The Ghost

Atchley, Clinton P. E. “Reconsidering the Ghost in Hamlet: Cohesion or Coercion?” The Philological Review 28.2 (Fall 2002): 5-20.


This essay focuses “on some puzzling aspects of the Ghost’s nature and look[s] at some possibilities of what the Ghost may mean and how it functions in the play” (5). The “religious atmosphere in Elizabethan England and how this may have affected Shakespeare’s audience” (5) are considered, particularly the differing Catholic and Protestant “beliefs concerning ghosts and the supernatural” (8). Instead of defining “the true nature of ghosts for his audiences,” Shakespeare “incorporates within his play both Catholic and Protestant views of the Ghost and also presents a third perspective on the Ghost, one steeped in folkloric tradition” (10). He “expects his audience to perceive the Ghost for what it is, a diabolical manifestation on a mission to trick Hamlet into forfeiting his soul” (12); the play’s devastating/destructive conclusion “supports this interpretation” (12). In “exhorting Hamlet to commit murder through an act of revenge, the Ghost plays most foully for Hamlet’s soul” (14). The counter argument is that “the Ghost tells the truth surrounding the circumstances of old Hamlet’s death,” as corroborated by Claudius’ private “confession of guilt”; but “a devil is capable of telling the truth if it enables him to achieve his goal” (14). The question then becomes, once the Ghost has accomplished his goal by motivating Hamlet to commit revenge (and, hence, to loose his soul), why does it appear later in the closet scene and in its nightgown? The answer is to perform two functions (14): first, to prevent Hamlet’s convincing of Gertrude to repent; the Ghost’s appearing only to Hamlet “intensifies Hamlet’s apparent madness such that Gertrude attributes Hamlet’s accusations to his insanity. Her moment of grace has passed” (16). Second, by appearing in the wife’s bed chamber, wearing a nightgown, the Ghost “ reactivates the domestic values that Hamlet keenly feels he has lost” (17), and evokes cherished familial memories in Hamlet (18). “The ‘piteous action’ that the Ghost makes is directed [. . .] at Hamlet, to wring his emotions and drive him to distraction to make Gertrude think him mad. And it succeeds” (18).

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Greenblatt, Stephen. “Remember Me.” Hamlet in Purgatory. By Greenblatt. Princeton: Princeton UP, 2001. 205-57.


While continuing the monograph’s historical exploration of “the afterlife of Purgatory” and of remembrance of the dead in England (3), this chapter begins by examining Hamlet’s “shift of spectral obligation from vengeance to remembrance” (207) and by analyzing how Shakespeare “weirdly and unexpectedly conjoins memory as haunting with its opposite, the fading of remembrance” (218). It then approaches the core argument of the monograph: “the psychological in Shakespeare’s tragedy is constructed almost entirely out of the theological, and specifically out of the issue of remembrance that . . . lay at the heart of the crucial early-sixteenth-century debate about Purgatory” (229). Although “the Church of England had explicitly rejected the Roman Catholic conception of Purgatory and the practices that had been developed around it” in 1563 (235), the Elizabethan theater circumvented the resulting censorship by representing Purgatory “as a sly jest, a confidence trick, a mistake . . . But it could not be represented as a frightening reality. Hamlet comes closer to doing so than any other play of this period” (236). Through “a network of allusions” to Purgatory (e.g., “for a certain term” [1.5.10], “burned and purged” [1.5.13], “Yes, by Saint Patrick” [1.5.136], “hic et ubique” [1.5.156]), as well as Hamlet’s attention to (and brooding upon) the Ghost’s residence/source (236-37), the play presents a frightening-yet-absolving alternative to Hell. The play also seems “a deliberate forcing together of radically incompatible accounts of almost everything that matters in Hamlet,” such as Catholic versus Protestant tenets regarding the body and rituals (240). The prevalent distribution of printed religious arguments heightens the possibility that “these works are sources for Shakespeare’s play”: “they stage an ontological argument about spectrality and remembrance, a momentous public debate, that unsettled the institutional moorings of a crucial body of imaginative materials and therefore made them available for theatrical appropriation” (249). For example, Foxe’s comedic derision of More’s theological stance “helped make Shakespeare’s tragedy possible. It did so by participating in a violent ideological struggle that turned negotiations with the dead from an institutional process governed by the church to a poetic process governed by guilt, projection, and imagination” (252). “The Protestant attack on ‘the middle state of souls’ . . . did not destroy the longings and fears that Catholic doctrine had focused and exploited”; instead, “the space of Purgatory becomes the space of the stage where old Hamlet’s Ghost is doomed for a certain term to walk the night” (256-57).

