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In Shakespeare's Hamlet, how does Hamlet feel in the ghost scene?

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taylorruth | Salutatorian

Posted October 22, 2013 at 7:28 PM via web

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In Shakespeare's Hamlet, how does Hamlet feel in the ghost scene?

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amarang9 | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted October 22, 2013 at 8:49 PM (Answer #1)

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When he first sees the ghost in Act One, Scene Four, Hamlet is baffled. He's not sure if the ghost is from heaven or hell and he's not sure what the ghost's intentions are. Hamlet simply does not know what to do: "What should we do?" (I.iv.38). He acknowledges that mortals ("fools of nature") are not capable of comprehending such a supernatural occurrence. ". . . and we fools of nature / So horridly to shake our disposition / With thoughts beyond the reaches of our souls?" (I.iv.35-37) 

When the ghost begins to speak, Hamlet pities him because he is doomed to walk the night while during the day he must pay for his sins he committed in life. (Since the ghost, Old King Hamlet, was killed before he could have a confession or absolution from a priest, he must pay for his sins until they are "purged away.") The ghost explains to Hamlet how Claudius murdered him and pleads with Hamlet to take revenge on Claudius. Upon hearing this, Hamlet desires to learn as much as he can as quickly as he can. Hamlet seems to seriously crave revenge at this point in the scene: 

Haste, haste me to know it, that with wings as swift

As meditation or the thoughts of love

May sweep to my revenge. (I.v.29-31) 

When the ghost leaves, Hamlet tries to focus all of his thoughts on revenge. He compels Horatio and Marcellus to swear not to speak of the ghost. Hamlet also tells them not to worry if he (Hamlet) appears mad in the coming days. Although Hamlet seems completely focused on revenge, he does lament the fact that it falls upon him to carry it out. The end of this scene is important because it shows the formulation of Hamlet's plan (to act mad/crazy) and the last lines of the scene show his reluctance in being in the position to avenge his father: this will later explain part of the underlying reason Hamlet continues to delay his revenge: 

The time is out of joint. O cursed spite

That ever I was born to set it right! (I.v.189-90)

So, Hamlet goes from drastic uncertainty to a lust for revenge to reluctance. 

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