Ghost is no
longer a problem. One such place is half-way through 1.5 -- if we take
the ghost at his word, then there's no problem. Another is right after
the play-within--the play. A third is during the bedroom scene, when the
Ghost can be interpreted as appearing in order to make sure that Hamlet
does not manhandle Gertrude. A fourth is Hamlet's "miraculous" escape
from death and his journey, via the Pirates, back to Denmark, and so on.

But the problem with these explanations is that if they are really meant
as "proof" of the Ghost's goodness, then Hamlet should immediately
effect revenge and the play should be over.

I see these points as "ways out" for members of the audience who cannot
bear -- or choose not to consider -- that the provenance of the Ghost
continues to be a puzzle -- and unsolvable one, in my view -- to the
very end of the play.

If this interpretation is valid, then one of the things _Hamlet_ is
about is that action depends on unverifiable faith -- faith in the Ghost
and all he stands for.

Yet that faith may be mistaken.

--Ed Taft

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