Hamlet

This essay has a total of 1516 words and 5 pages.

Hamlet

supposedly King Hamlet's spirit, as a tool to master this. However, Shakespeare portrays
this inner struggle of reason against faith as Hamlet's insanity. Does Hamlet become
insane in the play, or is Shakespeare trying too hard to once again make the audience
uncertain? There is a lot of evidence that Hamlet does indeed go insane, however it seems
that the audience sees Hamlet's insanity as their uncertainty throughout the play, which
has been originally brought on by the Ghost. Indeed, Hamlet is not insane, rather the
audience thinks him insane because of their uncertainty and uneasiness regarding Hamlet's
actions.

Many factors contribute to the uncertainty of Hamlet's sanity. The source of some of these
factors is the Ghost Hamlet encounters in the beginning of the play. Hamlet is
Shakespeare's most realistic, most modern, tragedy. It is in Hamlet that Shakespeare seems
to give his audience the closest interpretation of the spirit and life of his time.
Shakespeare indeed does an excellent job of making the spiritualism and superstition
accurate throughout the play. The Ghost in Hamlet raises problems of Elizabethan
spiritualism. To understand fully the scenes in which the Ghost appears one must
understand the superstitions regarding ghosts in Shakespeare's day and also current
philosophical and theological opinions concerning them. Generally there were three schools
of thought in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries on the question of ghosts. Before
the Reformation, the belief in their existence had offered little intellectual difficulty
to the ordinary man, since the Catholic doctrine or Purgatory afforded a complete
explanation of it in theological terms. In fact, doctrine and popular belief, in this
case, found mutual support. Thus most Catholics of Shakespeare's day believed that ghosts
might be spirits of the departed, allowed to return from Purgatory for some special
purpose, which was the duty of the pious to further if possible, in order for the
wandering soul to find rest. However, for Protestants this was not so easy. The majority
of them accepted the reality of apparitions without question, not knowing how they were to
be explained. It was not possible that ghosts were the spirits of the departed, for
Purgatory being a forgotten tradition, the dead went direct either to bliss in heaven or
to prison in hell. Widely discussed and debated, the orthodox Protestant conclusion was
that ghosts, while occasionally they might be angels, were generally nothing but devils
who "assumed" the form of departed friends or relatives in order to work evil upon those
to whom they appeared (Wilson).

The third and final school of thought on the subject is portrayed in the attitude of
Horatio at the opening of the first scene. Christians do not deny the existence of
spirits. What they contest is the possibility of their assuming material form. As for the
idea that devils can assume the bodies of the dead, it appears to them no less idle than
the purgatorial theory, which it superseded. In short, apparitions are either the illusion
of a melancholic mind or flat knavery on the part of some evil. With the spirituality of
the Elizabethan period, also came superstition, which Shakespeare obviously followed.
First, ghosts could not speak until addressed by some mortal. This rule is certainly seen
in the opening scene through the actions of the four characters present. This notion is
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