• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

What Does the Ghost Contribute to the Tragedy of Hamlet?

Extracts from this document...

Introduction

What Does the Ghost Contribute to the Tragedy of Hamlet? Hamlet differs slightly from the Elizabethan conventions of revenge tragedy, as it does not closely follow the ideas set out by Aristotle. Shakespeare created this play so that the focus is on the characters, through soliloquies, rather than on action. However, he does centre the tragedy of the established format of a ghost; describing its final hours as a mortal soul and motivating the hero to avenge its death, which concludes with his fall. Through use of catharsis and anagnorisis, the ultimate revenge tragedy is created by evoking emotions of pity and terror in the audience. Shakespeare immediately creates the imagery of the setting by establishing the "bitter cold" weather and it having just "struck twelve" midnight, which was thought to be a time when the supernatural and mortal worlds crossed. This helps to reflect the eerie and threatening image the Ghost presents, and encourages the idea of it being sinister. The technique allows the supernatural to appear more legitimate and plausible because if the scene was set in different conditions such as warm, sunny day, then the effect would be much less significant. Not only does the setting conjure fear in the audience, but due to the short fragmented speech with broken rhythm, the anxiety is heightened. ...read more.

Middle

This leaves the audience confused as to whether it is good, or evil. In Scene iv, Marcellus describes the ghost as having a "courteous action", suggesting the ghost has good manners and is chivalrous. This strongly contrasts with the idea of the ghost's appearance being said to signify something "rotten in the state of Denmark." When Hamlet questions: "Be thou a spirit of health, or goblin damned?" Shakespeare polarizes the ghost, and it is unknown at this point in the play which category of good or evil the ghost falls into. Due to this unknown and the suspense created by the threefold antithesis, "bring thee airs from heaven or blasts from hell, be thy intents wicked or charitable," used in Hamlet's speech, the ambivalence the audience feels for the ghost is heightened. Shakespeare thus makes the audience experience terror, contributing to catharsis. Marcellus asks if he should "strike it with [his] partisan", and the reason for his wanting to hurt or injure the ghost is because the characters are beginning to think the ghost is evil. This is also shown when they use the word "it", even though the ghost resembles the late king. The reason for this is because they believe the king's spirit is possessed by a demon. In the Elizabethan period the majority of people were Protestants and therefore did not believe in the Catholics' Purgatory. ...read more.

Conclusion

Beside the ghost, Hamlet looks significantly smaller and defenseless. This creates fear of the ghost and sympathy for Hamlet and therefore it ensures the audience undergoes catharsis. In Act Three Scene Four, by use of pathos the ghost gives the effect on the audience of pity and not terror, unlike the previous scenes where the ghost was seen wearing a suit of armor. Shakespeare presents the ghost dressed in its "habit", ordinary clothing or nightgown, which creates the impression of vulnerability. The audience also sympathizes with the ghost when it shows affection towards the Queen who it believes is suffering from her "conceit". This forces the audience into questioning the integrity of the ghost. However, in the BBC production, the ghost remains in his armor, which emphasizes the idea of terror instead2. Kyd had designed the Elizabethan formula for revenge tragedy with The Spanish Tragedy, while Shakespeare furthered the basic idea in Hamlet by adding suspense, characterization and ideological symbolism in order to produce a catastrophic and highly tragic play. He also demonstrates a building of catharsis throughout the play until it finishes with an emotional purge. In conclusion, the play successfully includes the majority of Aristotle's ideas as well as involving the moral significance of revenge. It is these factors that are contribute due to the ghost and because of its presence the play is classified as a remarkable tragedy. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our AS and A Level Hamlet section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Here's what a teacher thought of this essay

3 star(s)

The writer shows a good knowledge of both text and context, but needs to structure the ideas to optimise their impact and importance. Repetition should be avoided and terminology not used for its own sake. ***

Marked by teacher Karen Reader 08/03/2012

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related AS and A Level Hamlet essays

  1. Marked by a teacher

    Explore the presentation of revenge in 'Hamlet'.

    4 star(s)

    both himself and the king, and is therefore unsure of whom to trust. Hamlets dilemma is founded on this; that any action he takes carries with it risks and possible consequences which could destroy the foundation of his very existence, so he hesitates and does nothing, all the while hating

  2. Marked by a teacher

    Explore the "loving mother-son" relationship between Gertrude and Hamlet, with focus on language.

    4 star(s)

    for Hamlet in the duel even though she has no idea that it is a trap. It is Gertrude's underlying propensity for goodness that redeems her. Her men forgive her for her shallow, sensual nature and her addictions to comfort and pleasure because they see that she is innocent of premeditation.

  1. Marked by a teacher

    Explore how Shakespeare examines the theme of revenge in Hamlet.

    3 star(s)

    And that would be an inadequate revenge. The phrase 'Revenge is a dish best served cold' comes to mind and means vengeance is often satisfying if it is delayed.

  2. How does Shakespeare present aspects of love in Hamlet?

    The way in which Shakespeare gives detail about their marriage is effective because similarly to Hamlet and Ophelia's relationship, he keeps us guessing throughout the play and the truth is not revealed until the final act. Another minor relationship that shows elements of love is between Laertes and Polonius.

  1. Write a Critical Analysis on Hamlet Act 3 Scene 4

    Once again Hamlet turns sarcastic towards Gertrude and asks her what reason a good and honest Queen may have to keep a secret from a bad and dishonest King, he tells her that if she lets any of this out she will live to suffer and that should do this for her own good.

  2. The Dramatic Function of Ophelia in Shakespeare's 'Hamlet'.

    I think that even in his cruel treatment of Ophelia, she makes him a more sympathetic character. He refuses to listen to her and his harsh words "I loved you not." (III.i.119) "Get thee to a nunnery." And (III.i.121) "you jig, you amble, and you lisp, and nickname God's creatures, and make your wantonness your ignorance.

  1. What is the significance of the ghost in Hamlet? How would an Elizabethan audience ...

    The ghost has many purpose within the play; one being to be the subconscious mind of Hamlet who contemplates on the idea of right and wrong. Taking justice into his own hand and set things right for which he believes would be for the sake of the world Is the

  2. Compare and Contrast theCharacters Hamlet and Laertes.

    Claudius and Gertrude comment on his unhappiness, however it is not until Hamlet's first soliloquy that the audience is made aware of the depth of his suffering. Although dismayed at his mother's quick remarriage to his uncle, Hamlet suspects foul play in his father's murder but has no prove until the ghost discloses this information to him.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work