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Compare the ghosts in Hamlet and Macbeth.

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The primary difference between the ghost of Hamlet's father in Shakespeare's Hamlet and the ghost of Banquo in Macbeth is that the ghost of Hamlet's father has a significant effect on the plot of Hamlet and on Hamlet's character, whereas Banquo's ghost has little effect on the plot of Macbeth or on Macbeth himself.

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In Shakespeare's Hamlet, the ghost of Hamlet's father appears within three minutes of the beginning of the play and enters once again shortly before the end of the same scene. The ghost appears to several characters, including Marcellus, Bernardo, and Horatio, and in a later scene in the first act, it also appears to Hamlet. The ghost refuses to talk to anyone by Hamlet, which creates mystery and anticipation about the ghost for the audience and emphasizes what the ghost says when it finally speaks to Hamlet.

The timing of the ghost's entrance is a strong indication of its importance in the play. The ghost provides exposition and gives Hamlet information that moves the play forward, even though Hamlet seems reluctant to act on the information and later doubts that the ghost is truly his father's spirit.

HAMLET. ... The spirit that I have seen
May be a devil; and the devil hath power
T' assume a pleasing shape; yea, and perhaps
Out of my weakness and my melancholy,
As he is very potent with such spirits,
Abuses me to damn me....(2.2.593-598)

The ghost reappears in the scene between Hamlet and his mother (act 3, scene 4)—although, oddly, she can't see it, even though it appears to the castle guards, Horatio, and Hamlet—and it urges Hamlet to focus on his vow to avenge his father's death.

GHOST. Do not forget. This visitation
Is but to whet thy almost blunted purpose. (3.4.121-122)

In Macbeth, Banquo's ghost doesn't appear until act 3, scene 4, well past the midpoint of the play and well past the point in the play where the plot has been set in motion. Banquo's ghost is seen by no one except Macbeth, and it says nothing to anyone.

The appearance of Banquo's ghost has no effect on the plot. It's never mentioned again by any character other than Macbeth, who mentions it only once in the "apparition scene," act 4, scene 1. (The "apparitions," if considered ghosts, have considerably more influence on Macbeth than does Banquo's ghost.)

Whereas the ghost of Hamlet's father seeks a vow from Hamlet to avenge his father's death, Banquo's ghost doesn't prompt Macbeth to do anything, except react in horror, and there seems to be little residual effect of its appearance on Macbeth.

The ghost serves to show Macbeth's fragile mental and emotional state, but by now, this should be fairly evident to the audience and most of the other characters in the play, particularly Lady Macbeth.

Interestingly, Lady Macbeth never asks Macbeth what he sees that he says "might appall the devil" (3.4.72), and he never tells her who or what it is. Does she see the ghost, too, or does she simply assume that Macbeth is hallucinating?

The ghost of Hamlet's father is undoubtedly "real," which is to say that it's seen by Hamlet and others (except Hamlet's mother, for some unexplained reason), but there's some question as to the "reality" of Banquo's ghost.

Nobody sees Banquo's ghost but Macbeth, a man in a precarious mental state who has already shown that he's prone to having hallucinations, like when he sees a dagger floating in the air (2.1.41-71) and hears voices after he murders Duncan (2.2.46-55). And here is Macbeth again, seeing a ghost after he's had another person murdered.

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Compare the ghosts in Hamlet (Hamlet's father's ghost) and Macbeth (Banquo's ghost).   

There are quite a few differences between the appearance of the ghosts in Hamlet and in Macbeth, differences in how the ghosts affect the plot, what they do, and the effect that they have on the protagonist of each play.

First, the ghost of Hamlet's father provides major plot information, crucial to setting up Hamlet's main objective in the play -- to revenge his father's murder.  This ghost relays the details of his murder, which prompts Hamlet towards revenge.

On the other hand, the plot of Macbeth does not hinge upon the actions of the ghost of Banquo.  The appearance of Banquo's ghost does signal a turning point for Macbeth, but Macbeth's move away from guilt and concern over the human lives he is destroying to fulfill his objective -- to acquire and maintain the Kingship -- is the result of many events, of which the appearance of Banquo's ghost is only one.  So, the appearance of Banquo's ghost is not crucial to setting the plot in motion, in the way that the ghost of Hamlet's father is.

The ghosts also behave differently.  The ghost of Hamlet's father appears to many people.  In fact, the play is set up so that the audience and other characters see the ghost and confirm its presence before Hamlet ever does.  This ghost has a mission, and he fulfills it in relaying his story to Hamlet.  The ghost of Hamlet's father also reappears in Act III when he suspects that Hamlet is not fulfilling his assignment.  Again, this ghost has a mission to fulfill in the plot of the play, and it drives his behaviour.

The ghost of Banquo's behaviour is much more mysterious.  Does he wish Macbeth ill?  Does he want to forgive Macbeth?  To frighten him?  All of the questions are valid, since the Ghost does not explain its presence.  It also remains unclear whether this ghost even actually appears as anything other than a figment of Macbeth's imagination.  No one else sees this ghost, and it does not speak.  And, in this case, Shakespeare has already cast doubt upon Macbeth's clarity of vision, because in Act II, Macbeth imagines that he sees "a dagger."  Could Banquo's ghost be another such imaginary vision?  Most definitely.  So, Banquo's ghost's behaviour and reality remains a vision surrounded by unanswered question.

Both protagonists are struck with a bit of wonder at the sighting of the ghosts, but while Macbeth seems terrified and wishes the ghost of Banquo gone, Hamlet resists the restraint of those around him and follows the ghost eagerly and without fear.  He wants to hear what the ghost will tell him, as it confirms his suspicions about his uncle.  Macbeth wants no part of the ghost of Banquo, as this ghost's appearance only magnifies and confirms his guilt as Banquo's murderer.

Overall, the ghosts in the plays Hamlet and Macbeth serve very different purposes and have completely different effects upon the protagonists and audiences of each play.

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