Importance of the Ghost in Shakespeare's Hamlet Essay

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The Importance of the Ghost in Hamlet

The stage presence of a ghost would have been familiar to an Elizabethan audience and so the appearance of the Ghost in 'Hamlet' carries some messages which are general - almost as though the ghost was a familiar symbol which evoked certain thoughts merely by being present. The Ghost in 'Hamlet' has a more specific role than that given to ghosts in general, however; it has a crucial part to play in the development of the plot. Thirdly, the interaction between the Ghost and Hamlet raises difficult questions regarding duty and free will, and as the trigger for much of the protagonist's anguished philosophising the ghost plays a key but problematic role as Hamlet's true adversary.
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Initially the audience is presented only with the impending conflict with Norway as a source of these omens - when Horatio proposes that the preparation for war and a danger to the state might be the cause of the Ghost's presence, Bernardo agrees - "I think it may be no other but e'en so". It is not until the Ghost speaks to Hamlet in scene v that a more feasible source of the wrong in nature is proposed - that the old king was "sleeping, by a brother's hand / Of life, of crown, of queen at once dispatched". We as an audience cannot be sure that this is true (as Hamlet himself says later, "The spirit that I have seen / May be a devil") but it echoes Hamlet's anger and grief at his mother's swift remarriage as expressed in Act I scene ii and seems horrendously plausible. In terms of the Ghost's role in Hamlet the actual truth of his words are irrelevant; his principle plot importance is his exhortation to revenge -

"If thou didst ever thy dear father love...

Revenge his foul and most unnatural murder".

Hamlet's response is initially enthusiastic - "Haste me to know that I ... may sweep to my revenge". This belies the complexity of the plot, however; if the Ghost is merely the incitement to start Hamlet on a path towards revenging his father's death, why does it take until the final scene to do it?

The answer lies in the nature of the play. While Hamlet is presented

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