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Hamlet ghost - Sean Embrey-Stine Professor Bouchard THEA...

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Sean Embrey-Stine Professor Bouchard THEA 202 December 15, 2010 Hamlet: A Ghost Story Because Shakespeare’s it is such a sophisticated play, it is easy to forget that, beginning with the first scene, Hamlet is a ghost story. The play is frustrating in that it explores many possibilities of the afterlife and gives no answers, mirroring the experience many humans go through after people die. Throughout the play, there are repeated allusions to humans being more than their physical bodies. When Horatio enters in scene one, Barnardo says, “Say, what, is Horatio there?” And Horatio replies, “A piece of him.” Horatio is probably holding out his hand as a literal piece of him, as the editor’s notes would suggest, but the phrase could also allude to Horatio’s subconscious knowledge that he is more than what other people can physically see. After Barnardo welcomes him, Horatio asks, skeptically, “What, has this thing appeared again tonight?” Barnardo says he has seen nothing yet and it is clear from Marcellus’ next lines that Horatio does not believe in ghosts yet. “Horatio says 'tis but our fantasy, and will not let belief take hold of him touching this dreaded sight twice seen of us.” Horatio has come up to join the guards for the night watch, so there may be a part of him that wants to believe in ghosts, even though his cognition won’t let him at this point. Horatio, like Hamlet, is a very intelligent and educated man, and such men are usually more likely to have difficulty accepting religious dogma as truth, even though they feel drawn to the comforts and simplicity of belief. Perhaps Horatio has his own questions
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about the afterlife, and has come to the watchtower in search of clarity. Barnardo and Marcellus want Horatio to see the ghost to verify what they have seen. “Tush, tush, ‘twill not appear,” Horatio says dismissively. They sit down to tell ghost stories, and as an audience member you expect to hear about the ghost, and perhaps even doubt that it will actually make an appearance, but before the story gets underway, the ghost enters! Barnardo mentions that it looks “like the king that’s dead.” The fact that this is the first time the ghost has been said to look like the king suggests that the times when it appeared previously, it either did not resemble the king, or did not come close enough for them to notice. Horatio is visibly shocked and uncomfortable: “It harrows me with fear and wonder.” Marcellus prods Horatio to speak to the ghost. The editor’s note explains that Marcellus is assuming that the ghost will not speak unless spoken to and that Horatio, as a scholar, and one who probably speaks Latin, would be more equipped to converse with the ghost than he or Barnardo. It is possible that Barnardo and and Marcellus have tried speaking to the ghost before to no avail, and hope Horatio might be able to coax it to speak to them.
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