Shakespeare's Definition Of A Ghost

The American Heritage Dictionary, published in 1973, defines a ghost as,
"the spirit or shade of a dead person, supposed to haunt living persons or
former habitats." Unfortunately, this simple definition does not explain where a
ghost comes from or why it haunts. When used in the context of Shakespeare's
Hamlet, this definition seems to suggest that the ghost who visits Hamlet truly
is his dead father seeking revenge. To the modern reader, this straightforward
interpretation adequately characterizes the ghost and his purpose; however, to
the Elizabethan audience the ghost's identity proved more complex. For the
Elizabethans, four different types of ghosts existed, each with its own ...

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saw ghosts as omens, telling of troubled
time ahead, or simply as the hallucinations of a crazed person or group.
Shakespeare recognized the complexity of the Elizabethan ghost's identity and
played off of the confusion, making the question of identity a key theme to his
play. Throughout Hamlet Shakespeare explores each of the possible identities of
the ghost with each one adding a new twist to Hamlet's plight.
When news of the ghost's presence first reaches Hamlet and Horatio, they
declare it an omen of forthcoming evil. Hamlet's reaction indicates that he is
not surprised, "My father's spirit - in arms? All is not well. / I doubt some
foul play. Would the night were come! / Till then sit still, my soul. Foul deeds
will rise, / Though all the earth o'erwhelm them, to men's eyes" (I.iii.255-259).
Hamlet already believes that Gertrude has committed a "foul deed" in marrying
Claudius and the ghost's appearance supports Hamlet's anger. At the time, Hamlet
does not know of his ...

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Shakespeare's Definition Of A Ghost. (2005, August 17). Retrieved October 22, 2021, from
"Shakespeare's Definition Of A Ghost.", 17 Aug. 2005. Web. 22 Oct. 2021. <>
"Shakespeare's Definition Of A Ghost." August 17, 2005. Accessed October 22, 2021.
"Shakespeare's Definition Of A Ghost." August 17, 2005. Accessed October 22, 2021.
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Added: 8/17/2005 08:16:42 AM
Category: Arts
Type: Free Paper
Words: 1195
Pages: 5

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