This activity guides you through analyzing the appearance of King Hamlet’s Ghost. This figure sets the rest of the play in motion. Forming an opinion about what King Hamlet is asking Hamlet to do (and whether this request is moral or not) will color the rest of the work that you do with Hamlet.
For this activity you need to have read and, ideally, re-read the following scenes which concern the ghost of King Hamlet:
Act I, Scene i – Bernardo and Marcullus seek Horatio’s advice about the ghost
Act I, Scene ii – Hamlet is told about the ghost
Act I, Scene iv – Hamlet sees and decides to follow the ghost
Act I, Scene v – The ghost discloses his untimely murder and Hamlet decides to seek revenge
Act II, Scene ii – Seeking proof of the ghost’s tale,
Hamlet enlists the help of the players
In a primary post of 250 words or more, respond to the following questions about the appearance of King Hamlet’s ghost:
Hamlet initially approaches the ghost of his father in an effort to determine whether he is “a spirit of health or goblin damned.” However, old King Claudius answers the question himself by stating that he is “doomed for a certain term to walk the night/ And for the day confined to fast in fires, / Till the foul crimes done in days of nature / Are burnt and purged away” (1.5.11-14). In doing such, the ghost implies that he inhabits the realm of purgatory.
Although vigorously attacked in the Protestant Reformation beginning with Luther, the Catholic doctrine of purgatory stipulated that those individuals who had not purged their sins in life were confined indefinitely to a place of punishment until they had accounted for their transgressions. Thus, Old King Claudius is a “goblin damned,” a fact that makes his advice immediately suspect.
Quoting Shakespeare’s text at least three times, address whether the ghost is asking Hamlet for “remembrance” or “revenge.” Does Hamlet decide to believe the ghost and carry out his wishes? What are at least three reasons why he decides to do so?