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Gross, Kenneth. “The Rumor of Hamlet.” Raritan 14.2 (Fall 1994): 43-67.


This study proposes that the “nature of Hamlet’s verbal offense comes through with particular resonance if we read the play against the background of Elizabethan attitudes towards slander and rumor” (45). Although Hamlet expresses a concern for reputation while waiting with Horatio for the Ghost and later in the final scene, he dons the disguise of madness “which makes him nothing but a blot, a shame, on the memory of his former self and on the court of Denmark”; he also becomes “the play’s chief slanderer”—slandering “the entire world, it seems” (48). In Elizabethan England, the belief that “human beings cannot escape slander is a commonplace” (49). Hamlet is located in a historical context where “slander is seen as the product of an uncontrollable passion” and as “a poison that wounds its speaker as much as its victims” (50). The “difficulty of controlling rumors invests them with a fearful power” (52). Hamlet’s power is in his “complexly staged desire to seal away a self, or the rumor of a self” (57). “Hamlet’s refusal to be known may constitute one facet of his revenge against the world for having had his liberty, his purposes and desires, stolen by the demands of the ghost” (58). The Ghost “is, like Hamlet, a figure at once subjected by and giving utterance to slander and rumor” (60). Its account of Claudius’ crime, if true, offers “one of the play’s more troubling images of the way that scandalous rumor can circulate in the world’s ear” (63). The scene also “suggests that the authority which seeks to control or correct rumor is itself contaminated with rumor, even constituted by it” (64). Perceiving the Ghost as rumor “can prevent us from assuming that the words of the ghost have a nature essentially different from the words which other human characters speak, repeat, and recall within the course of the play” (66). Perhaps “we are endangered as much by our failure to hear certain rumors as by our taking others too much to heart” (67).

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Harries, Martin. “The Ghost of Hamlet in the Mine.” Scare Quotes from Shakespeare: Marx, Keynes, and the Language of Reenchantment. By Harries. Stanford: Stanford UP, 2000. 93-122.


While contributing to the monograph’s argument “that Shakespeare provides a privileged language for the apprehension of the supernatural—what I call reenchantment—in works by Marx, John Maynard Keynes, and others” (1), this chapter begins by identifying Marx’s “appropriation” of “Well said, old mole” (1.5.162) as “an instance of phantasmagoria of a kind, a moment where what is, in theory, emergent—the rupture caused by the ‘revolution’—takes the form of old, in the allusion to Hamlet” (97). In comparison, the Ghost, that “old mole,” “is an archaic face for a nascent world of economic exchange” (97) because the Ghost “in the mine is a spirit of capitalism” (98). Hamlet’s reference to the Ghost as “mole,” “pioneer” (1.5.163), and “truepenny” (1.5.150)—all mining terms—and the spirit’s mobile presence in the cellarage scene initiate “the matter of the relationship between the economic and authority in Hamlet as a whole” (106). For example, Hamlet “unsettles the Ghost’s authority” by calling attention to its theatricality (106)—“this fellow in the cellarage” (1.5.151); but the scene “links the Ghost and its haunting to one of the crucial phantasmagorical places of early modern culture: the mine. The mine was at once source for raw materials crucial to the growing capitalist culture and, so to speak, a super-nature preserve, a place where the spirits of popular belief had a continuing life,” as historical accounts on mining show (108). Perhaps “the cellarage scene aroused fears related to the rising hegemony of capitalist forms of value” (108). “By focusing on the entanglement of the Ghost and the mine, a different Hamlet becomes visible, one that locates a troubled nexus at the heart of modernity—the phantasmagorical intersection of antiquated but powerful authority, the supernatural, and, in the mines, the material base of a commodity culture” (116).

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Kallendorf, Hilaire. “Intertextual Madness in Hamlet: The Ghost’s Fragmented Performativity.” Renaissance and Reformation 22.4 (1998): 69-87.


