The thing that stuck out the most to me as we start Hamlet is the ghost. Maybe I’m still on some sort of Halloween kick but I find him fascinating. I don’t think in any of the other plays we’ve covered in class has a ghost been such a dominant factor in the play like Hamlet.
At first the ghost didn’t seem to be of any importance. When Horratio, Marcellus and Barnardo first encounter the ghost they’re frightened, as anyone should be. They try to make contact with the ghost, figure out what its purpose is but the ghost vanishes. This made him seem as if he wasn’t a very important character. Towards the end of the act when he is with Hamlet his personality does a full 360. He is having long articulated conversations with Hamlet, giving him instructions and even asking Hamlet questions. This may serve as foreshadowing for the importance and continuing appearance of him throughout the rest of the play.
What I also found really interesting was what the ghost meant to the characters, who he was, and what he told Hamlet. After his brief encounter with Barnardo, Horratio and Marcellus they see it as a bad omen for their country. The more I think about that now the more I see it as reasonable. Even today when we talk about ghosts they aren’t generally thought of in a positive manner. A word closely associated with ghost is “haunt”, and usually when something is haunted its for the worse and not the better. Perhaps seeing the ghost led the three characters to believe their country was going to be “haunted.” Maybe war and hard times could serve as hauntings. In 1.1.111 Horratio says “a moke is to trouble the mind’s eye”, meaning that the ghost is something that should worry them, something is not right. Maybe this is foreshadowing too.
Going back to the end of the act the ghost tells Hamlet that he is actually Hamlets father and then he tells Hamlet “so art though to revenge when thou shalt hear” (1.5.7). The ghost of Hamlet’s father is telling Hamlet to avenge him. to seek revenge for his father who was killed in a manner unaware to Hamlet. It seems as if the ghost is serving as a catalyst for the events that are yet to take place in play, so far at least. I cant help but wonder if the ghost is for real though, Shakespeare is a smart guy and has been known to have some tricks up his sleeve. But given the context of the ghost and his dialogue I think its safe so say this most certainly is a ghost.