Hamlet’s conflict over the ghost can be seen in this is a
fascinating quotation from the Religio Medici by Dr.
Thomas Brown a famous scientist of the 17th C. “I
believe…that those apparitions and ghosts of departed persons are
not the wandering souls of men, but the unquiet walks of Devils,
prompting and suggesting us into mischief, blood, and villany;
instilling and stealing into our hearts that the blessed spirits
are not at rest in their graves, but wander solicitous of the
affairs of the World” (qtd. Rea 210). Thus, for
Shakespeare’s audience, the purpose of appearances of demons was to
deceive the individual to whom they appeared and lead him to commit
some sin that would cause the loss of his soul. At first,
certain that this is indeed a ghost, Hamlet says a brief prayer
“Angels and minister of grace defend us! But repeatedly Hamlet
needs reassurance that this is the spirit of his father rather than
an evil demon demanding him to do a heinous crime: kill the
king. His initial delay, therefore concerns this
question: Is the ghost his father asking him to seek
revenge? Or is the ghost an evil demon luring him into a
crime that will result in the loss of his soul?
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