While arguing against a reductive/restrictive view of Hamlet, this essay proposes “that the entextualization of the relevant passages” of Reginald Scot’s The Discouerie of Witchcraft and King James I’s Daemonologie “from their original positions in the cultural dialogue, along with their appropriation by Shakespeare and recontextualization in his play, alter our understanding of Hamlet’s madness” and add “another dimension, another voice—by offering a diabolical ‘mask’ for the Ghost to try on” (70). The “cultural and linguistic processes of entextualization, appropriation, and recontextualization inevitably result in the fragmentation of discourse”; “And what is madness but one potential fragmentation of discourse?” (70-71). Hamlet’s madness, commonly perceived as a factor of “the Ghost’s message” (77), is represented in terms of demonic possession. For example, when the Ghost appears in the closet scene, Gertrude describes Hamlet’s visual appearance “using the language of the exorcists to describe demoniacs” (77-78). Although critics generally attribute Hamlet’s “symptoms” to melancholy (78), the two “demonological treatises” (70) support the notion that many Elizabethans and Jacobeans viewed melancholy as “actually caused by demons” (78). Interestingly, the Ghost, particularly in its first appearance, “is also illuminated by these two treatises” (75). From its armor to its “ultimate purpose” for revenge (77), the Ghost parallels details found in the two treatises regarding the supernatural. While one “might see Hamlet’s ‘mad’ fragmented discourse as part of a larger pattern in his character” (79), “few have interpreted the Ghost in light of this same performativity theme” (80). In actuality, the Ghost, “like Hamlet, tries on different identities in the course of the play” (80-81). Perhaps “the incessant trying on of different identities by both Hamlet and the Ghost in this play” is what continues to fascinate audiences and scholars (81).

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Landau, Aaron. “‘Let me not burst in ignorance’: Skepticism and Anxiety in Hamlet.” English Studies 82.3 (June 2001): 218-30.


This essay proposes that, by considering Hamlet “within the context of the Reformation and the concurrent skeptical crisis, the distinctly epistemological making of Hamlet’s ineffectuality takes on an intriguing historical dimension: it suggests the utter ineffectuality of human knowledge as this ineffectuality was advocated by contemporary skeptics” (218). The opening scene presents “the debacle of human knowledge” (219), the “mixed, inconsistent, confused, and tentative versions of human understanding” through the “uselessness” of Horatio’s learning to communicate with the Ghost and the in-conclusiveness of Bernardo’s “Christian narrative” to explain the spirit (220). This “contradistinction with standard versions of early modern skepticism, which vindicate and embrace human ignorance as against the violent pressures of early modern religious dogmatism,” suggests Shakespeare “to be anxious about uncertainty and its discontents in a way that Greek and humanist skeptics never are” (220). Hamlet’s direct echoing “of contemporary thinkers as diverse as Montaigne and Bruno only strengthens the impression that the play, far from representing a systematic or even coherent line of thought, virtually subsumes the intellectual confusion of the age” (221). “The ghost functions as the very emblem of such confusion” (221), withholding “the type of knowledge most crucial to early modern minds: religious knowledge” (220). The “very issues that are associated, in the Gospels, with the defeat of skeptical anxiety, had become, during the Reformation, axes of debate, rekindling skeptical anxiety rather than abating it” (223). In this context, the Ghost appears “as an implicit, or inverted, revelation” (222), “a grotesque, parodic version of Christ resurrected” (223): instead of “elevating Hamlet to a truly novel and unprecedented level of knowledge” (224), the Ghost “leaves Hamlet with nothing but ignorance” (222). Hamlet claims to believe the Ghost after The Mousetrap, but his ensuing “blunders” “debunk the sense of certainty that he pretends to have established” (227). The problem seems the “inescapably political” world of Denmark, where “errors, partial judgements, and theological (mis)conceptions are never only academic, they cost people their lives and cannot, therefore, be dismissed as unavoidable and innocuous imperfections or indifferent trifles,” as Montaigne and Pyrrhonist believe (228).

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Low, Anthony. “Hamlet and the Ghost of Purgatory: Intimations of Killing the Father.” English Literary Renaissance 29.3 (Autumn 1999): 443-67.


