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'The ghost is a useful dramatic device but for a modern audience its effect is to diminish rather than enhance the play's impact'

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Introduction

'The ghost is a useful dramatic device but for a modern audience its effect is to diminish rather than enhance the play's impact' A ghost was a common feature in the genre of an Elizabethan revenge play of which Hamlet is a prime example. Shakespeare has endued the ghost in Hamlet with several functions, all of which are vital to the plays impact and development. However connotations of the ghost were very different for a Shakespearian audience, therefore it is possible that variation in the way in which the ghost is received may diminish the plays impact for a modern audience. In the Elizabethan period people had much stronger ties to religion than we have today. Despite being an officially protestant country, there were many who continued to practise the old faith, and who had yet to eschew the catholic idea of purgatory, where souls went to expiate their sins before going to heaven. Elizabethan audiences therefore had a stronger conception of the idea of heaven and hell, and the existence of ghosts or spirits in purgatory. These beliefs were very common in Shakespeare's time and are evident from the fact that in the play, Hamlet never actually doubts the existence of the ghost, he only questions its intentions. He speculates, 'The spirit I have seen may be a devil, and the devil hath power'. ...read more.

Middle

Therefore it is unlikely that the impact of Horatio's character will be strong enough to sway the beliefs of a modern audience. One of the functions of the ghost as a dramatic device is to forward the plot, as following its initial appearance it motivates Hamlet's actions throughout the play. The ghost only speaks with Hamlet which is a further implication that it may be a malign spirit. The queen cannot see the ghost, therefore preventing her from discouraging Hamlet's actions. The ghost tends to appear when Hamlet is in despair and failing, for example in Act 3 Scene 4 the ghost appears to remind Hamlet of his motive as it seems he has been prolonging the task at hand. The ghost proclaims, 'Do not forget. This visitation is but to whet thy almost blunted purpose'. He is intent on inciting Hamlet to the deed, which has been delayed on account of Hamlet's confusion over the ghost's intentions. However, Hamlet's procrastination may be an excuse, and evidence of his failing strength and fear of the task ahead. In Act 1 Scene 1 the effect created by the appearance of the ghost is enhanced by the setting of a tense and eerie atmosphere. This is likely to help enhance the play for a modern audience as it is a setting stereotypically related to fear; a dark, cold night, in the grounds of an old, towering castle. ...read more.

Conclusion

In the original staging of Hamlet and various earlier film productions, the ghost appeared as a man in full armour, as if ready for battle. Within the play, this form of appearance serves to foreshadow an ominous future for Denmark, however, when it comes to modern scare tactics, less is more, and it is often what the audience doesn't see that frightens them the most. This type of presentation would therefore shock and engage a modern audience while keeping the possibility of Hamlet's madness, and the ambiguity of the ghost feasible. In conclusion I agree with this statement as in the context of today, audiences have a lesser belief in ghosts and the religious concepts of Heaven and Hell. This leaves a modern audience less engaged by the ghost, which as a dramatic device diminishes rather than enhances the overall impact of the play. As a result of contrasting attitudes and beliefs between the Elizabethan period and now, even the strength of Shakespeare's language and setting cannot convey the ghost effectively to a modern audience as a dramatic device. Subsequently the only way of preventing this loss of impact is to use the ghost as a shock tactic to engage a modern audience. The most effective way to do this would be with the use of modern technology which unfortunately, if overused, can diminish the overall intended impact of Shakespeare's work. Emma Kent 12:3 1 ...read more.

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Here's what a teacher thought of this essay

4 star(s)

The first half of this essay is very good and carefully considers the purpose of the ghost. The last page deviates a little too much from analysis of the play but as an overall response it is good.

4 Stars

Marked by teacher Laura Gater 26/06/2013

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