The Dishonest Ghost in "Hamlet"

Shakespeare has always been able to create characters richly dichotomous in nature. In "Hamlet, Prince of Denmark," the portrayal of the ghost of Hamlet's father vacillates through the play from Hamlet's uncertainty of whether "it is an honest ghost" (144, l.5) or "a goblin damned" (40, l.4). In one sense, the ghost is honest in that he tells Hamlet the truth about his own murder?Claudius is truly guilty. On the other hand, while the ghost appeals to Hamlet on the seemingly rational grounds of avenging "murder most foul" (28, l.5) "if thou didst ever thy dear father love?" (24, l.5), it is arguable that the ghost manipulates Hamlet to continue spreading the rottenness and foul play already present in Denmark. Just as Hamlet later accuses other characters of "putting on" or "playing" to him, it is also very likely that the ghost "puts on" for Hamlet by playing on Hamlet's grief and love for his dead father, in order to get his revenge. The madness, destruction, and death which this leads Hamlet and almost every other character in the play to, suggests far from virtuous intentions on the ghost's part. In parallel to Elizabethan ideas...

Join Now to View Premium Content

GradeSaver provides access to 725 study guide PDFs and quizzes, 4211 literature essays, 1403 sample college application essays, 171 lesson plans, and ad-free surfing in this premium content, “Members Only” section of the site! Membership includes a 10% discount on all editing orders.

Join Now

Already a member? Log in