This article contends that “Buried deeply in Hamlet, in the relationship between the prince and his father, is a source tale, an unspoken acknowledgement that the modernist project of achieving complete autonomy from the past rested . . . on the denial and forgetting of Purgatory” (446). During “the eve of the Reformation,” the English people—of all classes—were interested in Purgatory because of “concern for their souls and those of their ancestors, together with a strong sense of communal solidarity between the living and the dead” (447). But the reformation put an end to the belief and its practices. As inheritances of material goods replaced inheritances of the moral and “legal obligation” to pray for the dead (and hence to remember past/origin) (451), “focus turned from community and solidarity, with the dead and the poor, toward self-concern and individual self-sufficiency” (466). In Hamlet, the Ghost implies “that he, King Hamlet, was Catholic” (453) and that he has returned from Purgatory because of Claudius’ worst crime: “callousness to a brother’s eternal fate” (454). “Notably, when Hamlet’s father asks his son to ‘remember’ him, he asks for something more than vengeance, but couches his request in terms less explicit than to ask him to lighten his burdens through prayer” (458). Shakespeare’s caution with “his mostly Protestant audience” seems the obvious explanation for this subtlety, but the Ghost’s stage audience suggests another possibility: “throughout the play it appears that Hamlet and his friends, as members of the younger generation, simply are not prepared to hear such a request” (458). “Nowhere in the play does anyone mention Purgatory or pray for the dead” (459), and Shakespeare “leaves the present state of religion in Denmark ambiguous” (461). Hamlet initially appears as the only person mourning Old Hamlet, but the son “does not really remember why or how he should remember his father”; “he has forgotten the old way to pray for the dead” (463). When he is accused “of unusual excess in his grief,” Hamlet “cannot grapple with the theological questions implied. Instead, he is driven inward, into the most famous of all early-modern gestures of radical individualist subjectivity: ‘But I have that within which passes show, / These but the trappings and the suits of woe’ (1.2.85-86)” (463). Hamlet’s “plangent words reveal . . . that his deepest concern is not only for his lost father but for himself and for his innermost identity” (463). The son “does not forget his father, he remembers him—insofar as he is capable” (465). But Hamlet’s “ironic legacy” is to complete, “by driving further inward, that earlier self-regarding assertion of progressive, autonomous individualism by his predecessors, who in a moment struck out ruthlessly against the communal past and against the generous benefactions and the crying needs of the dead" (467).

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Malone, Cynthia Northcutt. “Framing in Hamlet.” College Literature 18.1 (Feb. 1991): 50-63.


With the goal of bringing “the self-effacing frames of Hamlet into focus” (50), this essay examines “the particular theatrical frame in which Hamlet was first performed, the Globe theater” and considers “thematic and formal issues of framing in Hamlet, positioning these textual issues within the discussion of the theatrical space” (51). The performance space “cannot be contained completely by the theatrical frame; it seeps outward: before [e.g., “extruding limbs or bodies of actors”], behind [e.g., actors’ “holding place ‘behind’ the stage”], between [e.g., “sites of transition” between spectacle and spectator or inside and outside], above [e.g., the Globe’s open roof], below [e.g., the Ghost’s voice from beneath the stage]” (52). While the theatrical frame simultaneously defines and questions the boundaries of the performance space, “Hamlet plays out a sequence of dramatic frames that mirror the theatrical frame and double its doubleness” (53). For example, the Ghost provides the pretext for the revenge plot but “functions at the outermost edges of the play” (53), seeming “to inhibit the very borders of the dramatic world” (54); in The Mousetrap, “Revenge drama is enacted within revenge drama, with the players of the central drama as audience, and stage as theater” (57); Hamlet exists inside and outside of The Mousetrap, enacting the roles of both chorus and audience (58). But Claudius’s interruption of the play-within-the-play “begins the process of closure for the configuration of frames” (58), and “All of the frames in the play undergo some transformation in the process of closure” (59). For example, “the framing Ghost of Hamlet” is internalized by the son when Hamlet fully appropriates his father’s name (59): “This is I, / Hamlet the Dane” (5.1.250-51); Hamlet transforms into the avenger, murderer (Claudius’s double), and victim (Old Hamlet’s double) (59). Ultimately, he passes “from the world of speech to the world beyond”; in comparison, Horatio “is released from his vow of silence, his function is transformed from providing the margin of silence surrounding Hamlet’s speech to presenting the now-dumb Prince” (60). As Hamlet’s body is carried away, “a figured silence closes the frame and dissolves into the background of life resumed” (60).

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Ozawa, Hiroshi. “‘I must be cruel only to be kind’: Apocalyptic Repercussions in Hamlet.” Hamlet and Japan. Ed. Yoshiko Uéno. Hamlet Collection 2. New York: AMS, 1995. 73-85.


