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In "Hamlet" why is Hamlet so unwilling to trust what the Ghost tells him? Why does...

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cvw | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 2) eNoter

Posted April 20, 2009 at 11:29 PM via web

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In "Hamlet" why is Hamlet so unwilling to trust what the Ghost tells him? Why does Hamlet not immediately obey the Ghost's order?

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mrs-campbell | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted April 5, 2009 at 7:23 AM (Answer #1)

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Hamlet is not sure if he can trust the ghost.  In his time, ghosts were usually considered an omen of evil, and so Hamlet was wary; he didn't want to rush off and murder someone based on the word of a potentially evil spirit.  Hamlet was worried that this ghost was coming to tempt him into murder.  Imagine if you saw ghost that told you to go kill your uncle; that's pretty weighty stuff there.  Murder is not to be taken lightly.  So, because of this, Hamlet decides to be very careful about enacting revenge.  He wants to see whether or not Claudius is actually guilty first, through more solid proof than a ghost's word, a ghost who could be "goblin damn'd" bringing "blasts from hell" who has "intents wicked" (I.iv.40-42).   All Hamlet is saying is that maybe the ghost is bad and evil, come to prompt him to murder.  Hamlet wants to check it out first, before acting.  So, to be careful and sure, he decides to investigate the murder himself, to gather clues about whether Claudius is guilty or not.   Once he has solid proof of Claudius's guilt, THEN he'll believe the ghost and act on the message it brought.  So, he sets about finding clues; he sets up the players, skulks about the castle, reads in-between the lines, ponders life and death, and eventually, at the very end of the play, FINALLY decides that the ghost was right and decides to act on what it had told him.

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