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

"Spirit of health or goblin damned?" How do we understand the ghost in Act 1 Scene 5 of Hamlet?

Extracts from this document...


"Spirit of health or goblin damned?" How do we understand the ghost in Act 1 Scene 5 of Hamlet? From the opening scene of the play, the ghost of Hamlet the King of Denmark is a figure that is shrouded in mystery. Only appearing in the dead of night, and moving "like a guilty thing", it's intentions remain uncertain until Act 1 Scene 5. Despite giving it's reasons for it's "walking of the night", the issue of the ambiguity of the ghost continues to arise, and no question is more prominent in the minds of the audeince than it's intentions: "wicked or charitable?" Having guided the main character Hamlet away from his company of Horatio and Marcellus, Shakespeare uses hendiadys when the ghost decribes the catholic perception of hell: "sulphorous and tormenting flames". This proves to be a common feature of the ghost's idiom, and this quotation in particular solves a certain aspect of the mystery that had surrounded the apparition since it's haunting appearance in the first scene; the ghost is catholic. The "torment" of purgatory that he describes is a catholic concept. However, as the audience will discover, there are many more aspects of ambiguity to the character. ...read more.


I feel the sentence gains its power from the of the verb "sting"; to sting a life seems considerably more terrible than to take a life. The ghost's narrative of the murder is full of vivid description, such as "with vile and loathsome crust all my body", this is done in an elaborate fashion in order to confirm the audiences suspicions of Claudius to dramatic effect, but more importantly to provoke emotion in the already unstable Hamlet. The audience are reminded of Hamlet's reference in the previous scene to "the stamp of one defect". Could this be his weakness, will the murder of his father prove to be his his downfall, will he "take corruption from that particular fault"? The heroes of Shakespeare's tradgedies are plagued by a small weakness that proves to be their downfall; the audience is always aware of what the outcome will be. "Let not the royal bed of denmark be a couch for luxury and damned incest." This metaphor, in which Shakespeare yet again makes use of hendiadys, demonstrates another aspect of ambiguity in a play that is riddled with contrtadictions. Were Gertrude and Claudius having an "incestious" relationship before the death of the king? ...read more.


The question of the soul of the former king arises again through the character's location below the ground. However, Hamlet's language is jovial when adressing the ghost beneath the stage; "this fellow in the cellerage". Shakespeare is almost ridiculing the audiences belief in the ghost and the limits of stagecraft at the time in this clear reference to the area beneath the stage in the Globe Theatre. Despite Shakespeare's realistic approach to the metaphor of purgatory, and the Elizabthan stage, the end of the scene certainly does not lack power or emotion as Hamlet swears to avenge his father's death. To conclude, the ghost remains one of the most prominent aspects of the plays ambiguity. The plot is riddled with mystery and questionable outcomes, and I feel that this stems from the appearnce of the ghost in the opening scene. The question of it's religion and incentive, are key issues that in 1600 would leave a protestant Elizabethan audience questioning the reliablity of a Catholic ghost; Shakespeare's paradoxes are evident. Furthermore, I feel that the apparition represents Hamlet's conflicting emotions and the moral diallema that will prove to be his downfall. The ghost is not merely a questionable figure of purgatory, but the character that represents the confusion of Prince Hamlet, and him on to a confused quest for revenge that proves to be the downfall of many. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE Hamlet section.

Found what you're looking for?

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

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 GCSE Hamlet essays

  1. Which Version Of The Hamlet Ghost Scene (Act 1 Scene 5) Was The Most ...

    The ghost in the Mel Gibson film lacked make-up compared to the ghost in the Kenneth Branagh and Ethan Hawke though, which slightly let the scene down, but the ghost was meant to appear alive and as a normal person though.

  2. Hamlet - In what way is Act 5 Scene 2 a fitting climax to ...

    'In thee there is not half an hour in life and proclaims. This king is to be blamed'. Hamlet reacts by wounding Claudius and forcing him to drink form the poisoned cup. Leatres and Hamlet forgive one another and Hamlets final act is to prevent Haratio from committing to join his friend.

  1. How Does Shakespeare Convey a Sense of Anomie in Hamlet Act 1, and to ...

    a beast, that wants discourse of reason, would have mourn'd longer--married with my uncle, my father's brother, but no more like my father than I to Hercules." Hamlet is showing the audience how he feels about his mother, and consequently women as a whole.

  2. Explore Shakespeare's presentation of Hamlet, his moods and motivations, through his soliloquies in Act ...

    death to set the record straight ("...The undiscovered country from whose bourn no traveller returns..."). Therefore we "bear those ills we have". The soliloquy itself is fluent, impersonal and philosophical. In the end the audience hear "...conscience does make cowards of us all...".

  1. How is the ghost presented in Act One ofShakespeare’s ‘Hamlet’? What impact would it ...

    The ghost beckons Hamlet and he follows but Horatio and Marcellus try to stop but then Hamlet threatens them and they let him go. At the beginning of scene four Shakespeare has started off with major characters and not with minor characters because the tension is rising so he wants the impact on the audience to be the same.

  2. Hamlet: How does Shakespeare build up to the climax in the final scene?

    She is calling him "my lord" which shows that she has respect for him. By using the word "country" he is almost saying "We're better than those in the country Ophelia, we're grander and worth more than them" which will flatter her and make her feel good about herself.

  1. Consider the part the Ghost plays in Act 1 scene 1 of ‘Hamlet’. How ...

    The ghost appears four times in the opening act of the play. He appears in scene 1, 2, 4 and 5. In scene 1 the ghost's appearance scares the guards and Horatio as they keep watch for the night. They then tell Hamlet about the ghost in scene two and Hamlet agrees to watch with then that night.

  2. With close reference to language examine how fitting a close Act 5 scene ii ...

    Hamlet has also matured emotionally from "To be, or not to be," {3.i.55-56} to "Let be" {5.ii.208}. Hamlet enjoyed punning on words, especially when conversing with members of court and his mother and Claudius. Hamlet proves to be a man of his time with his knowledge of the theatre, we

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