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William Shakespeare’s Hamlet is a tragic story involving themes of sanity, revenge, mourning, chaos, and also the interactions and conflicts among these themes. These different themes are exhibited through the complex actions of several important characters in the play. Hamlet, Claudius, Gertrude, Polonius, and Horatio all are key elements of the plot and each have a strong effect on the unfolding events of the play. However, there is one character that has a minor part but plays a major role: the Ghost of King Hamlet. Even as a character that might possibly not even exist, upon examination this ghost plays an integral role in the play as it exhibits and affects varied elements of the aforementioned themes.
One of the first themes noticed in the play is the theme of sanity. This theme is introduced almost immediately in Act I, Scene 1, as the characters Bernardo, Marcellus, and Horatio are conversing about the presence and reappearance of a ghost. When discussing ghosts and other spirits, one can immediately suspect and judge the validity of these claims. Are Bernardo and Marcellus merely hallucinating, with the Ghost existing only in their minds? Or have the two guards actually seen the real Ghost of King Hamlet? Either explanation is possible at this point, but the question of sanity is one that should linger in the minds of the readers. Bernardo and Marcellus are not sure of their own sanity and have brought Horatio along to confirm their vision. Just as they are talking about the ghost, it appears, "In the same figure, like the King that\'s dead." Bernardo asks, "Is not this something more than fantasy?" They cannot believe their eyes as the Ghost has appeared before all of them. Could it possibly be that all three men are insane and have just seen an "illusion" as Horatio calls it? The fact that the three of them all see the apparition gives credence to the notion that the Ghost actually exists. However, the question of sanity and the existence of the Ghost can be further disputed as the Hamlet and the Ghost meet and converse.
The question of Hamlet\'s sanity is a major theme in the play. Is Hamlet really mad? If so, what causes Hamlet\'s madness? The Ghost plays a part in the understanding and interpretation of Hamlet’s madness/sanity. If Hamlet is actually insane, a series of events could have helped drive him to insanity, the most important being the appearance of the Ghost. When Hamlet first encounters the Ghost of his father in Act I, Scene 5, the Ghost reveals to Hamlet the way in which he died. His father tells him "But know, thou noble youth,/ The serpent that did sting thy father’s life/ Now wears his crown" and "…won to his shameful lust/ The will of my most seeming virtuous queen." After Hamlet hears this news coming out of his own father\'s ghostly mouth, he instantly feels rage towards his uncle and mother. The Ghost\'s revelation unbalances his already disturbed emotions. He is angry with his mother because of the fact that she would marry Hamlet’s uncle right after the death of his father. Hamlet comments, "How stand I then, that I have a father killed, and a mother stained." All of these domestic issues with his family are making Hamlet start to feel like he cannot trust anyone, not even his own mother. These issues alone would possibly be enough to affect his mental status, and combining it with the fact his father actually returns as a ghost to tell him this terrible information could induce him to lose his mind.
Hamlet’s sanity is again up for debate when he confronts his mother in Act III, Scene 4. As Hamlet berates his uncle Claudius to his mother, the Ghost appears to him again. Hamlet\'s extravagant reaction upsets Gertrude even more, for she cannot see the spirit and now thinks her son is definitely going insane. The ghost has only come to tell Hamlet that he has nearly forgotten his task. "This visitation/ Is but to whet thy almost blunted purpose." Hamlet tries to make his mother see the ghost, but Gertrude sees nothing and insists again that he is mad and hallucinating. She calls Hamlet’s vision a "bodily
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Characters in Hamlet, English-language films, British films, Prince Hamlet, Hamlet, Ghost, Gertrude, Horatio, Polonius, Hamlet in popular culture
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