How the Ghost of Hamlet's Father Makes the Tragedy Possible

A Kings Will

The tragedy that is Hamlet is filled with so many unique characters, each with their own quirks that individualize themselves. But one of the least developed, or undeveloped, of all the characters is the one whom makes the entire plot of Hamlet possible. That is the Ghost of Hamlet's father.

This character is very depersonalized, almost to the point of making him a non-character. At the very beginning of the play, Hamlets father is already deceased, leaving the audience to know very little about him as a person. The 'Ghost' as he is referred to in the script, is seen in the first act when he appears before some guards and Horatio, a good friend of Hamlet. Later on, the Ghost comes to Hamlet alone and speaks to him, telling him of how he was secretly murdered by his brother Claudius. He then proceeds to tell Hamlet to exact revenge for him. “Pity me not, but lend thy serious hearing to what I shall unfold”, Hamlets father asks of him before telling him of his death.

Something I find interesting about the ghost is how even though we see Hamlets father in spirit, it seems as though we still never know who he was as a person. The only matter he discusses with Hamlet is his death and and what he wishes to be done about it. The two don't exchange any kind of last words with each other, or discuss any other small talk. It would seem as though the ghost is not so much a person as a spiritual manifestation of his anger and desire for Claudius to die, and he will not rest in peace until the act is carried out. “Revenge his most foul and unnatural murder”, speaking to Hamlet, exemplifies the passion of the Ghost and his will do murder Claudius.

As the ghost of Hamlets father, he is essential to the plot, which would otherwise not exist or not go anywhere if not for him, as Hamlet would never know of his uncles crimes, and everything after the beginning of the first act onward would not have occurred. Similarly, the Ghost comes to Hamlet later on in the play as Hamlet is accusing his mother, Gertrude, of wrong-doings. The Ghost appears before Hamlet and reminds him that he is being distracted, and must continue on with his plan to kill his uncle.

While the Ghost isn't seen as often as the other characters, I think he manifests himself in the play more than whats on the surface. To me, it seems, that after having visited with the ghost, Hamlet is inflamed with the same fervor as the Ghost, imbuing his passion and desire for revenge into his son. In this regard, it would explain why the Ghost is seen very little in the play. Once his motives have been made clear, he serves no more purpose since Hamlet will continue onward fulfilling the Ghosts will.

Though the Ghost lacks humanity, one has to wonder why he does what he does. Why does he speak to Hamlet on the matter? Why not his once-wife, Gertrude? Does the Ghost see Hamlet as the only person who cares enough to make worth mentioning to? He is his own flesh and blood son, so that's one reason, but he also shows himself to Horatio. Those whom the Ghost shows himself to and those he doesn't creates this divide between those who are aware of whats going on, and those who don't. More specifically, Horatio and Hamlet, divided between everyone else other than Claudius. The Ghost could have appeared before Ophelia or Laertes, which would have changed these characters actions, and overall outcomes in the end.

Regardless of his static nature and small amount of time seen in the play, the Ghost of Hamlets father is an essential character who puts a supernatural twist on an otherwise naturally play, giving clairvoyance to Hamlet and Horatio as the plot progresses.

Works Cited

Shakespeare, William. "Hamlet, Prince of Denmark." Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, Drama, and Writing. 2010. X.J Kennedy, Dana Gioa. New York, NY: Pearson, 2010. Pg 1374,1375