This essay examines “the problematic ‘poetry’ of Hamlet as an expression of the [Elizabethan] period’s apocalyptic concerns” (87). Prophetic signs (e.g., eclipse, a nova, the Armada’s defeat) heightened a sense of millenarian expectations in Shakespeare’s audience (88-89). Hamlet contains “an ominous sign foreshadowing ‘some strange eruption’” that “endows the play with a haunted sense of eschatology” and that “embodies and objectifies an apocalyptic ethos”: the Ghost (89). Interestingly, “fury, almost a violent ecstasy, is first and foremost triggered by the fatal encounter with the Ghost, that is, by an eschatological provocation” (91). A brief history of self-flagellation shows “that the eschatological ethos induced an ascetic self-torture in the hope of purging earthly sins from the body” as well as “engendered self-righteous violence towards Jews (and Turks), people marked as fatal sinners and Antichrist in the Christian tradition” (90). This combination is labeled “oxymoronic violence” (91). In Hamlet, the Prince alternates between “extrovert and introverted violence” (92): he berates himself and attacks all perceived sinners (e.g., Gertrude, Ophelia). He “is too intensely possessed with a disgust at fleshly corruption” rather that with an interest in revenge (93). While Hamlet parallels radical sects (95), Claudius is similar to King James; both rulers fear the danger of “fantasies” or madness, “a real political threat” to any throne (96). Shakespeare’s play “is a cultural rehearsal of an apocalyptic psychodrama which lies close to the heart of the Christian West” (98).

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Pennington, Michael. Hamlet: A User’s Guide. New York: Limelight Editions, 1996.


Framed by introductory and concluding chapters that narrate personal experience as well as insight, this monograph “is only in the slightest sense a history of productions”—“really imitating a rehearsal” (22). The first chapter focuses on the action by following the script “line by line” in the style of “a naive telling of the story” which can “often provoke a discovery” (22). As in “most productions,” the “script” is an “accumulated version”: a combination of elements “from the Second Quarto and the Folio and any number of later versions, with occasional mischievous forays into the First (‘Bad’) Quarto” (24). Act and scene designations are replaced by days to avoid confusion and “to draw attention to the fact that, while five separate days of action are presented, Shakespeare’s manipulation of ‘double time’ is so skilled that you can believe that several months have passed by between the beginning and the end” (23). The chapter on Hamlet’s characters comes second because one should not “make assumptions about character until the action proves them” (22). Characters are approached in groups, such as “The Royal Triangle” (Claudius/the Ghost/Gertrude) and “The Commoners” (players/gravediggers/priest). Then attention shifts to Hamlet. After discussing the demands of casting and rehearsing the role of Hamlet, the second chapter describes the excitement of opening night and the energizing relationship an actor shares with the audience. Although challenging, playing the role of Hamlet “will verify you: you will never be quite the same again” (193).

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Ratcliffe, Stephen. “What Doesn’t Happen in Hamlet: The Ghost’s Speech.” Modern Language Studies 28.3 (1998): 125-50.


This article argues “that Claudius did not murder his brother” and explores the Ghost’s account of its poisoning as the imaginings of “a world beyond the world of stage, a world of words in which the eye sees only what the ear hears, thereby sounding the limits of perception itself” (126). The death of Old Hamlet “is performed by means of words whose effect is to ‘show’ us what cannot be shown” (130). A detailed linguistic analysis of the Ghost’s account highlights how the Ghost’s words “enter (as the poison entered the Ghost’s body) not just Hamlet’s ears but ours as well” (143). The “experience of a multitude of casual, seemingly insignificant patterns of interaction among words in this speech” invites the audience/reader “to imagine and believe in something that doesn’t happen in the play”—except in words (147). While The Mousetrap’s dumbshow “echoes visually the Ghost’s acoustic representation of that same event” (133), Claudius’ response to it does not prove his guilt—nor does his supposed confession. Claudius’ private words provide “no details that would place him at the scene of the crime that afternoon” and use “a syntactic construction whose hypothetical logic casts more shadow of doubt than light of certainty over what he is actually saying” (135). And the confession comes from an unreliable source, a figure whose every action in the play has “everything to do with subterfuge and deception” (137). Perhaps, Claudius “is not speaking from the bottom of his heart, as one who prays presumably does, but rather in this stage performance of a prayer means to deceive God” (137). Besides, the “confession” from “this master of deception” (138) is for “a purely imaginary, hypothetical event that takes place outside of the play, beyond the physical boundaries of the stage” (139).

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Rosenberg, Marvin. The Masks of Hamlet. Newark: U of Delaware P, 1992.


Combining literary scholarship with interpretive performances, this monograph promises "a way to listen to and grasp the complex tones of Hamlet and the other characters" (x). Chapters follow the chronological order of the play, pausing to "discuss the important characters as they appear" (12). For example, the first chapter explores the opening scene's setting and events, as well as the variations staged in performances; the examination of this scene is briefly suspended for chapters on Horatio and the Ghost but continues in chapter four. This monograph clarifies dilemmas and indicates "the choices that have been made by actors and critics," but its actor-readers must decide for themselves (xi): "I believe this book will demonstrate that each actor-reader of you who engages with Hamlet's polyphony will uniquely experience the tones that fit your own polyphony" (x).

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Sanchez, Reuben. “‘Thou com’st in such a questionable shape’: Interpreting the Textual and Contextual Ghost in Hamlet.” Hamlet Studies 18.1-2 (Summer/Winter 1996): 65-84.


This article suggests “that in rendering the ‘shape’ of the Ghost ‘questionable,’ or indeterminate, Shakespeare has created a text that both resists and embraces context” (66). It begins with a survey of critical studies regarding the Ghost to show diversity “based on selective contexts” (68). A review of Levin’s and Fish’s explanations for such diversity finds that the two seemingly-opposite methodologies “complement one another in that neither argues that an understanding of context is irrelevant” (69). In a historical context, Hamlet’s Ghost, a spirit, is perceived as distinct from a soul, and Protestants “might very well suspect the spirit of having evil intentions” (71). But Hamlet “does not act as though he suspects the Ghost to be a devil” (at least not initially), and the scene of this first meeting may be even humorous (71-72). In the plays’ opening scene, the Ghost’s pattern of appearance / disappearance / reappearance conveys “the fright and curiosity, perhaps even the humor, but also the extreme confusion resulting from the Ghost’s appearances” (75). Also in this scene, Horatio, Barnardo, and Marcellus attempt to explain the ghostly visitations, representing “at least two different interpretive communities: Christian and Pagan” (75). The Ghost’s appearance in the closet scene is utilized to compare the Folio and the First Quarto, each text “indeterminate in and of itself, each indeterminate when compared to the other” (79). “Whether one speaks of text or context, however, Shakespeare seems to be interested in presenting a Ghost who conveys information and withholds information, a Ghost who educates and confuses, a Ghost who evokes terror and humor, a Ghost whose signification is both textual and contextual” (79).

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Wagner, Joseph B. “Hamlet Rewriting Hamlet.” Hamlet Studies 23 (2001): 75-92.


This article posits two intertwined arguments: Hamlet “identifies with his dead parent by reiterating language that honors the older character as a model of morality”; and Hamlet’s need to “adapt his own personality to be sufficiently compatible with his father’s” motivates him “to change or rewrite his play” (76). Although the Ghost seems a rather limited character (rarely appearing or speaking on stage), Shakespeare establishes—and maintains—the audience’s “sharp awareness of the Ghost’s controlling personality” “by taking the imagery, diction, and values that are present in the Ghost’s brief speeches of 1.5 . . . and by re-using them in the thoughts and speeches of Prince Hamlet. Hamlet and the Ghost think alike, and they use almost exactly parallel diction: thus, as he describes his father’s virtues and imitates his father’s speech patterns, Hamlet continually invoked the father’s ethos, and in this way the Ghost’s dynamic presence is maintained when it is not on stage at the same time that the son is going through the process of identification” (78-79). The “identification process culminates” (66) when, “in the dual persona of both son and father, he [Hamlet] appropriates the very image and seal of the father” (77-78). Although it is “an offstage decision that takes him for reaction to action” (76), Hamlet describes “an experience that might be called meta-theater in that he is director and observer, as well as actor”: “he writes the new commission and steers the play into its final course of confrontation with Claudius” (77). But this is not Hamlet’s only attempt “to transform the play” (85). Aside from “his addition of ‘some dozen or sixteen lines’ (2.2.535) to the text of The Murder of Gonzago” (86), his changes to the appropriated play during its performance, and his rewriting of Gertrude in the closet scene, a demonstrative example of Hamlet rewriting Hamlet includes his “considering, like a writer, some alternative ways of rewriting the script so that he can more closely realize his father’s behavior and personality” in the prayer scene (87). With every rewriting (and identification with the father), Hamlet “slowly develops the power to choose action rather than delay or reaction” (88). In the final scene, Hamlet performs one last rewrite: he gives his dying voice to Fortinbras and, thereby, “corrects” the “forged process” that Claudius used to claim the throne (89-90).

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